QUESTION: Most often we hear about men who won’t commit to marriage, but I’m a widower in my 50s who wants to marry a woman, a widow, I’ve been dating for five years. Both of our spouses died of cancer. We met at a cancer support group. We’ve had several discussions that always end up with her saying she’s happy the way things are and is willing to “walk into the sunset with me.” Neither of us is dating anyone else.
We both own our own homes and have adult children and grandchildren, and we get along great with each other’s families. She did tell me once that she couldn’t deal with another sick husband, even though I’m obviously in great health. Should I just leave our relationship the way it is and stop fantasizing about marrying her?
~ Love My Gal
Dear Love My Gal,
You have described a lovely harmonious relationship all the way down to the extended family on both sides. It sounds like you both enjoy good health, are secure in your means, and you have a mutually exclusive arrangement. Personally, I would not rock the boat by pushing matrimony. She obviously has strong feelings for you and is interested in your companionship; five years is significant. Years of loving and being loved, you can’t do better than that! I would add that it’s not too often the harmony surrounding such a relationship extends down into the families of both. I’m impressed!
I would encourage you to soak up what you have before you, enjoying every day, and let her ask you to marry her should she change her mind. She knows your ideal intentions for the relationship, and that the offer will likely always be there.
Dear Love My Gal,
It is indeed interesting to see the shoe on the other foot. I suppose women from all over are thinking, “Good! See how you like it for a change!” But I think it’s a wonderful thing when a woman or a man wants to get married and spend the rest of their lives together. That’s God’s design for marriage.
I guess the watershed question you need to answer is this: Could I be happy with this woman as my girlfriend for the rest of my life or can I see myself falling in love with someone else? If you really want to get married and this woman refuses (it seems because of the fear that you also might get sick) then you really have no choice but to thank her for the wonderful five years you’ve had together and move on. Love is always a risk. Marriage is certainly a risk. When I marry people, part of the wedding vow I say includes the phrase, “In sickness and in health.” This is part of what the wedding couple says “yes” to. Your girlfriend is saying “no.” That is meaningful. If you get cancer next month, what will your girlfriend do? Leave? Stay? It seems to me that when you’re over 50, someone who will say “yes” to this important question is even more crucial.
And isn’t this the painful decision that women are faced with so often? In love with a man who is stuck in “boyfriend only” land? We tell women in this situation that there’s a man out there who will appreciate you and love you enough to commit to you. Isn’t the same true here? My difficult advice is, propose. If she turns you down, then she has turned you down. That matters. She can then keep looking for a man who will never get old and sick.
QUESTION: This is going to make me sound like an old grumpy codger, but I really would like to get some insight into people’s obsession with cellphones. People walking down the street are staring into their phones. One girl almost bumped into me when I was walking down the street even though I was zigging and zagging trying to stay out of her way. She was totally unaware that I was even there. When I go to restaurants, even though a couple is sitting in a booth and supposedly are together, they each are staring into their cellphones. Is this an ego thing? What makes people think that their cellphones are more important than interpersonal communication?
I’m beginning to think that if this keeps up, one day people will forget how to talk! I have a cellphone and I keep it handy, but I certainly don’t make the text and voice messages that come or that I send are absolute priorities in my life.
What I’d like to know is how can I change my perception so that I’m not so annoyed and impatient with folks who seem to be more interested in their cellphones than relationships?
~ Behind the Times?
Dear Behind the Times,
I too get annoyed at the interference cellphones seem to cause on “interpersonal communication,” and how impersonal and disruptive they are. My kids are so enamored with them that I want to say, “Put those down and go read a book or something!” But I know that there’s a lot going on in those devices of which I am not always privy. And while you see someone ambling along like an entranced zombie staring at the shiny thing, just know that sometimes what’s coming from that is conversation with a friend who can’t be there walking alongside. It is interpersonal, just not in-person.
It could be that they’re checking to make sure that they’re on time to the next appointment, and that should make you hopeful that these young whippersnappers today are more punctual, what with electronic datebooks and alarms and such.
Sometimes it’s not so important, but the phone beeps or vibrates, and one can’t help but take a look-see “just in case.” You’re right that not everything is a big emergency or priority, but some people figure that with this new technology, they aren’t going to miss the next big crisis when it comes, like when the kids’ school has a lock-down, or when Uncle Charlie has a heart-attack. So the cellphone imposition comes as a negative consequence of beneficial ready-access. There should be (and there is) a sort of etiquette that says, “When on a date, in church, or at a meeting, turn it off!” Whatever important issue may come up can surely be taken care of after the fact.
I always tell my congregation before I preach, “Please turn these off.” About two weeks ago I forgot to do that and, would you believe it, someone called me in the middle of my own sermon! All you can do is turn the negative into a positive by using these cellphone infractions to develop your own soul. Remember, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). And practice makes perfect!
Dear Behind the Times,
I share your dismay with people who are constantly on some electronic device, especially when they are with other live humans. And we’re not alone. One of the buttons the Glendale Human Relations Coalition has handed out at events reads “Stop Texting, I’m Right Here.”
I, too, carry my cellphone in case I need it, but it’s always in silent mode. Occasionally I use it to check the time.
With a text message, there are no non-verbal cues to help understanding, no tone of sarcasm or facial expression. Emoticons don’t have universal meaning. That makes texting only good for sharing simple information but not good for in depth, engaged conversations. Voice messages are a bit better but still lack the body language that sometimes tells more than the words.
Perhaps it is ego that makes a person want to appear in constant demand but I think it may be more of a need for reassurance or external stimulation. Perhaps sympathy that they aren’t comfortable with their own thoughts can lessen your annoyance. Maybe if you keep on the lookout for those who aren’t on some electronic device, you can make eye contact and smile. That might even help spread face-to-face interactions.
I think it makes perfect sense to speak to someone if they’re about to walk into you, by the way. It might make them look up more frequently.