Sunday, May 18, 2008

Conversation Du Engagement

During our engagement, Dennis and I had a few long talks about expectations. We both admitted that we each didn't know what we expected, but we agreed it was an important thing to talk about. My husband had the disadvantage of seeing his parents get divorced when he was in grade school. My parents had a long and very good marriage (until my mom died 12 years later). It didn't take a genius to figure out that our two vastly different family experiences were going to affect us. But it was a foregone conclusion that my background enabled me to see marriage more clearly.

After awhile, we learned that it really didn't matter whose parents' marriage was better than whose. God would teach us every day, every hour and every minute of our lives that we need Him in order to make our relationship work. It was that simple, and that hard at the same time. We found out that the more we sought God, enjoyed Him and obeyed Him, we enjoyed our marriage more. The less we pursued God, the less we understood and appreciated our spouse.

A few developments showed us that our initial pre-marital discussions about our expectations were a little flawed. Even though my mom and dad had a good marriage, from what I saw, I discovered that they had issues. Some they resolved very well and some they never quite could. The advantage that Dennis had from learning from his parents was the humility to admit that he didn't know much about marriage, as well as a deep conviction that arguements solved nothing. Two things that I deeply needed to learn myself and over time, hopefully I have.

I remember from that early expectations discussion was Dennis was adamant only over one thing. He didn't like it when women wore sloppy, baggy sweats all day and really didn't want to see me dressing that way unless I was in a gym. He felt that women should look like women. This was going to be a challenge for me, but I accepted it. In college, I dressed a combination of both feminine and less feminine ways. I had a lot of men's clothing, cast-offs from my brother and Dad as well as items, like jeans jackets,and shirts, that I actually bought from the men's department thinking that they looked kind of outdoorsy and practical as well. Dennis said that in college, I wasn't among the worst of the baggy sweats offenders, but I didn't hear him say I was the best, either. I got the point.

I told my mom what my future husband's preferences for my appearence were. She tactfully chose her words. The more stylish clothing I possessed came from shopping trips that my sister and Mom took, without me being around. I got this point, too. She also addressed the fact that I dressed for comfort more than appearence, which wasn't wrong, but I needed to learn how to combine the two. She also assured me that Dennis loved me and would always think I was beautiful. But the unspoken truth of what she, my sister and maybe most of the women of my family really thought of my appearence became apparent to me. They probably thought I dressed like a lesbian. It hurt, because it was untrue. I was not out to attract women.

Even though it was a way of discouraging unwanted male attention. But I was never successful. I had (and hopefully still have) a feminine face, smile, and eyes that drew men towards me and no amount of jeans and plaid shirts could disguise them. As a single woman living and working in Seattle, that became clear as day whenever I was at the grocery store, coffee shop, bus stop, workplace and church. It made me feel uncomfortable, for several painful reasons stemming from my childhood. God, in His goodness and soveriegnty, wanted me to marry, and He pretty much worked that out despite how I dressed or what I endured as a kid.

And oh, yes, what did I I say I expected during our premarital expectations talk? That my husband would love God and love me unconditionally. It hasn't been easy for him but so, far, I haven't been disappointed.

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