In today’s Boundless classic article “What Not to Say About Marriage,” Candice Watters tackles the question of how much singles (particularly women) should talk about their desires for marriage and family.
It reminds me of a chick flick from almost a decade ago called “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” In it, Andie Anderson sets out to get a guy to stop wanting to date her so she can write about it in a magazine article. Among her tricks of moving girly items into his house, being overly emotional and calling him every hour, Andie talks about marriage and even creates composite images of their faces to see what their future children might look like.
We laugh during that scene because it’s an exaggeration of what most of us know to be one of the cardinal rules of dating: Talking too much too soon on the topic of marriage is a great way to stifle the relationship and scare a guy off.
I definitely received this message during my dating years, primarily in the advice: “Just have fun and worry about that [marriage] later.” And while not jumping to Andie extremes is probably advisable in the early stages of a relationship, Watters points out it can leave the relationship with a lack of direction and even insincerity.
“Now I’ll admit there are some things you shouldn’t ask a guy during those first few hours of conversation. ‘What color tuxedo do you prefer?’ and ‘How do you feel about changing diapers?’ are best reserved for later, like when you have a diamond on your finger. That said, however, there’s something troubling about telling women they shouldn’t even be ‘contemplating marriage’ on the first date. Why not? What’s the purpose of dating, after all? If, as has traditionally been the case, dating is for finding a mate, then shouldn’t the possibility of marriage at least be forefront in your mind, if not on your tongue?”
I agree. However, there needs to be a balance. Because of our preoccupation with “intentionality,” I believe Christians can put so much pressure on a new relationship that it almost dooms them to failure. If your desire for marriage is taking up so much space in your mind that it is blinding you from getting to know the individual in a natural way, that is unhealthy — and ultimately unhelpful to the formation of the relationship.
In my own dating life, I struck a balance by deciding to make honesty a priority. Dating someone for months without ever mentioning your desire for marriage and a family (if you have such desires) is dishonest. However, similar to other areas of life, it’s not always prudent to say exactly what you’re thinking at every moment. It may have been true that I was evaluating a guy’s “marriage-ability” on each first date, but I didn’t feel the need to share that information.
Ironically, the first time I had coffee with my husband, Kevin, we discussed parenting styles! (Not within the context of a possible future together, but on the topic of how we’d been raised.) I quickly learned that my now-husband did not shy away from marriage-and-family talk. I’m grateful for that, because when the time came to talk about it (three months later), I felt free to do so without “scaring him off.”
What do you think? How have you struck a balance in talking about the sensitive subject of marriage?