Layaway is a rather vintage concept. Visa has made sure of that. But imagine if you agreed to a 30-day layaway plan, and on day 20 you come into a sudden windfall of cash. You arrive at the department store with the intent to collect your long-awaited prize, and the salesperson behind counter says:
Are you sure you want to pick this up now? Don’t you think if you gave it another 10 days you might be able to know for sure if this is what you really want? Wouldn’t it be wiser to choose the 90-day plan instead? How do you know you’re not going to take it home and decide that you don’t want it anymore? What if you discover something that you don’t like about your purchase and then you’re stuck?! You have to wake up next to that small appliance every day for the rest of your life!
This is the brand of unsolicited advice that Clark and I received from well-meaning critics when we announced our engagement after three months of dating. The shower of opinions ranged from the philosophy that couples should not flirt with the thought of marriage until they have been dating for at least two years to my personal favorite:
You can’t really know someone until you have weathered the seasons with them–Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.
I find that when it comes to engagement and marriage these weather bugs tend to lean heavily on their own experience. It is tempting to preach preference as gospel principle, isn’t it? Tell that to the lovebirds who said “I do” at the Justice of the Peace on their third date and are still married 45 years later. What about the couple who spent seven years dating only to discover that what they shared wasn’t marriage material after all? There are no hard and fast rules for what makes two people right for each other or when they are ripe for the altar. So how do you know if you are ready to spend the rest of your life with the person you are dating? How do you know you’re not going to wake up one day and realize that this wasn’t what you wanted after all, but in the words of our meddlesome salesperson, you’re “stuck”?
The answer is… you don’t.
Dating is like marriage on layaway. You’ve picked out who you think you want to spend the rest of your life with, but you have to make some necessary deposits before you can lift it from the dating department store without getting busted by the marriage Rent-A-Cops. So what are some of the deal “makers” (or “breakers”) when it comes to taking the plunge?
Consider how much you can learn about a person by…
…how they pray (or don’t pray)
…their friendships (or lack thereof)
…how they fight
…how they talk to (and about) their family
…how they react to criticism
…what they think is funny
…how they drive a car
…how they treat the waiter
…how much money they spend on themselves
…what they can stomach watching on TV
…how they react to losing
And the list goes on. Realistically, it could take a couple three months or three years or even longer to discover the answer to all of these questions. And yet, these small deposits can be summed up by one simple question void of an easy answer:
Can I live with this?
The bottom line is when you lose the job, or the house, or your mind, or when you receive the diagnosis, or when you get that dreaded phone call, or the kids freak out, or the money runs out (because it will), who do you want standing next to you? Because that is marriage–or the glorious better and the heartbreaking worse.
By no means am I trivializing the decision to get married by comparing it to the purchase of a home appliance, but for all those who are considering tying the knot, I encourage you to carefully consider each dating deposit. When you realize that you have what it takes to cash in and commit to your marriage, take it home and enjoy it. While you cannot anticipate the storms your union may weather, you can rest assured that you are now the proud owner of your decision to ride them out together.
So…enjoy the ride.