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A ring in a shell

A ring in a shell Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Hey Rev!

I am a 20-year-old Roman Catholic Indian girl. I was going out with a guy three years back but the relationship lasted only for four months. After about a year, a different guy came into my life. I was, and still am, completely in love with that guy. We made love whenever we were together and were totally crazy about each other. However he called off the relationship after my mom called him and talked to him.

Two days back, I was with the first guy again and he kissed me. My emotions confuse me so much. I am sexually very active and I think if I go on like this someday soon I am going to have sex with him. And I don’t want that. I want to get married and have a stable life. But I have an elder sister who isn’t yet married and because of that I can’t get married.

Please help me convince my parents about my marriage. I don’t want to fall for another guy or make out with another guy. And the only solution I see is marriage. I will stay true once I have a guy. I know that for sure. Please help me.

- CR

Dear CR:

When I was more or less your age, I had a friend who had more or less your problem. My friend (in the Ann Landers tradition, let’s call him “Sam”) was a serial monogamist. And he hated it. Every three or four months, Sam had a new girlfriend. And the parade of women through his life was leaving him emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Thus, Sam devised and implemented a plan to solve his problem once and for all. He shared it with me one evening when I was over at his place for dinner: he and his girlfriend had run down to the courthouse the day before and gotten married.

Can you guess where this story is going, CR? Sam’s plan didn’t work. When I saw him not so long afterwards, he was working out the details of his divorce. Yes, he and his partner had entered into a legal contract. Yes, they had held a ceremony. Yes, they had made big promises to one another. But Sam had addressed none of the reasons that his relationships reliably ended before they reached the half year mark. And, therefore, his marriage proved to be a house built on sand.

Getting married isn’t magic. It wasn’t for Sam. And it won’t be for you either.

Weddings are beautiful, inspiring and transformative occasions. But they have a woeful batting average when it comes to creating something in a couple that wasn’t there already. If a couple is poor at managing money before their wedding day, odds are that marriage won’t keep them from living in fear of their credit card statements. If a couple tends to have ugly fights before their wedding day, odds are that marriage won’t keep them from throwing accusations and cutlery at one another. And, if one or both members of a couple aren’t all that good at monogamy before their wedding day, odds are good that marriage won’t keep them in the same bed.

Now, to be clear, CR, I’m not arguing that it’s impossible for you (or for any of us) to change. People can and do learn to balance their checkbooks and to fight fair. And people can and do learn to have off the hook sex within the confines of monogamy. What I am arguing is that changing these things requires a whole lot of work. Indeed, a big part of a wedding is about celebrating all of the work that the couple has done to get to that day and about naming all of the work that they will to do together in the coming years.

I guess that all of this is to say two things. First, be patient — with yourself, with your parents, with life in general. Part of being 20 years old includes being kissed by the occasional person and having totally confused emotions about it. These confused emotions — and the way that you respond to them — will prove to be your teachers. They will teach you about who you are and about what’s important. They will help you grow up enough that the idea of marriage will start to make some real sense. In the meantime, if you’re worried that this jumble of feelings is going to lead you into sex that you don’t want to have, then claim your agency and make a decision to stop hanging out with your ex-boyfriend.

Second, in case it’s not obvious by now, I’m not going to help you to convince your parents that marriage is a good idea for you. Getting married right now isn’t going to solve any of your problems — it’s just going to make new ones for you. And, besides, if your mom can convince your boyfriend to leave you just by calling him and talking to him, I’d be kind of terrified to cross her.

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Martin Elfert

Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which the Divine was at work in the world. Shortly thereafter, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination.

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