Have a question about life, love, or faith? Post it as a comment or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org, or submit your question online privately.

Hey Readers!

After last week’s column, in which I advised a young woman to leave her emotionally abusive husband, my friend Jennifer sent me a note. Jennifer is an expert on domestic violence, and she pointed out a significant omission in my advice: I didn’t speak to the subject of safety. That’s a really important reminder. (Thanks Jennifer!) We know that emotionally abusive men can turn into physically abusive men, especially when they feel their control over their partners beginning to slip. Thus, when a woman such as “Sculptor” makes the decision to leave, it’s wise for her to craft a plan to make that exit in the safest way possible. There are lots of resources out there to help women leave abusive situations — just type “domestic violence” into Google to find them.

And now onto a happier subject.

Hey Rev!

How do you know if she’s “the One”?

-  Love

Vintage wedding photo

Vintage wedding photo courtesy Shutterstock

Dear In Love:

Yours may well be the most delightfully romantic letter that we’ve ever received — everyone in the FKB Mailroom was just charmed when they read it. I’m sorry, therefore, to give a mostly nuts and bolts answer to your question. But, seeing as you already have the love part of this question figured out, In Love, my sense is that it’s most helpful for us to concentrate on the practical.

To begin, I’m going to admit that I’m not a big fan of the idea of “the One.” While the notion that each of us has a single soul mate floating around somewhere in the world is fun (it’s one of the things that makes “The Princess Bride” fabulous), it’s not particularly helpful in real life. Indeed, “the One” can be a recipe for anxiety and for impossible expectations. What if you go to the wrong college, get on the wrong bus — what if, in other words, one of the thousand accidents of life prevents you and the One from meeting? What happens if, in a year or two, you develop a crush on someone else — does that mean that the One isn’t the One after all? What do you when you discover that the One is a flawed human being just like you? What if the One does something that it’s hard for you to forgive?

The reality is that, across this great big world, we all have more than one potential life partner. Each of those potential partners is wonderful and beautiful and broken in his or her own way. Thus, when a couple gets married, they declare two things before God and before community. First, both partners promise to love and honor one another through the changes of life, through joy and disappointment and loss and growth, through one another’s failings and triumphs. And, second, both partners promise that they are done looking for a spouse, even if someone really amazing shows up later.

I wonder, therefore, about reframing your question: instead of asking if your beloved is the One, let’s ask if making the promises of marriage to her and with her is a good idea.

There are a bunch of clues available to you to help answer that question. First, start with your friends: what do the people whom you love and trust think about your relationship? Are they excited about it and about the energy and purpose that it gives you? If they have misgivings, what are they? Second, what does an impartial professional have to say? A good counselor will facilitate a conversation between you and your partner about money, housework, faith, sexual expectations, and so on. In doing so, she will go a long way to helping you make a decision.

Finally, and most importantly, what happens when you hold the question of marriage in silence, when you reflect on it in prayer? Do you hear a loud and clear “yes”? Or is the answer more nuanced? To put that thought another way (and maybe, In Love, this is my one big concession to romance), can you imagine not marrying this woman? I used to mentor young people who were wondering about becoming stagehands. And I always told them to choose the difficult path which is the performing arts only if they had to, if they couldn’t conceive of doing anything else with their lives. Promising to stay with another person until you are parted by death is at least as crazy as becoming a stagehand. But, if you and your partner can’t imagine saying “no,” then say “yes” with all of your hearts. And then send me an invitation to your wedding.

Have a question about life, love, or faith? Post it as a comment or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org, or submit your question online privately.

Categories: Beliefs

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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