Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Arranging a Marriage - Part One

I don't usually talk about myself or my family on my blog. For the most part, I prefer to muse aloud about various topics and to speak of those subjects in principle. The whole point, however, in trying to figure out what the Bible says and what God requires from us, is that I might conform my behavior, as well as my thoughts, to what is good and what is right. When it comes to my family, I don't do this alone. I am married and my husband is the leader, so I don't want it to sound like I come up with these bright ideas and then force him to implement them. Rather, we usually study together and much conversation takes place before and during changes in our lifestyle, and it is my husband who makes the final call. In the case of arranged marriage, my husband was also the initiator and I had to be convinced (it wasn't that difficult of a case for him to make, though) that changes needed to be made in how we approached obtaining husbands and wives for our children.

We have two married children, both are daughters. The first daughter participated in what we were calling courtship. The second daughter had her marriage arranged by her father. Both marriages are good. We didn't decide to use arrangement because we believe it is the only way for a marriage to succeed, but because we believe it offers the least chance for moral failure, broken hearts and abuse of young men. We also believe it most closely follows the way God the Father chose a bride for His Son. My conclusions about courtship can be found in my post "To Court or Not to Court."

The story about how we arranged a marriage for our second daughter will be divided into 2 parts, to make it easier to swallow. Part One will be my description of the courtship of our oldest daughter, so you can see the comparison and see how we changed things for our second daughter. What you are reading here is my recollection only, from my point of view as her mother. I don't pretend to speak for my husband or daughter in this narrative and I don't doubt that some aspects would be described differently by them. To help protect their identities, I will refer to my daughter and son-in-law as Mary and John.

During the first week of January, 2009, John contacted my husband to ask if he could pursue our daughter. I don't recall if that was the precise term he used, but it adequately expresses what was about to occur. My husband (I'll call him Dad) already knew this young man and his family. John's father was an elder at our church. At that point, Dad approved John as a husband for Mary and gave John permission to convince Mary that they should marry. Dad outlined the ground rules as follows:
1. No dating
2. Communication was to be by mail or email only
3. They were to focus their communications specifically on finding out where they stood on various issues that could result in them eliminating the other as a spouse. Find out as quickly as possible whether they want to marry. No subjects were off-limits.

The "no dating" rule was very easy to comply with, because they were living on opposite coasts. They were not happy about not being able to speak on the phone, but Dad felt they needed to avoid unnecessary emotional attachment in case it didn't work out. They failed pretty much completely to ask each other good questions. As it turns out, people who have never been married don't have really good ideas about what is important in marriage, they assume they know where the other person stands, or they are too embarrassed to ask.

Around May, Mary told us that she "just wasn't feeling it." She didn't feel they were connecting very well. On Memorial Day weekend, John flew out to our place for a surprise visit. When he walked into our house, there was a palpable energy. We could almost see the hearts fluttering out of Mary's chest. She was completely smitten by his presence and it was so hot in the room that I thought fireworks were about to erupt. He took her out to eat and proposed marriage. She accepted. He returned to the city of his employment and we set the wedding for the latter part of August. From the day of his proposal, Mary was so distracted and twitterpated that she was nearly useless in her household duties. We prefer short engagements for this reason (and others) and this engagement wasn't nearly short enough. During the engagement period they were permitted to continue emailing and Dad also permitted a weekly phone call and any phone calls necessary for the wedding preparations. If they had been living close together, I don't think we could have limited their romantic involvement with any measure of success.

One of the huge downfalls to this whole affair was that John's family let everyone in church know about the courtship as soon as it began. I couldn't talk to any of the women at church without someone asking me about the "couple" until I made it clear that they were not a couple and that it wasn't open for discussion. I'm glad they got married, because if Mary had rejected John,  it would have been a complete humiliation for him. It would have damaged his reputation with the other young ladies to the point that he probably wouldn't have been able to pursue any of them. I understand the excitement of the church. The prospect of two member families having their children marry was a dream-come-true for the young church. But it doesn't excuse the junior-high level silliness that proceeded from most of the women and some of the men. 

Over all, it was not a great experience and there were many potential disasters that, thankfully, didn't happen. Dad decided that it would be different next time, and it was.

I'll be posting the link to Part Two of the story right here after I write it.