Ten years ago this month, I started the day by getting on my face before God and saying, “Lord, I’m getting down on the floor because if I get up, I’m afraid I’ll do something stupid.” I had good reason to be concerned.
My wife and I live in Washington, D.C., a city that’s full of single men who aren’t ready to get married. If they’re anything like I was in my single days, their unwillingness to tie the knot has a lot to do with their unrealistic expectations. Now that I’m seven years into a happy marriage, if I could give some tips to all the single men about adjusting their hopes for life after the wedding, here’s what I would say:
When I first started dating my wife, we were eating dinner one night and she asked a question that I didn’t think was very controversial: “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” In my response, I mentioned that I wanted to return to my home state of Mississippi and run for Attorney General, and I also said I wanted four or five children. She looked at me like she was waiting for me to announce that I was joking. I wasn’t.
Let me share a dirty little secret from the publishing world: There are some people who write endorsements for books without reading them. I am not one of those people.
When I was single, I assumed engagement would be one of the easiest and most blissful parts of my relationship with my future spouse. But the day after I asked my fiancée, Raquel, if she would marry me, I discovered how wrong I was.
Although I got a lot of things wrong when I was dating, I had one general policy I still do not regret: I felt it was best to keep my hands off the women I dated.
If there’s one thing that married folks quickly forget after they tie the knot, it’s this: Singleness often hurts. The most frustrating part for a lot of single people who desire marriage is the mounting pressure to get on with it, to find (or be found by) someone now. The unspoken judgment seems to be that the single man or woman would be married if there weren’t something wrong with them.
It was my first year of law school, and I was single. I wanted to be married, but it didn’t matter. I was spending 12 hours a day in class or in the library, so there wasn’t any real chance of my getting to know anyone.
A couple of days ago, I was getting on the Metro when I saw a young woman did something that caught my eye. She noticed that her beau was on our train, and she plowed through the people on the train to get to him.
My friends Cris and Sam had been planning their home purchase for months, and finally, after looking at several houses, they found a lovely home that seemed like the perfect fit. They negotiated with the seller, signed a contract, and began making settlement plans. But first, they had to do the inspection.
I recently wrote a post called “Three Easy Ways to Ruin a First Date,” which provided advice on how to make a first date want to run away from you and never call back. My suggestions were: 1) Propose (or at least talk about marriage enough to make yourself sound desperate); 2) Overshare negative information about your life and relationships; and/or
I hate to admit it, but back in my single days, I unnecessarily bungled a number of first dates. And the saddest part was, I didn’t even know I was doing anything wrong.
It was April of 2002. I was single, living alone, and had no prospect of marriage in sight (nor would I for several years). But for some reason, I felt compelled to pick up my journal and write a prayer for my future wife. I prayed that if she was going through a hard time or making any bad decisions that God would give her the grace to move on and forgive herself. It seemed like the right thing to pray at that moment.
My wife says our first date went well, despite the fact that I nervously interviewed her like I was Barbara Walters. On the other hand, our second date didn’t go so well because – um, how do I say this – after the concert I took her to a nice, little restaurant called – deep breath – okay, here I go – don’t-judge-me! – McDonald’s – yes, McDonald’s (I promise, there is a somewhat reasonable explanation).
Cory, one of my happily married friends, was annoyed with some of his single, male buddies. “Joshua, it’s so irritating,” he said. “I suggest a woman to them, but they say ‘she’s not attractive enough,’ or she’s lacking in some other area. And here’s the crazy part: In every case — without exception — the woman is way out of their league.”