“Why am I so unlucky at finding the right girl, mom?” one of my sons asked as he came in from a date one evening.
“You’re not unlucky,” I responded. “It’s not about luck. You’re not trying to win the lottery, are ya?”
“I’d like to,” he added with a smile.
Too often, finding the right person seems more like playing the lottery. I need to be at the right place, at the right time, and all the numbers match up, especially the Power Ball! There she is! There he is!
I sort of thought that’s what happened to me on the night I met my husband while he was in Army Flight School. I told a girlfriend that I was going to marry him someday. Was it love at first sight? Not by the real definition for love. Our relationship hadn’t been tested. It hadn’t been proven.
Relationships take work and it isn’t always easy. For us, Don had a war to fight. We dated for a few months and then we didn’t date face-to-face again for almost 18 months.
Instead of the lottery, what if we considered dating as a chance, not a game of chance like the lottery, but a real life opportunity to become the best version of the kind of person we are hoping to attract.
What I wish now is that I had a book to give my son that night that asked the question: “Would you date you?” If I were to write that book, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone would read it. Is anyone willing to look that close at themselves? I’m thinking now, I ought to write one on “Would you marry you?” as well.
What if we spent less energy on what’s going on with the opposite sex, and consider what’s going on with ourselves. What am I doing that influences my dating experiences or my marriage relationship? Is there anything that is keeping me from finding and knowing love, being married well—or for that matter—discerning religious life or priesthood?
This is the kind of thinking that makes dating a real preparation for your vocation, the way to have the marriage of your dreams, and the kind of discernment that has us asking “what do I have to offer,” not “what do I get.”
The prayer of St. Francis can help here. “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
Dating and marriages are more than attraction, more than saying the right things, or more than having the right personality. Attraction can fade, it’s impossible to always say the right thing, and our personalities are sure to get on the other’s nerves. It’s got to be much deeper because we’re talking about “for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Relationships and marriages are built on our character, on overcoming our vices and leading with our virtues. They are built on our ability to become the person that God has created us to be. Good habits are called virtues, and bad habits are called vices. How we act defines who we are.
I’m not talking about being perfect. It’s been said “There’s no place for perfectionistic expectations when it comes to love, marriage, or relationships.” Our imperfections are part of the journey; but they are not obstacles we have to avoid before we can begin the journey. When two people work on their own imperfections while embracing each other’s shortcomings, it is possible to have a love that lasts a lifetime.
If we can look at ourselves honestly to see if we are in sync with the will of God, becoming the person He has called us to be is not only possible, but the best chance to be the person of “somebody’s dreams.”