Beliefnet

Dear Thomas,

I am on the verge of asking my girlfriend to marry me. But I believe the "in-love" experience has begun to wear off, so I am having some doubts about it. I'm concerned that what you say in your article about loss of love is happening to me. When we are together, sometimes I feel I am losing something for her. But then, all of a sudden, I cannot imagine my world without her. I can talk to her about anything. I have really looked hard to God about this decision and believe He is showing me signs that she is the one He wants me to marry. I do love her!  What should I do?

--John

 

Dear John,
If I may quote Plato:  Love is one of the four basic, creative ways that people go mad. The other three are religion, art, and clairvoyance. Note: creative madness. The madness of love offers a lot, and so we cling to it and put up with its torments. But it is a strange state. You feel you're in the thick of it one day and out of it the next. You try to find your way, yet once you get a degree of certainty, it quickly disappears. So John, first, know that confusion is simply what happens when you're in love. Many people would advise taking some time to get an overall feeling for this particular love before you make a decision about marriage.

But, as Plato said, love isn't rational. Some people leap into marriage and have wonderful lives together. Some are steady and patient and make the wrong decision, or at least it feels that way.

I would say that doubt isn't a sign that the love is fake or weak. Doubt inspires you to ask good questions and take time with your decision about marriage. Have you told your partner about your doubts? Often, people are surprised to find that the other person also has some serious reservations. Of course, it takes a mature person to handle their partner's doubts. But the decision to get married requires some maturity.

Your idea that God wants you to marry this person doesn't sound terribly solid to me. I wouldn't think that God has time to be a matchmaker. That thought could also be a sentimental notion that 
there is "the one," a mystically ordained partner out there just for you. I do think that marriage has a lot of magic in it, but this melodramatic notion of destiny doesn't impress me. Could you put it in different terms? Do you mean that you get a sense that the two of you are drawn to each other through fate? That it isn't just a matter of your wishes?

One thing you could do is explore your doubts, either in the privacy of your own reflections or with a good friend who can be objective. Find out what your doubts are, specifically. Then you will know what you're dealing with. It's a good idea, as a general principle, to get to know yourself and develop the ability to sort out anxieties from inhibitions about everything in your life. In matters of love, it would help if each person independently developed some maturity and knew themselves well enough to make firm decisions. Maybe you should give yourself a brief retreat—I don't mean withdrawing from the person but from your active life—and get to know yourself better.

Remember, there is a difference between inhibition and anxiety. Your doubts could be serving you well, slowing you down, and maybe even directing you out of this relationship. Anxieties about getting married are very different. They are like static. They don't guide you, they confuse you. So, look into yourself. Which is it? Are you anxious about marriage or are your doubts made of something substantial? If you're open when you consider this question, I think you will know what to do.

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