EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a biweekly advice column for singles featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to email@example.com (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I'm divorced and in my 30's and the man I'm dating is widowed and in his 40's. We have been dating for about 4 1/2 months. We are both believers and active at church. We also both have stated up front that we are marriage minded, as opposed to being in long-term relationships that do not progress toward marriage.
My first marriage was 15 years and abusive, but with God's grace and my own work on myself as well, I've healed. The divorce is more than 3 years in the past and I've come to be a whole person in that time. The man I'm seeing is also several years past his wife's passing (at a young age) of cancer and he has also done the work of healing and becoming whole again.
We have broached the subject of marriage. I've told him I don't want to be someone's companion, a "fill-in" for someone's loneliness. He has agreed he doesn't want to do that either. After mentioning this a few times, and after about three months of dating, he says that he does want to get engaged and get married (the implication being at some point in the future). However, when we talk about marriage or engagement specifics he says he is uncomfortable. Despite saying we are both marriage-minded, he says he wants to wait until the time is right. I understand waiting until the time is right to get engaged, I don't understand feeling "pressured" when I want to talk about a timeline.
I've made him aware that as a single parent, it takes energy for me to support both my role as a single mom and my role of being in a relationship again when it's not a marriage. I can only do that for so long. We get along great when we are together, we are committed to waiting until marriage before having sex, and he is great with my kids. All the earmarks of a great relationship and potentially a great Christian marriage are there.
So I'm wondering....why, if he plans on being married to me at some point in the near future (his words), is he uncomfortable talking about it? He says he doesn't want to set a date until after he has bought a ring and we are engaged. On one hand that makes sense but on the other hand, if you say you love someone and are planning on marrying them, why be uncomfortable talking about it? The topic comes up about twice a month I would guess.
I told him at about the six month mark I'd like to be engaged just because I don't want a long drawn out relationship that seems to be headed nowhere. He got a little upset because he felt that was too soon to get engaged, but yet he didn't want to break up with me either. I know he loves me and loves being around me. And the feeling is mutual. He sounds either stuck, or scared, or just coasting, and I'm not sure why. I'm not sure if that's a red flag or not.
I've looked for all the earmarks of red flags and there have been none. No character issues on either of our parts or emotional problems. No addictions. My family likes him and feels God's hand is on this. I prayed for a mate and he is basically the only person I've dated since my divorce, despite being involved in singles ministry at church. I feel like this is the man God brought to me. This man is the only man who has shown an interest, for the right reasons as far as I can tell, and so I also am inclined to believe God's hand is on this. An additional note is that neither of us has any debt, with the exception of his mortgage. Emotionally, financially and spiritually, we seem to have a great match and potential for marriage.
I simply get nervous when after 3-4 months of dating we talk about being married, but any serious discussion about specifics makes him uncomfortable, yet I don't want to go much past 6 months without an engagement ring. We both agreed one year is the max we should date without being engaged, but that's the absolute longest I would want to wait. I think it's fair given our ages and that we have both been married before and know what it involves.
Should I be concerned? Or just more patient?
When I read your question, I sensed it came from a “planner,” one who likes to have things in order, know where you’re going, and be in control. The reason I felt this was because I consider myself a “recovering” planner.
Although my “job” demands I strategize for the future, know details about events weeks and months down the road and have control of each situation, I have learned to remain unrestricted and flexible with arbitrary timeframes I set in my life and (try to) allow God to orchestrate His work in His time.
You noted many “time” references - divorce is more than 3 years in the past, I get nervous after 3-4 months of dating (with no) serious discussion about specifics (regards to marriage), I don't want to go much past 6 months without an engagement ring, one year is the max we should date without being engaged…. and don't understand feeling "pressured" when I want to talk about a timeline.
I just have one question for you, “Where does God fit into your ‘timeframe’?”
After an abusive marriage of fifteen years, you want to be engaged after six month to someone who is “marriage-minded,” has “shown” no character issues, emotional problems or addictions (in four months), is the only person (you’ve) dated since (your) divorce, you “feel” God brought, is the only man who has shown an interest, and “seems” to (be) a great match and potential for marriage? And without a doubt you’re ready to set a date to bring this man into your home with your child?
I understand it takes energy for (you) (and all single parents) to support both (your) role as a single mom and being in a relationship, but don’t you want to ensure you find the finest step-father, provide the best environment, cause the least disruption in and for the life of your child, and be with the one God created for you?
Your boyfriend may be as good as you say and recognizes the gravity of marrying a single mom, the change it will mean for your child, and how open communication and compatibility takes time, or even better because he is waiting to hear for God’s voice to lead him in your relationship, rather than rushing into setting dates and following yours.
If this is the man God wants you to marry, allow Him to show both of you when He wants you to be “joined together,” instead of trying to make Him fit into your schedule. A relationship God “meant to be” will be there in a year, two or longer.
Thanks so much for so much for sharing so many details in your question. I love that you are both in the best place possible before venturing into marriage. You are out of debt, you have gotten the healing you need from your past marriages, you are serving in the church, you are waiting to have sex after marriage, and so forth. So many single adults simply want to rush into marriages without realizing these areas can cause huge problems in the future if not dwelt with. So congrats.
Now onto your question. From all the things you have mentioned I feel you are progressing as need be. I think most people know within 3 months if the person is a potential marriage partner; however, I don't think everyone is ready to be married right away. Because you are both are praying and hoping this is your last marriage, you do need the extra time to make sure you are compatible, to make sure without question that you are right for each other. If you go too fast while dating you may have regrets once you do get married. Conversely, I have never heard anyone say that the extra time being friends, courting, or dating was a bad thing. It just allowed more time to get to know each other.
You mentioned that he says he feels uncomfortable when you talk about marriage, that it's not the right time. Well, it takes two to agree on the timing (plus God). He is not in agreement with you. And as a female myself, I believe the husband (and husband-to-be) is the leader of the home. I would prefer to trust in God's timing and instruction to him, your boyfriend, and then to you. I am not saying that your thoughts and feelings don't matter. I am only saying that I believe God will lead your boyfriend to make the next steps.
Based on your letter, I do think you are pressuring him too much and I would take the subject off the table unless he brings it up. Because everything else seems perfect and moving along, the engagement will come and eventual marriage too. Just trust that if God brought this man into your life, God will decide the next step. Be careful that you don't push him away. If he is really the "one" he will be the one a few more months from now. If this man is who you have made him out to be, he is worth waiting for.
After a few more months you will sense whether you are drawing closer to each other or apart. You will know because God will tell both of you to continue to move you forward. And you will both know its the right time to talk about your future.
One final thought is that your boyfriend is widowed. Being a widow is very different than being divorced. I am not sure how much this could be a factor but it is definitely something to keep in mind as it might be a concern for your boyfriend, and affect how he thinks about remarriage.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalms 27:14)
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Kris Swiatocho, the President and Director of TheSinglesNetwork.org Ministries and FromHisHands.com Ministries. Kris has served in ministry in various capacities for the last 25 years. An accomplished trainer and mentor, Kris has a heart to reach and grow leaders so they will in turn reach and grow others. She is the author of three books: Singles and Relationships: A 31-Day Experiment (co-authored with Dick Purnell of Single Life Resources); From the Manger to the Cross: The Women in Jesus' Life; and the most recent, Jesus, Single Like Me with Study Questions (includes a leader's guide and conference/retreat of the same name).
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the twenty-first century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you. Click here to visit the He Said-She Said archives.
Publication date: March 14, 2013