It’s Okay to Say No

Ahh, the holidays. This is the time of year for turkey, tinsel and twinkling things. Some of these twinkling things will be gifts – and one of those gifts will be an engagement ring for some unsuspecting or highly anticipative girl.

I went to the mall about a week ago and looked into one of the jewelry stores. There were about four or five guys in there in deep conversation with the jewelers on staff. Judging from the average age of the customer, I easily made the leap in assuming that these lads were gathering that one essential tool to make their proposal complete: A diamond ring.

I pushed the stroller containing my two youngest children in the opposite direction towards the kids department at Penny’s. I knew that I would not be getting jewelry this year, and I was in no mood to stare wistfully at glittering baubles and blinging rings. Marshall had promised to get me something useful this year…something I really needed – a sports bra.  I wondered if any of the young men in that jewelry store anticipated that in five or six years, they’d be shopping for mundane items like boob holsters for their future brides.

Then I wondered if they’d given any thought to what they were embarking on at all. We’ve seen record divorce rates in this country over the last decade, because people haven’t given any real thought to what a marriage is or what it entails. It’s decreased slightly in the last two years, because more people are choosing to cohabit instead of jumping the broom. In some respects, it makes absolute sense, given the government’s fiscal assault on high earning couples.

Back to the point.

Images of giddy brides to be filled my imagination. I imagined young women encamped by eager family members, waiting to hear what her answer will be. Most of these young ladies will say “Yes! Yes! Of course I’ll marry you!” This reply will be followed by her tears of joy and a relieved grin.

In some cases, the answer will be a sorrowful/regretful “no”. These words will be followed by tears of another kind, generally culminating with some red faced young man storming out of the room/restaurant. He generally will not have the decency to wait while she offers to remain his friend.

This may sound odd, but I think that more people should say “no” to a marriage proposal more often…at least until they can know for sure what they are agreeing to. The gulf between what constitutes as marriage in a man’s mind and that of a woman’s is often immense, and sometimes impassible. This is why I’m a fan of pre-marital counseling.

When I got home from my eventful trip to the mall, I sought out the pictures from my wedding. There was one in particular I was looking for.

 In it, the photographer caught my astounded gaze as I listened to Coach Lamb (whom I DID NOT know would be speaking at my wedding) drone on about aspects of marriage I had not considered. Coach Lamb is an imposing figure, often unsmiling, and is not the arbiter of anything that remotely resembles romance. I was aghast that he was speaking at my wedding, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. The entire affair was hardly about what I wanted anyway.

Back to the point.

So I’m standing there listening to this man drone on about basketball and marriage, and how you can’t quit, and the fight it’s going to take to succeed.

“Divorce is not an option!” he boomed. “This is a DEATH covenant!!”

It felt like an eternity before he handed the mic back to the pastors that were meant to be marrying us. They too went over the promises that Marshall and I had agreed to, and were about to seal with the trading of rings. I thought about the 3 months’ worth of counseling we had completed. I said that I would do 80% of the cleaning if he would do 90% of the cooking. We both wanted between 3-4 kids. I could quit working anytime I wanted, as long as I didn’t spend up all the money. He couldn’t spend all of our money on useless electronics. We had an agreed upon purpose for our marriage, and it was not (solely) so that either of us would have an instant supply of booty. I had faith that he would hold up his end of the bargain, and I assume he had faith that I would do the same. He slipped my ring on my finger and I did likewise. A few words later and boom – we were married. Coach Lamb’s harshly delivered words about covenant stuck with me. It was like a spiritual beating that has for the most part kept me on the straight and narrow.

I truly believe that if more people (and I mean women) looked at their potential spouse carefully, and did away with this fairy tale motion of marriage we’ve all bought in to, we’d have more happy marriages and less divorce. We’d have more successful families too. It is a fact of life that more often than not, women compromise more in order to get married than men do. If you have the opportunity to stare down at a 30 page binder filled with what-ifs and will-bes, pouring over each detail with a pastor(s) that truly have your success as an individual first, and as a couple second in mind, at no point should you be afraid not to sign you name on that dotted line. You should not be afraid to say “No. I cannot do all of these things with this person sitting across from me.”

It’s the right thing to do. You will not have failed. You will have succeeded in keeping yourself for the one you were meant to be with, instead of attaching to yourself someone who is available right now. Your marriage will be built on the wrong foundation, and that foundation is fear. Fear that you’ll disappoint your family, fear that no one else will want to marry you, ->insert all other brands of fear here<-.

If you suspect that you’re not ready to be married, or that this guy/girl is not the one, it really is okay to say no.”