Reality Is Not a Vacation

None of my children is old enough for dating and courtship, but I’ve still had had many important conversations about choosing a spouse, preparing to be a good husband/wife, what to look for in a potential partner, how to really get to know someone, etc.

I have repeatedly talked to them about dating versus real life.

You can go on a planned date with someone, where you’re both dressed up and presentable, you’re on your best behavior, and you get to just have a nice time at a restaurant where someone else is doing all the work. Enjoying one another’s company when the event is low-stress and nothing but fun is a facet of compatibility.

But it’s also important — and arguably more important — to see what someone is like when they’re in a stressful environment or when there’s work to be done. How does he behave when he gets a flat tire on the way to the restaurant? How does she treat you if you forget your wallet? Does he have a sense of humor if you’re spending time with children and he gets messy? Does she pitch in and work hard if you’re doing a difficult project together? Does he step up as a leader if he’s put in charge of motivating a group of children to help clean up after an event? Does she make it into a game and a challenge if she’s asked to help with something unpleasant?

When you are exploring whether a person is a good match for you, it’s essential to see them in situations that are closer to real life, and not just fun. Everyday life is work. Everyday life can be stressful. Everyday life isn’t just pleasant and relaxing, hour after hour, day after day.

My plan for my children when they start dating/courting is for them to invite their date to service projects, the big events we host, our family time, the work days. I want them to have opportunitites to interact with each other around parents, siblings, children, and people who need help. I want them to get to see each other in action when there’s work to be done, tool belts and boots to wear, mud or chicken poop to wade thru, fences to put up that catch on clothes. I want them to see each other at their best but also at their worst, in those kinds of situations that let the person’s character shine thru.

There’s a Kristina Kuzmic video about her as a divorced mother dating a man who wanted all of it, even cleaning up the vomit:

This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. He didn’t just want Kristina when her makeup was done and her children with with a babysitter. He was willing to take on the entire package, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

Seeking Sister Wife, S3E2, titled “Irreconcilable Differences”, shows Garrick and Dannielle at dinner with some family. They are planning on yet another trip to Mexico to vacation with Roberta and spend some time her. Their sister-in-law Samantha points out the problem with meeting Roberta only on vacation.

I do have some questions about Roberta ’cause you guys only met her in Mexico because it’s different in a vacation. And then you come out here and it’s reality.

Samantha (Dannielle’s sister-in-law)

I agree with Samantha. Putting aside all the cultural and language differences the Merrifields will have to overcome, I am genuinely concerned that they are in for a reality shock when their relationship with Roberta moves from vacation to real life. I’m happy for them that they enjoy each other so much when the situation is fun and entertaining, but I wish they had the chance to see each other in the more realistic daily life and make sure they’re still compatible.

As Garrick acknowledged in the episode,

Yeah, I think there’s definitely gonna be a huge adjustment.

Garrick Merrifield

Yeah, I definitely agree with that.

How Joshua and I Met

There he stood, in the front of our Ethics and Values classroom, curly brown hair, leather jacket that couldn’t hide his muscular arms, sexy 5 o’clock shadow, a deep voice.  He was discussing the pros and cons of capital punishment, the controversial ethical topic assigned to his group.

I had dated a lot in high school, but now that I was in college, I was trying to be pickier, trying to figure out what my type was, and I had picked up the habit of analyzing men to discern which of his physical traits I liked and which I didn’t.  I had never found a man I couldn’t improve upon, but as I sat on the back row that day watching and listening to Joshua, for the first time I couldn’t come up with a single thing I would change to make a man more attractive.  I had found my ideal man, at least on the surface.  Not only was he the most handsome men I’d ever met, but he was intelligent, well-prepared, and well-spoken.

At the end of Joshua’s presentation, I raised my hand to add to the discussion.  Was it just my imagination, or did he like what I had to say?  A little while later, I raised my hand again, but then I noticed that class time was almost gone, and I lowered it again.  He noticed the question left hanging, and he approached me as the classroom emptied and asked what I had intended to say.

We talked for a few minutes before going our separate ways.  But that was enough to get the ball rolling.

It was a series of coincidences that had led to our meeting.  You see, we weren’t exactly classmates: We were taking the same course, but we were in different sections taught by the same professor.  If things had gone according to schedule, Joshua and I would never have met.  But something happened to shake things up: My brother had been called on a mission for the LDS Church, and I wanted to go with him and the rest of my family to see him enter the MTC, or Missionary Training Center.  The end of the college semester was approaching, and since class time was being taken up with group presentations, my professor had started making class participation part of our grade to prevent attendance from declining.  If I was going to see my brother enter the MTC, I would miss my class, so I talked to my professor in advance and got permission to make up the participation points by coming to another of her Ethics and Values sessions.  I searched my schedule for a time when that would be possible.  Most school days at 1:00 p.m. I was busy as an ASL interpreter for a religion class.  Fortunately, those classes weren’t held on Fridays, which meant I was available for that one hour — which happened to be, of course, the day and hour of Joshua’s presentation in his own section of Ethics and Values.  That’s how I came to be there that Friday afternoon.

After Joshua and I had parted company.  I went to work for a few hours and then got ready for a date — a formal dance I was going to with a man named Ryan.

Now, Ryan and I were very close friends, and sometimes we acted as tho we liked each other, but the truth was that the woman he wanted to marry was away from home serving a mission for the mainstream LDS Church, and I was just a placeholder until she came home a few months later.  I wasn’t particularly into him either, but we got along splendidly, and our relationship was convenient.  We carpooled to school together, worked on our Calculus 3 homework together, hung out as friends on the weekend, and when one of us needed an official date for an event, the other person was usually available.

(As a side note, two fun stories: After his girlfriend got home from her mission, Ryan and she came together to my wedding reception, which was so romantic that they ended up getting engaged at it.  They’re still happily married and have half a dozen kids.  He’s a successful engineer, so I guess it worked out for him to study calculus with me, ha ha.  Another guy I dated met someone at my wedding reception, soon afterwards they started dating, later they were also engaged.  Have you ever heard of a wedding reception so romantic?)

I had asked my friend to do my hair in a fancy up-do for the dance with Ryan, and while she worked, I chatted endlessly about this man named Joshua I had met at school that day.  I don’t know how I came up with so much to say about someone I’d only talked to for a quarter of an hour, but you and I both know how silly girls can be.

At some point in the course of our conversation I told her, “I think I’m going to marry him!”  She responded by telling me I was crazy.  (I still have the professional photo taken of Ryan and me at the formal dance, and it’s one of my favorites because of the fond memories I have of that day and even of my hairdo.)

I couldn’t stop thinking about Joshua for days, and he must have had a similar weekend.  On Monday he got my phone number from our professor (with my permission), called me up, and the rest of our story is for future chapters.