I don’t feel the need to justify marrying the girl of my dreams, but I do feel I can offer some insight as to why it happened so quickly. Personally, I always had an inner hatred for those who met, dated, and got engaged all within a short period of time. I have some very close friends who maintain the same philosophy, and even jokingly threatened me should it happen that quickly. I set a barrier for myself so as to not fall into the cliché Mormon trap: my rule was that I wouldn’t even consider marrying anyone I had dated less than six months. Six months isn’t even that long of a period of time, but even then, I broke my rule. Here are some of the reasons why:
Recently going through and cleaning up my iOS Notes app, I came across a list I had made of what I was looking for in a girl:
- someone I find attractive
- witty and clever
- surprises me
- can keep up with me
- adventurous and spontaneous
- appreciates my passion for Germany
- likes to travel
- successful and has lofty goals
The three most important qualities to me—aside from the obvious attractive, same morals, etc.—were someone who can keep up with me (I like being out and doing things), someone who can appreciate my passion for Germany (such a major part of who I am), and, not on the list, is someone who pushes me to a new level of confidence. She met and exceeded all items on the checklist. Well, she at least thinks she’s funny. I’m willing to work with that.
In Mormon culture, marriage and family are very important to us. That has fostered a culture of casual or “exploratory” dating where it is acceptable to go on dates with several girls without showing any real commitment to one in particular. You learn what you like, and start to pair off. You aren’t a player for “getting around”, but rather, there is a mutual understanding of being able to have fun with member of the opposite sex, narrowing in on “your type”.
In my Young Single Adult Ward (my church congregation is comprised of 18-30 yr. olds) at BSU, I’ve been dating 18 yr. olds. It’s been an interesting experience. They’re young and naïve to the world with their first year of college usually being their first experience away from home. They’re still figuring themselves out, which is fine, but I’m much further along than that.
Shalene is 26 years old, graduated with two degrees and a minor, holding many jobs and responsibilities while at school, served a mission, and has been teaching for two years. Her being older has meant that she is very familiar with herself. She’s got it figured out, she’s mature, and collected. She knows herself—quite the contrast.
An interesting concept as part of my exchange to Germany was that 17+1≠18. Although we physically age one year, the maturity gained through our experience is much more than one year’s worth. I’ve always been very independent and goal-driven, so I needed someone of the same caliber (not to discredit those I’ve dated).
Dating within the LDS/Mormon church has made it that much easier. While I don’t pretend that there are differences, my opinion is that most Mormons are either committed or not committed to following the doctrines of their beliefs. It is much more evident, as well. When someone says he or she is Catholic, you aren’t really sure what that means. They could be practicing, raised but are not practicing, or consider it a heritage/tradition rather than a religion, and so forth. You aren’t really sure what their beliefs are. It’s much less black-and-white than the LDS church, in my opinion. When you say Mormon, you’re usually pretty sure what you’re getting into.
While being able to list off qualities of the other person doesn’t constitute a strong relationship, it certainly adds to it. Neither of us thought it would go anywhere actually, but we learned pretty quickly that the other was much different from anyone we’ve dated before, and that we couldn’t keep away from each other. We’ve been FaceTiming every night for months. I’m confident that I can tell you more about Shalene than perhaps any other person on this planet, besides maybe my father and my best friend, JJ. I’ve taken the time to get to know her on a not-so-superficial level, unlike most of the conversations we tend to have. We also learn habits, quirks, etc. through observing them over a long period of time. Shalene and I cut to the chase and just asked a lot of questions, actually trying to get to know one another.
Certainly not the most ideal of circumstances, distance has only enhanced our relationship. We’ve been able to have space in our relationship—time on our own to figure things out when emotions aren’t in control. When I brought up that we were thinking of getting married to my grandma, she told me I’d know it’s time when I couldn’t stand being away from her.
While I haven’t been at this long, the most important thing in my relationship with Shalene has been communicating openly with one another. I’m very calculating in how I present things, but Shalene cuts all corners and bluntly asks what’s on her mind. It’s taken some getting used to, for sure, but it’s changed the way I think about communicating with others. It’s so much simpler just saying what you’re thinking. It takes a lot of the confusion and misunderstanding out of questions that might already be awkward or difficult to understand. That openness and honesty has helped us avoid many misunderstandings with one another.
While I don’t believe in soulmates, I sure do believe that certain people are brought into our lives for a reason. I always maintained that if I went to BYU, for example, I’d have found another girl probably just as righteous and cute as Shalene. But the more I learn about our relationship, it’s less about who it could have been and more of how I want it to be Shalene. I’m not worried about a “missed opportunity” because Shalene compliments me so well and is such a good fit for what I was looking for that I know she’s “the one”. I really do believe that God has had a hand in bringing us together. Too many “coincidences” happened to make this whole thing work in the first place!
As Mormons, we don’t practice cohabitation before marriage. It takes the commitment out of marriage by giving you a free trial. No matter how much you “experience” living with the other person, it will never be the same as when you’re married, because you still have a way out if it doesn’t work, so you’re less inclined to strive for a successful relationship. Shalene and I are excited and ready to be loyal to one another, each fulfilling their investment into a strong and healthy relationship.
Hopefully some light has been shed on the relationship I have with Shalene. I love her with all I’ve got. I don’t expect you to necessarily understand how our relationship has evolved so quickly and how we came to the conclusion in just a short few months that we’re ready to spend the rest of our lives together, but now you know, at least, that I’ve considered all my bases. I’m a intellectual, rather than an emotional thinker. I made this decision, and it’s the right one for me.