Have a question about life, love, or faith? Post it as a comment or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org, or submit your question online privately.

Hey Rev!

I'm only 18 but I have a boyfriend who I have been dating for over a year, and we would like to get married. How do I explain to my parents that this is what I want to do?

- How Do I Tell?

Dear HDIT:

A couple of years back, when my eldest son was in first grade, he had a teacher who had a rule for her students. “When you say something in class,” she told her room full of six and seven year olds, “say it loud and proud.”

That’s pretty good advice, even if you’re a little older than seven. When you have big news to deliver — especially if you’re sharing it with people whom you really care about and whose opinion really matters to you, such as your parents — say it loud and proud. “Loud” means clear and unambiguous. “I’m gay,” “I’ve decided not to go to college this year,” or “We’re getting married” are all messages which require a loud spirit, which you must deliver in a voice as steady and as strong as your courage will permit.

“Proud” means that you own the news that you’re sharing, that you don’t apologize for it or behave as though it were shameful. You aren’t telling your parents that you totaled the car or that you got kicked out of school or that you just had Justin Bieber’s portrait tattooed on your back. You’re telling them that you and your boyfriend are getting married. If you truly believe that to be a good and a joyful thing, then act like it is.

Now, before I go any further, HDIT, I’m going to sneak a little advice into this column that you didn’t ask for — consider it the follow-up to the “if” that began my last sentence. Whenever I’m nervous about having a conversation, I find it helpful to ask myself what I think that nervousness might mean. To put that thought another way, I find it helpful to hold my nervousness in prayer.

Sometimes I discover that being nervous simply means that I want the conversation to go well, that I’m really keen to make a good impression, that I want my parents (or my wife or my friend or my boss) to be as happy about my news as I am. Sometimes I discover that it means that I need to have the conversation as soon as possible, lest my nervousness swell into the long shadows of fear. And sometimes I discover being nervous means that I have some pretty big doubts about the news that I’m planning on announcing, that I’m not sure if I really want and believe in the thing that I’m planning on doing.

Treat your nervousness like a clue, HDIT. Is there any possibility that it hints at your own misgivings about getting married right now? Are you anxious, in other words, that when you tell your parents of your plans, they will name out loud the very problems with making a lifelong commitment to your boyfriend that are nagging at you?

Notice that you begin your letter by saying that you are “only” 18. That suggests to me that at least part of you thinks that you’re really young to be making this kind of decision. So, listen to your nervousness and do some homework. Talk to people who got married at your age (both folks who are still together and those who are divorced), and ask them what their experience was like. Check out the research on the outcomes of early marriages. Pay attention to what your friends and mentors are saying. Ask yourself: why do I need to make this decision now? Pray. Most of all, don’t make the mistake of making this decision alone.

If you are at all hesitant, HDIT, then keep on dating your boyfriend and come back to the question of marriage in a couple of years. If, on the other hand, it’s clear that your boyfriend is the man whom you are called to marry — if your friends, your gut, and your prayers all say “yes” — then take him by the hand, smile like you mean it, and loudly and proudly give your parents the wonderful news that they are invited to a wedding.

 

Have a question about life, love, or faith? Post it as a comment or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org, or submit your question online privately.

 

2 Comments

  1. As a person that got married relatively young (married@21, engaged @19) I have to say for better and worse it has been a huge factor in my life. I left behind a lot of casual fun that marks a lot of people’s 20′s and launched right into career and kid mode. In exchange for that I have an incredible life partner and saved a lot of heartache with dating and dumping/getting dumped. Choose wisely.
    I
    Martin. Great advice as usual. Something I should heed more often.

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