Thursday, May 7, 2015

My marriage advice to women (and men)

Are you contemplating getting married? If so, please let me offer you some marriage advice.

So now I'm giving out marriage advice? Maybe that seems like a bit of a stretch for a blog about my experience and grief after losing my wife, doesn't it?

Trust me, this is related. And it's important.

There was something Aimee used to say to me when we were married, something that meant so much to me: "I know that if anything ever happens to me, you're going to be a great father to our daughter." When she said it, I took it as a wife and mother just being sweet to her husband. But after Aimee's sudden death, I leaned a lot on that one sentence for encouragement. Aimee had faith in me - warranted or not - and I needed to step up and show her that she wasn't wrong. It was important to me, but it was critical to our daughter that I did so.

I think men and women approach marriage differently. I can't speak for women, being a man, but I just assumed Aimee would be a great mom because of who she was as a a person. I never once considered how she'd do if something happened to me. The fact is, she would've been a rock star, just like she was before she died. When Aimee loved you, she did so with a fierce devotion and dedication to your happiness. There was nothing in the world like being loved by Aimee. That went doubly so for our daughter.

So when Aimee looked at me and said she was confident in my ability to raise our daughter alone, that spoke volumes to me about her faith in me. Either that, or she knew I'd take that as a challenge to meet her expectations.

Aimee and I on our wedding day
Regardless of exactly why she said it, it worked. Since Aimee's death, I have been almost fanatical about my parenting abilities, taking my responsibility to my daughter even more seriously than I did before. And while I of course fall short sometimes, I see the evidence that I'm doing a good job all the time - my daughter is happy, smart, funny, and most importantly, emotionally healthy and stable. Her counselors have said a number of times that I've done as great a job with her as anyone could have ever expected. It's my hope that when Aimee and I meet in heaven some day, she'll say the same thing.

So ladies (and men, too), here's my advice to you:

  • When you're considering whether the apple of your eye is marriage material, think hard about your possible future children, and think about what kind of parent you think they'd be without you there. It is very important that you're honest with yourself about this.
  • Just as importantly, or maybe more so, think about what kind of decisions they'd be likely to make about new relationships. Would he/she be careful about keeping their dating life and parenting life separate for a while, until there was some certainty the relationship would last? Will he/she protect your children's feelings? Will they continue to put your children and the child's needs ahead of their own, and ahead of this new relationship, at least for a good, long time?
  • Can you even handle the thought of him/her in another relationship if something happened to you? If not, I respectfully ask you to read this post.
  • Also critical (especially for women choosing a husband). are they a person who's in touch with their emotions, and knows who to handle them? Grief is a terrible thing, and many people (ahem, guys) don't always handle it well. This is bad for the person grieving, but can be especially harmful on their children. 
  • Most important of all, do they have a solid foundation that they've built their life on? For me, that foundation is my faith in God, as it is for many others too. Other people may have a different foundation for theirs. In any event, there should be something they can hold onto when the world seems to have been turned completely upside down.

It's so easy and understandable to get caught up in the excitement and joy of a relationship. I know, because I've been there. And of course, considering what kind of spouse and parent they'll be is extremely important. But please don't neglect to give serious thought to how they'd do if suddenly left to lead and care for your family on their own.

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