"The One": discerning engagement + marriage
Every time I'm asked "how did you know he was the one?" I have to really think about it. Truthfully, I want to say that I just knew, because looking back it really does feel like that was the case. But, I know that's a boring, cop-out answer. So, I've tried to dig up those past memories and make a list of the things that led me to the ultimate answer: peace.
1. Things with him were EASY
It's true, our relationship was and pretty much always has been "easy."Now, I don't mean to look past any difficulties we've had, and marriage has certainly tested us in ways we never imagined, but overall, our relationship is a freakin good time! When I talk to someone who has been dating a guy for 6 months and they already have the issue of constant arguing, bickering, and taking "breaks," I always say that it's unlikely the relationship will change. The first 6 months should truly be bliss. Sure, we had plenty of tough conversations, but we were never afraid to be honest with each other from the get-go. Past relationships? Let's go. Breaking down and bringing me dino nuggets because I didn't realize sarcastically calling him stupid made him feel awful? You bet. We broke down each other's walls and built them up again. In doing so, our relationship became honest, truthful, raw and easy-going from the start.
2. We never fought
Like I just mentioned, of course we had difficult conversations. Of course I cried or got defensive. He obviously had to shape up his constant lack of empathy (he still works on it..whatta guy). But those first 9 months before we even spoke about the possibility of engagement, we didn't fight. In fact, we've only ever had one REAL fight. Like a true, leave super angry, drive home, then drive back again to figure this crap out kind of fight. We have "tiffs," you know, little scuffles here and there that need to go down with any healthy relationship. But, since the very beginning, Chase has always taught and reminded me of one thing: to seek understanding. I believe wholeheartedly that is the reason why we never did (and never do) fight.
Side-note: he waited 9 months specifically to talk to me about engagement because at that point I would be his longest relationship yet. Even though we said "I love you" at 2 months, we tried to keep our relationship emotionally chaste (and I think we did a pretty good job).
3. Jesus always came first, then me
Our first date ended in an adoration chapel with me rushing through a Hail Mary with sweaty pits & palms because I had never prayed out loud with anyone before, let alone Mr. Hottie. We ended every night praying in front of my townhome doorstep (to all my past roomies: I'm so sorry for making you awkwardly walk past us...love ya'll).
To my readers, I know saying that Jesus being a bigger priority than me in our relationship probably sounds weird. Like, why would he prioritize Jesus and not the girl he's in love with? To be short and sweet: he can only love me as much as he loves himself and His Creator. By putting his pursuit of holiness above all else, he constantly becomes more of who he was meant to be.
Friends would ask me (and still do) "how'd you find a guy like him?!" The answer was and always will be the same: he's a man who loves God above all else. It's what makes him the man he is. And he's flipping awesome.
4. He was my best friend
So, there's this thing called "virtuous friendship." St. Pope John Paul II discusses Aristotle's 3 types of friendship in his book Love and Responsibility. Dr. Edward Sri breaks it down in even simpler terms in Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love. Essentially, there's the utilitarian friendship, the pleasant friendship, and the one worth waiting for: the virtuous friendship.
"the two friends are united not in self-interest but in the pursuit of a common goal: the good life, the moral life that is found in virtue." Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love (14)
Maybe you've noticed a theme in this great list of what brought me peace. We have shared the same goal since the beginning of our friendship: growing in holiness with and through each other. He's the one who taught me about personal prayer. He's the one that walked me through my philosophy and theology classes and helped me apply them to my own life. Protecting me and my purity was always at the top of his priority list.
I knew he could be my best friend for life. Not because of the way he made me laugh or devoured tacos with me, but because of the type of friendship we had. It was beautiful, and it was virtuous.
5. There was no future without him
Each time I thought about my future, he was always there. Truthfully, no matter what I imagined, he was in the picture. Was life without him possible? Sure, of course. But among all of the things I previously listed, imagining a life where we walked through every peak and valley together is what ultimately brought me peace. In my quiet moments of contemplation, the Lord spoke peace into my heart.
A few months before I knew he was to propose, our campus apostolate held the annual student retreat. It was our night of adoration and I was at the women's prayer station, praying over any fellow student who wanted it. Chase was leading worship. I finally got a break and walked up to get myself prayed over by Fr. Rich. Afterward, I knelt before the altar, looked up and saw Father praising God, then I saw Jesus in the blessed sacrament, and to my right I saw Chase. In that moment I clearly heard "this is your future." It's what I wanted-- to live a life with Chase fully immersed in God's presence. That was my ultimate peace.
Discerning Marriage, Leading to Engagement
When we first broke the silence at 9 months, we agreed to discern this life-altering decision both together and separately.
Giving each other the opportunities to say EXACTLY what we wanted out of our futures was absolutely necessary.
We had conversations about what our ideal engagement-to-marriage timelines looked like, to when we wanted kids, where we wanted to live someday, and what finances would look like. Everything was out on the table. Everything was fair game. And when our timelines for certain things didn't match up, we asked why. We sought understanding from each other, but more importantly from ourselves. Where was selfishness lurking? Where was fear hiding? Where could we compromise? What was non-negotiable? Sure, I wanted to "live out my 20's," but I wanted to live my young life out with him, as his wife (spoiler: I'm doing just that). Maybe he would pursue a doctorate. Would we have to move to Ohio? Colorado? Any place I don't wanna go? We held nothing back.
As we spent hours going through every life-scenario with each other, we also spent hours alone. So much time was spent in prayer, talking to priest-friends, trusted friends, trusted family members, and older mentor/friends who had walked a similar path. We confided our fears and asserted our wants and dreams. Honestly, my parents were the hardest to mention it to. I was 19 when we started talking about it, 20 when we got engaged, and 21 when we got married. Truthfully, not everyone was on board with the idea of that timeline, but those who mattered were. Our parents and those who we confided in knew that this wasn't just about two young Catholics finally getting to have sex. No, I know they saw so much more than that. We took this discernment seriously, and they saw that we wanted to fulfill the Lord's obvious plan for our lives.
This discernment lead to that picture of Chase kneeling in the middle of an empty plaza at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi while a an old Italian man yelled "macho! macho!" from the sidelines. In an outfit that I regret with my backpack still on, he presented letters from our family members since they couldn't be on our school trip with us. I had snot bubbling out of my nose and black mascara running down my face as he put the most perfect emerald-cut ring on my finger. We got to celebrate this new beginning with some of our closest friends on a magical, and I mean magical, day in Assisi, Italy. Wayyyy better than Lizzie McGuire's adventure in Rome, might I say!
My friends, when it comes to discerning engagement and if he's "the one," you should only feel one thing at the end of the day: an overwhelming peace. A peace that could only come from the Spirit himself. If you've found it, God bless! If you haven't, know that I'm rooting for you. The journey isn't easy, but continue to walk with the Lord and you'll find that the wait is worth it.
Book List + Links
I wanted to include a few reads that I found very helpful as an engaged woman. In fact, most of them are helpful to understand our relationships in general!
Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Dr. Edward Sri "Practical Insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility"...an incredible resource for anyone who wants to better understand the relationships we were made for and the men and women we were created to be.
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (Saint John Paul II) Truth be told, I've never read through the whole thing! I've just studied bits and pieces (several bits, I should say). Still beautiful and absolutely necessary to understand the gift of human sexuality, to say the least
Familiaris Consortio by Pope John Paul II What can I say, I'm a big fan of the guy! But really, if you're considering marriage, then you're considering a family. Do yourself a favor and read this exhortation on "the role of the Christian family in the modern world." Discerning engagement is discerning all that comes with it.
Invited: the Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner by Stephanie Callis If you are engaged, congrats! Now go get this book. It serves as such a simple reminder on how to prepare for the Sacrament of Marriage, but it also offers tons of practical advice and planning space for the entirety of the wedding and reception as well!
Discerning a Vocation: What Not to Do This is actually a blog post from a past professor of mine. If you need some clarity on how the heck you should discern a vocation, go freakin read this (and the rest of his blogs, they're insightful, sarcastic, and hilarious)
4 Tips on Discernment My husband and I made a few "quarantine youtube" videos for his high school youth group. I linked a video that goes over 4 quick discernment tips.