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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

The first time, the only time

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(9/2013) If there is one thing in life that I want to do right the first time, itís marriage. Too often today I see families separated, divorced, and blended. I have witnessed first-hand the strife, anger, and division that these failed relationships breed within the broken family. Iíve seen the stress and emotional pain of a divorce turn otherwise happy people into bitter and angry individuals and change obedient children into rebels. Of course, I recognize that every rule has its exceptions, but those are not what I am here to write about. I am here to discuss how even now I can be preparing for marriage to make sure that the first time is the only time.

This may seem like a surprising topic for a 20-year-old to be discussing in such an open forum, but it is a reality that faces me more each and every day. Many people around me, friends and family alike, have been engaged or married at a young age. I witnessed one engagement fall through, one engagement never come to an end, two weddings, countless dates, and of course, my own parentsí relationship. As someone who hopes to one day be married, I canít help but watch and learn from all of these relationships. From the failed engagement, I learned that one can want to be married for the wrong reasons. From the endless engagement, I learned that timing is important when considering marriage. From one wedding I learned that patience and commitment are important to developing a lasting relationship, and from my parents I learned that you should always marry your best friend. Despite all of these learning opportunities, I find that experience is the best teacher.

While Iím not currently at a place in my life where I could even consider marriage, I know that it is equally important even now to think about and prepare for it. A speedy and awkward relationship I had over the summer made me realize just how unprepared I truly was and how important it is to treat every relationship seriously. Now, I donít want to sound like a dating advice columnist here, but I do want to tell you what Iíve learned recently.

As humans, we love to be in relationships. We love being in love and love being loved. While there is nothing wrong with this desire, seeking to gratify it with many short-term relationships can be damaging not only to you and your current partner, but also to your future marriage. Every time you enter a relationship, you give away a part of yourself to that person. There will always be a connection between you and that individual through shared emotions, experiences, and memories. It is something that cannot be undone. Each relationship you have, you carry with you into your next relationship. It shapes how you experience your newest partner as you view them in context of your past relationships. For example, you may really like that Andrew calls you every day unlike Jake did, but hate that he doesnít call you cute nicknames like Sam did. It becomes a process of comparison and contrast that has both its pros and its cons. While you are able to learn what you like in a person, you may also become dissatisfied in a relationship when your current partner does not quite combine all the positive characteristics of your previous partners. You may even feel as if you have to compromise when you canít find that perfect combination. Itís a slippery slope, which is why dating should be taken seriously and navigated carefully.

Perhaps the most important thing that I have learned is to take relationships slowly. I mean glacial. One day is not enough time to get to know someone nor is one week or even one month. My cardinal rule is to marry my best friend; this means months or even years of getting to know a person and understand them. Many people use the dating process as a way to get to know another person, but isnít the point of dating to find out if you want to commit to that person? Shouldnít the getting-to-know-you part come before the letís-see-if-we-want-to-get-married stage? When we become impatient, we tend to skip that first step, combine it with the second, and call it dating. Why not? Itís what the world tells us to do through movies, music, and media. Weíre told that love is a wonderful, uncontrollable feeling that we spontaneously fall into, but if itís something we donít have control over, what happens when that wonderful feeling decides to leave us, and we fall out of love? It may mean that you were never in love to begin with. Love is a choice. Itís a decision to commit yourself to someone. Itís the fortitude to stay with that person even when things arenít as romantic as you may have imagined them. Itís the self-sacrifice to go out of your way to make that person happy. Itís the patience to wait for the right person to be committed to in the first place. Love is perfectly controllable, but the art to exercise that control has been lost in the hustle and bustle of an ever faster and impatient society.

If we return to the example of my friendís failed engagement that I mentioned earlier and compare it to the successful marriage of my cousin, we can easily see this lesson play out. My friend was only a freshman in college when she became engaged. I remember how excited she was and all of the pictures she posted on Facebook showing off her new diamond ring. About 10 months later, my friend met a new guy who was cuter and treated her better. She broke off the engagement. Two years later she continues to bounce from guy to guy, never quite satisfied. In contrast, my cousin knew her husband for three years before becoming engaged. After their marriage, she moved away from all of her friends and family here in Maryland to live with him in Chicago where he could pursue a business venture. In that single act, she expressed more self-sacrificing love than my friend ever showed to any one of her boyfriends, let alone her ex-fiancť.

I know that love is probably not what you expected to read about when you read the title of this article, but I think this is a lesson that has been lost over time. I simply wanted to take this opportunity to do my part in slaying the current belief in a fickle, wavering love and reviving the identity of a strong, steadfast love. We have been taught to believe that the stronger our passion the stronger our love, but we have forgotten that love is so much more complicated than that. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." - I Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Read other articles by Nicole Jones