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Craig and I have three daughters. It is easy to think of them as our little princesses – but the reality of how quickly they will grow into young ladies is ever present. Journey, our eldest, is just five years old. Last Halloween, she came home from preschool and said, “Daddy, I think that you should choose my classmate, Oliver, for me to marry.” “Why do you think that you should marry Oliver,” Craig asked her. “He was a knight for Halloween and I was a princess,” she explained. “He can protect me like you protect Mommy”, she said.
I wanted to sit Journey down to explain that choosing a husband is more complex than finding someone who knows how to make himself look like a knight in shining armor. Likewise, I imagine Oliver’s parents might want to sit him down to explain that choosing a wife is more complex than finding someone who dresses as a princess.
Journey is always on the lookout for the boy she will marry. Right now, the idea of marriage blends easily into the magic of a playful childhood. Right now, she is also okay with her Daddy choosing her husband. But as she gets older, both of those things are likely to change. Our time is limited. Soon, she will grow up and love will become more than magic.
There are five things about love that I hope to teach her and her sisters before they get married:
1. Infatuation is not love.
Love is not something that you fall into and it is not something that is beyond your control. Believing in magic as a child is healthy. Believing that love can be equated with magic as an adult is unhealthy. The uncontrollable feeling of helplessness (read: magic) in relationships is not true love — it is a chemical reaction in your brain similar to that of OCD. It will go away if you give it time (typically about six months). Until it goes away, you have no way of assessing whether the person with whom you’re infatuated is a good fit for you or a terrible mistake.
2. Love is a choice.
Love is a verb. Thus, like just about any other verb, to love is a choice that we make. Everyday, I choose to love your Dad. I choose to love him because he is the man of my dreams who I thank God for bringing into my life. But even on days when I feel less loving or when he may seem less lovable, I choose to love him. I choose to love him because I made a commitment to love him every day of my life. I choose to love him because I hope that you will watch how I treat him and will someday expect the same commitment to love in your relationships. Everyday, he chooses to love me too — even when I do not feel like I deserve his love. That is what makes a healthy marriage.
3. You are complete. He should be too.
Finding a perfect husband will not complete you, nor can you complete anyone else. Love will not fix what you feel is broken. Choose someone who you respect immensely, who respects you indefinitely. Choose someone who has it together — not someone who, with your help, might reach their full potential. There are counselors, friends, pastors, and therapists to help fix people. You are finding someone to love. You are choosing someone with whom you will raise your children. Choose wisely.
4. If your friends don’t like him, RUN.
If you have chosen your friends well, trust them. If your Dad and I don’t like him, trust us. We want the best for you and we are seeing him (and your relationship) with eyes that are not clouded by hormones. Ask us if we see any red flags. We will not steer you astray. We may not be able to predict the future, but we will likely be able to tell you if you’re falling for a fool who will not love you well.
5. Marriage should be FUN.
Your dad is my very best friend — and nothing is better than being able to spend every day, living life and raising children with your best friend. So many relationships are tumultuous. People call them passionate — but passion does not have to be dark. Passion can be laughter and smiles. Don’t get me wrong, life is hard and it will challenge your relationship — but your relationship, at its core, should not be difficult. Choose someone with whom you love to laugh. It will make life easier and every day a bit more fun.
When Journey asked Craig to choose Oliver for her to marry he asked her, “What if he dresses up as something else next Halloween and he is no longer a knight?” She paused. “He might not be able to protect me if he is not a knight,” she answered, worriedly. “You have time,” Craig assured her. “I will protect your heart until you find a man who is truly your knight,” he said. She smiled and hugged him, as content as a five year old looking for love could be.