Dear Dating Coach,
My parents have had a rocky marriage for as long as I can remember. My mother often says that my father “has changed” so much over the years. (She does not mean this in a positive way.) I have started dating, and feel anxious about being able to pinpoint which guys are most likely to “change” after marriage. How do I know which guys will stay true to who they are now?
I have a black thumb. Or whatever would be the opposite of a green thumb. When people bring us flowers or an orchid as a gift, I silently apologize to the bouquet, knowing it will meet an unfortunate and untimely death.
One of my aunts, though, has a thumb that makes me green with envy. She can coax any plant back to its full glory, and knows just where to snip and how often to water to make every plant flourish. She understands that plants left on their own often grow untamed, their leaves taking over a room, or they wither from a lack of care. She gets that water and sunlight are the perfect recipe for plant success, allowing them to blossom and grow.
She also knows that every plant is different – and which kind you choose will determine how it must be cared for. But when you get it right, your garden blooms bright and beautiful, offering you its glory and life every day.
Dating and thoughts of marriage can be both exciting and nerve-racking. When you add that extra layer of your parents’ difficult marriage into the mix, it is perfectly understandable that you would feel anxious about this new chapter in your life. First, of course, you are not your parents. You will make choices and decisions that are all your own. Your self-awareness and your ability to worry over their influence will only aid you in this process. You know that you want a positive and productive marriage. That knowledge alone puts you in an advantageous position.
Every couple is different, and every relationship has its own unique twist. However, all marriages require care and attention and the desire to nurture your spouse and her growth. We all change and evolve as we age and are faced with life’s challenges and gifts – but love and encouragement can guide us in that change.
Your support, your affection, and your commitment to your husband’s positive growth will naturally compel him to make choices that benefit you both. You are the water and you are the sun, championing your spouse to achieve, accomplish, and grow.
Sure, there are people who don’t seem to flourish even under the best of conditions, but that is the anomaly, not the rule. Certainly, you must look for someone with qualities that you admire and respect. You should seek out someone who is kind now, gracious now, and loving now. Then, your ability to grace him back with that same kindness, graciousness, and love as you grow together will most definitely be a recipe for marriage success.
When you treat your marriage with care, whether that means offering extra love or a push to do better, your spouse will respond positively. When the underlying message is laced with true affection, honesty, and a desire to see your spouse succeed, then it will be received and returned in kind.
This doesn’t always work equally. Some days you may feel like you are doing all the watering and your plant still won’t grow. Sometimes the plant may feel starved for sun because you’ve neglected to move it out of the shade. But in the end, when both partners have the same goal – to nurture each other – your house will always ultimately bloom with happiness and shalom bayis, offering you both the growth and care you deserve.