Let me preface this by saying, in love, I have been very blessed. My first and only boyfriend became my friend first, and then my husband a few years later. I wasn’t in the dating market forever and a day waiting for my prince charming to come along. I wasn’t nursing broken heart after broken heart in my younger years. I did dream about what it would be like to get married and have a family, but only as a concept, not with any timeline in place that I intended to do it in.
One of the reasons my husband and I did end up working out, despite many odds against us, was that we did not conform to normal relationship expectations. Our culture tells us many things about normal relationships, including how they progress, when to “put out”, when to get married, etc.
Our relationship did not conform to any of the normal standards, and I believe this is why we had an easier time in every stage of it than our peers.
We did not go into our relationship asking, “What’s in it for me?” or to get physical contact out of each other. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with affection and being affectionate, but we did not begin our relationship with that as the first priority, which is highly unusual in the hookup culture we were surrounded with.
We went into it going, “How can I protect your reputation?” and “How can I make you feel the safest?” The fundamental questions we built our relationship on were to set the tone for mature love, not infatuation. This had the consequence of cultivating a lot of trust and respect in our relationship.
Something else that we went against the norm with was our dates. We didn’t go on conventional dates to restaurants and only occasionally went to movies. We went on dates that grounded us in reality and connected us to the community around us, like going to the grocery store, hanging out with grandparents, and spending time together outside of our church building.
We made efforts to never be fully alone together, not because we didn’t trust each other, but because we wanted to be above reproach when it came to people accusing us of doing things we hadn’t. This doesn’t mean we weren’t ever alone together, we sat in our vehicles quite a bit alone before curfew, but we always kept the light on so people could see into the cab.
I’ve talked about this a little bit before, but my husband and I both chose to wait to have sex until we got married. While this part of our lives is a lot more complicated than I can get into here, we still are happy we made and followed through on this decision. It has made our lives a lot more stress-free by not having to worry about STDs and emotional baggage of that caliber attached to a person outside of our marriage. This doesn’t mean we never had our hearts broken, but it wasn’t that type of heartbreak. By doing this, we bucked the norm of sleeping together on the designated number of dates that society tells you to these days.
We were also very intentional in our relationship, which is unusual in a culture where many allow their relationships to drift from one stage to the next without a second thought. Once we were certain that the progression of our friendship was going to result in marriage, we set up a timeline and followed it. This helped us to know we weren’t going to be in limbo forever or whether or not we loved each other enough to commit.
By the time we began dating, we essentially knew that we were a good match, practically fit well, and were both the same level of committed. Our communication skills were such that, we didn’t doubt each other in anything. There was no second guessing or wondering, we knew we were a good match and we knew we were getting married.
Our age difference and age at marriage was perhaps the biggest, most notable way we bucked the norm (apart from abstaining from sex). I was 18 years old when we got married, and my husband was a good bit older.
The age difference alone was such that, normally it would have been quite a shock, but having had graduated from high school at just shy of 16, and beginning college at the same time, I was well advanced from the average 18-year-old. I had lived on my own, paid off a reliable vehicle, and gotten over halfway through college in the two years my husband and I dated. I didn’t buy into conventional expectations of who I was supposed to be at a certain age, and that set our relationship up for success.
Ultimately, no matter what your situation is, you likely won’t fit the fairytale script of a love story. You’ll have to forge your own path, as I did. Don’t be afraid to do so, because bucking the norm is often the only way you’ll find a love that lasts.
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