I usually advise people to get to know a potential spouse over time, for at least six months to a year, before committing to marriage. Yet, Marina’s story shows that a much shorter courtship can sometimes result in a good marriage. While I strongly believe that my advice generally holds true, exceptions do exist.
Marina was 43 when she attended my “Marry with Confidence” workshop in 2009. Divorced nine years earlier, she was raising two teenagers as a single parent and working full-time as a computer engineer in San Francisco. She said she wasn’t sure she wanted to marry.
Three years later, Marina was married. How did she go from being not-so-interested to taking the leap? Here’s her story:
“My mom told my kids to pressure me to get married. She said that if I didn’t, I’d be on their backs all the time, because I’d be lonely,” Marina said. “I was lonely. I thought my life was over. I was devastated. Then I decided that whoever proposed to me, I’d say yes. I told God, ‘but You’d better send someone good.'”
With Help from a Friend
Two and a half months later, a friend’s daughter told Marina that her friend, Rena, a Toronto psychologist, knew a man in her area who she sensed would be right for her. Alex was a computer programmer, 47, divorced, and had been wanting to marry for some time. He’d gone on dates with many women, but none were to his liking. Like Marina, he was Jewish and had emigrated from Russia with his family at a young age.
When Maria contacted Rena, she asked Marina for a list of ten qualities she wanted a husband. “No problem,” thought Marina, who’d kept the list she’d made three years earlier at my “Marry with Confidence” workshop.
“I have somebody for you,” said Rena, after seeing the list.
“Rena then sent me Alex’s list,” Marina told me. “I was nine out of ten.”
After they had three Skype conversations, Alex flew from Toronto to San Francisco to meet Marina. “He was funny, smart, and kind,” she told me, “so I knew something would be wrong. I guessed he’d be short. When I picked him up at the airport, I saw I was right.”
Their First Date
She drove him around San Francisco for eight hours, she said. “We ate piroshki at a friend’s house. Later, I told my friend, ‘We spent the whole day in my car and I don’t have feelings for him.’ My friend said, ‘If you didn’t kill each other, that’s good enough.’”
The next day she brought him to Santa Cruz, then back to her place, where he met her mother. Then they went to Marina’s favorite place, the Cliff House, where they drank tea and could see the ocean.
The day after that was the 4th of July. As he’d be leaving the next day, Marina said, “What next?”
“We’re getting married,” said Alex.
“What?” said Marina. “I’d like a proper proposal,”
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
After she said yes, fireworks burst forth. A Canadian who wasn’t used to the 4th of July holiday, Alex asked, “Is that because I proposed to you?”
Marina flew to Toronto for their engagement party. “Air Canada lost my baggage. When I told Alex, he said, ‘Let’s go shopping.’” With a smile she added, “What man wants to go shopping?”
Alex and Marina have now been married for seven years and live in San Francisco. “We miss each other during the day when we’re both at work,” she says, “and we still shop together.”
Advice for Marriage-Minded People
Another piece of advice I give to marriage-minded people is to focus on what they really need in a spouse. They should not rule out someone who might be right for them because he or she doesn’t conform to their expectation about height, hair color, or something else. Before meeting Alex in person, Marina expected whoever she would marry to be taller than she was. Had she seen Alex in person before getting to know him on Skype, she would have known he was shorter than she was, and she might not have gotten to know him.
Marina’s story shows the importance of being willing to accept someone who lacks a less essential quality we might have in mind, but who has more important traits, such as similar values, good character, and overall compatibility.