But what are your own plans - do you intend to marry, or are you a bachelorette, or are you secretly living the consecrated life?
I had thought the response would be difficult, but it just flowed from my keyboard, giving me new clarity along the way. So, since I offered advice on marriage to a hypothetical couple on my couch, it seemed only fair that I put myself next to Winnie and his honey jar - and do that very rare thing for me - show my emotional cards:
I want to be married and (G-d willing) have children if possible more than anything else in the world - it has always felt like my vocation. But I always swore, up and down, that I wouldn't end up in the loveless, horrible marriage my parents had. Granted it was arranged, but I've seen arranged marriages that at least rub along tolerably well; my parents' marriage was a form of hell. I was...12? 13? before I realised that people marry because they're in love with each other - that you could actually LIKE YOUR SPOUSE. That...has had a long-lasting effect, and I am extremely relationship-shy for fear of being trapped as my parents were and as we were in what was a desperately unhappy home. The minute they mentioned arranged marriage, I moved out, leaving them a note on the fridge. It's hard to be with a guy without that immediate panic attack feeling of 'Oh my god, he's going to trap me forever and it will be horrible' cropping up. Having said that, I don't think I've turned anyone away who was right for me; I just wonder where he is. I really hope he didn't get run over by a bus crossing the road to find me!! :-P
For me, marriage is so deeply holy, such a binding of souls, a real sacrament, I wouldn't DARE approach it unless I knew G-d, and not my boyfriend and I, had put it together. Anything other than that certainty would be a mockery for me; I couldn't do it. Vocation is such a deep thing, it's beyond words - I just don't mess with it, and try to trust G-d knows what he's up to, hard as I have found it over time. I trust He'll let me know. I don't want to step into a marriage because I feel I should be married; I want to marry because it's what G-d wants of me. I want to say those vows before G-d and KNOW that's what He wants for me, KNOW that I mean them heart and soul to this person and to G-d. Nick had a wonderful line in a wedding sermon: May you become so entwined with G-d and each other that you have no idea where your marriage ends and G-d begins. That sums it up for me.
I rarely dare dream - I'm too aware of how easily they're ridiculed or snatched away, but some dreams run too deep, are too much a part of every fibre of our being to be submerged or ripped out - or even discussed except with those who can be trusted with one's heart - and even that is difficult.
For me, this is that dream.