Life is Worth Living, Sharing, and Multiplying

There are three basic things that men and women need to believe before dating even becomes sensible. Without these three things, there’s no real way to get from wherever you are to the sacrament of matrimony (which is the end goal of dating).

The first thing to be believed is that life is worth living. I don’t mean this in the abstract, or in the future sense, that life will be worth living once I’m in my vocation. I mean that in this very present moment, as you read this article, you know that your life is worth living. Because you know this, you’re living it out. You’re actively taking part in the adventure of your life. You’re not consigned to the ranks of a non-playable character (NPC), but you recognize the dynamism of your life, and the potential for growth and change. More than that, underneath the things that change, you know that you are loveable because you know that you are loved. The essence of love is affirmation, and the most affirming thing that someone can do for another is to create them and hold them in existence– so the fact that you’re here, reading this article, means that God holds you in existence. The very proof of the worth of your life is in God’s creative love of you. From that love, then, comes the wherewithal to live a good life, with meaningful friendships, work that contributes to the common good, and most especially, a life of prayer that undergirds it all.

To attempt to date without this first conviction, that your life is worth living right now, means that whoever it is you’re looking for is to be burdened with the job of making your life worthwhile. No other human person, however delightful, can answer the existential mystery that is at your heart; learning to embrace, enjoy, and be grateful for the mystery that lies at the heart of your existence must precede the finding of a spouse. Imagine dating someone who didn’t know that their life is worth living– they would be trying to become dependent on you in a way that puts you in the position of God. Even if you have delusions of grandeur, this probably doesn’t sound appealing… And now imagine dating someone who does know that their life is worth living– they don’t ‘need’ you in order to thrive, and they’re genuinely interested in you without grasping. They may long for marriage, and they may desire you, and yet there isn’t the note of desperation the comes from the man or woman who fundamentally doesn’t yet realize that their life is worth living.

The second conviction is that life is worth sharing, and again, not in an abstract way, but really and truly, that your life is something worth inviting someone else into, and it would be worth being invited into their life. Even more than that, it involves a willingness to trust someone with the very stuff of your life. It’s an incredibly vulnerable position, sharing bank accounts, calendars, bedrooms, as well as hopes and dreams, opinions, as well as your weaknesses and areas of struggle. If you don’t think that your life is worth inviting someone into it, then marriage won’t mean a real marriage, a real coming together of lives. If your life isn’t worth sharing, there will be a separation between the parts of your life that you find unworthy and your spouse. Imagine marrying someone who didn’t think their life was worth sharing: not maliciously, but resolutely they would withhold from you the things that likely matter to them most. They would lose out on the perspective you could offer, the aid you could lend, the love you could offer in their vulnerable state. Now imagine marrying someone who did think their life was worth sharing: the hard stuff becomes part of the adventure of your shared life, the confusing stuff becomes a privileged place of sharing, the hopes and dreams and struggles can be owned by more than one person. It is almost a certainty that such a person has practiced sharing their life intimately with God and with trustworthy virtuous friends, if they are able to share their life with you.

The third conviction is that life is worth multiplying. I heard this put well by an atheist friend once, who was trying to wrap her head around the urge to reproduce: essentially, if I think I’m awesome (and I do), and I find someone that I’d want to live with and spend my life with, they’d have to be pretty awesome, too, so it would make sense to make more people who were basically half me and half them, and get to raise them and see the world anew through them. This third conviction really does flow pretty neatly from the first two; it also takes into account that while none of us is going to live on this earth forever, we can pass on the goodness of this life to the next generation. Someone who lacks this conviction, but retains the first two, is probably not taking into account the fact that there are rhythms to this life, and our lives that seem to wax full now will eventually wane. Imagine being married to someone who didn’t think that life was worth multiplying: such a life would be preoccupied with the present moment and detached from plans for the future or obligations to the past. Imagine being married to someone who thought life was worth multiplying: there would be a sense both of history and of futurity, of being stewards of this good life who are honored to bestow it on a new generation.

These three convictions– that life is worth living, sharing, and multiplying– are absolutely essential to finding a worthwhile spouse. If we don’t believe these three things (and act now in accordance with them), we aren’t so marriageable. And if we date someone who lacks one or more of these convictions, we can pretty safely say that as long as they lack these convictions, they’re not serious about what marriage is all about.

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