I have never proposed to my wife, at least not in the usual romantic fashion of kneeling, presenting an engagement ring, and asking “Will you marry me?” — a fact she still teases me about when we see those creative and innovative proposals on Youtube. “Why didn’t I get something like that?” she would say.
The reality of it was that I had always been an idealist about love. I didn’t believe in getting into relationships without seeing the endgame. So I didn’t get a girlfriend for the sake of having a girlfriend but I would go in thinking, “Is this the woman I want to marry someday?”
I was 18 and she was 17 when we officially became a couple and I proposed to her a week after that. I wrote her a letter, telling her that I fully intend to see this relationship all the way to marriage. I shared my plans of being a pastor or missionary one day and if she was okay with that, even if there wasn’t much money in it (at this point, I realize some of my freethinking friends would laugh at my naivete and point to Joel Osteen or the Manalos or to Davao’s own appointed son of God himself — but remember that I was an idealist and I was truly in it because I felt I was “called” by God. Besides, to generalize that the clergy is in it simply for the tax-free tithes is oversimplifying things and a disservice to the many pastors, priests and missionaries I know who are sincere about their vocation and are really not in it for the money).
Anyway, along with those plans, I shared with her this cute little anecdote I had heard about marriage being a three-way relationship between man, woman and God. Imagine a triangle with God at the top and both couples at the left and right points. If both ends move closer to God, then the distance between the couple will be closer, but if both go further from Him, then they will drift apart from each other as well. The geometry of it appealed to my mathematical self and I think it made me look quite godly and spiritual as well.
At the end of the letter, I asked her to think about this relationship (and pray about it), and if she was still okay with us being “us” (and if she felt it was God’s will) then we could go on, otherwise it was best to end it now while it was still early on and when we haven’t invested so much emotionally in it yet.
When she read it and told me that yes, she wanted to go on with the relationship, I took it to mean then that I had already proposed and that she had already said “Yes” and it was just a matter of setting the date. And that is why I didn’t have a fancy or formal proposal 6 years later. It was more like, “So, you think it’s time to get married next year? I think it’s best if we have it on this date so that we can do this and that,” and so on.
In the end, these things do not really matter that much. I don’t believe in gimmicky proposals or ostentatious weddings — I mean, yes, those are nice to have — but what really counts in a relationship is commitment, and your commitment to that commitment. It’s not even about that silly triangle. I have a number of atheist friends who are very committed to their spouses — that soundly debunks the kind of ignorant thinking that goes, “If you don’t believe in God, then what’s to stop you from murdering or raping or having adulterous relationships?”
Those who are mature stand by their word. They are responsible and committed human beings. Only the immature need big brother to always be watching them. And no, I’m not talking about age — many people who should be mature at their age are really just little kids in adult bodies — just look at our politicians and you will see a lot of them, like those involved in the recent Tuwad na Daan scandal.
I myself have been an unbeliever for about 5 years now but I fall more in love with my wife every passing second — not the starry-eyed infatuation most people think is love — but about knowing her vulnerabilities and insecurities, her weaknesses, her dark side, and loving her anyway — as she does with me. I have no need for a threesome. The bond we share is enough.
Tomorrow, we celebrate sixteen years of marriage, and I look forward to many more.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.