February 11, 2010

Amateur Ethnography: The Newlyweds

This week needs some backstory.

A million years ago, I went to high school with a girl named Lora. She dated a couple of my friends, so we were casual acquaintances, but nothing more. Years passed, and a couple of smart, rich dudes invented Facebook. About a year ago, Lora and I became Facebook friends. I noticed she was dating some guy, and we exchanged a few friendly messages back and forth to catch up.

Later in the summer, I noticed her Facebook status changed from "In a Relationship" to "Single." Not a big deal. People break up all of the time.

But then, I noticed a few weeks later that she was back in a relationship. I didn't think much of it at the time, but I later noticed it was a new guy. It seemed quick to me, but to each their own.

That's when things got a little crazy. Two months later, her status changed from "In a Relationship" to "Engaged." That seemed really fast. But it was nothing compared to what happened next. Forty-five days later, she was married!

So, in a relationship over the summer, broken up in August, in a new relationship in September, engaged in November, and married on January 1, 2010.

When people move quickly in relationships, it drives me crazy (for some dysfunctional reason that I probably need to see a counselor about). It always seems so childish when people start saying "I love you" after a few weeks. It reeks of something teenagers would do, not grown adults. I mocked their speedy courtship to a bunch of people, including my interpersonal communication students, and I assumed Lora and her new husband had overdosed on crazy pills.

Meanwhile, Lora and I still said hello from time to time, and I realized I was being a hypocritical jerk. Instead of secretly questioning her sanity, I thought it would be healthier to have an adult conversation about her marriage. So, earlier this week, Lora and I spoke about God, life, and marriage. During that conversation, everything started to make sense.

Lora's story ...

Lora was born into a Christian family thirty-two years ago. Her father served as a church pastor in Michigan, and when Lora was six years old, she was baptized. Her childhood wasn't the best, but she did grow up in a loving family. She moved a few times, and ended up in Cincinnati where she attended high school (with yours truly). Before her junior year, her parents split up, but remarkably, after extensive Christian counseling, her parents reunited and are still together fifteen years later.

For various reasons, Lora found herself in a bad relationship in her early twenties. The relationship chipped away at her self-worth, and she spent many years slowly drifting away from God. After finally detaching from one loser, she found herself attaching to a second abuser. The slippery slope away from God got steeper. People around her could tell the new guy was a bad partner. Lora's dad even threatened to not pay for the wedding if she married the guy.

Lora still loved God, but she felt very guilty for rebelling against him. She lived with her boyfriend, regularly skipped church, and made many bad decisions for nearly five years.

They broke up in September of 2008. Almost immediately, she reconnected with her Christian roots and searched for new guys on a website called christianmingle.com. That's where she met Mark (name has been changed). Mark was a few years younger than Lora and had very little dating history. It was also a long distance relationship, so they only saw each other in person a handful of times over an eight-month span.

And that's when the fun began.

In August of 2009, Lora and Mark broke up. Around that same time, Lora and Justin found each other on Facebook. They had been friends before Lora moved to Cincinnati almost twenty years ago. (Lora met Justin when she was ten years old.) After a few conversations, they realized there was a undeniable spark. Unfortunately, Justin had a girlfriend, but coincidentally, Justin was experiencing almost exactly what Lora went through with her long term ex. They talked, confided in each other, and began falling in love.

Lora said their lives were so similar that everything seemed to "fit together like a puzzle."

In September, Justin finally left his girlfriend and immediately started dating Lora. She was in Cincinnati, and he was in San Diego, so he flew her out to visit a handful of times in August, September, and October. The whole time, they were both being very public and affectionate on Facebook. Some of their status updates made me queasy, but Lora told me how important it was to have a sensitive, affectionate boyfriend after dating two emotionally abusive jerks.

It was a slap in the face to realize what I consider to be bizarre behavior is exactly what Lora needed. Her lifetime of experiences has led her to a collection of strategic behaviors to make life work. Just like me. Just like you.

Justin visited Cincinnati in November to meet Lora's family. Around that time, Lora considered moving back to San Diego for Justin. Her dad told her, "If you ever leave here again for a guy, you better have a ring on your finger." So, Justin put a ring on her finger.

On November 14, about two months after beginning their relationship, Justin proposed.

Lora made plans to move to San Diego and find an apartment. After Christmas, Justin flew to Cincinnati, and they took three days to drive her car out west. They arrived in Southern California on December 29, and over the next three days, Lora and Justin realized it made more sense to get married than to live separately and pay two rents. In fact, while Lora was staying with his parents her second night in San Diego, Justin said, "Hey, let's get married." Lora replied, "Okay, cool." Now that's romance!

They were married on January 1, 2010, during a small ceremony. They will have a larger ceremony later this year with friends and family.

Lora and Justin are Christians, so faith had a major role to play in their decision. Speaking about the short courtship, Lora said, "Having God in our lives gave us a clear understanding of what we wanted. We pray together, go to church, have bible study."

I hear people say that a lot. God told us to get married. It has always sounded silly ... an excuse to rush into something that can't logically be justified. The "God card" is always trump. How do you argue with that?

They are about to purchase a house, and when Lora was explaining their decision to buy, she said God woke her up at 2:30 in the morning when he said, "Go ahead." She took it as a sign, so they prayed about it and made an offer the next day.

Six weeks after the wedding, Lora still reports that things are wonderful. She believes God was molding her for the moment she met Justin. She believes it was God's will for them to get married so quickly. She believes they are perfect for each other. Things that would drive me crazy in a relationship make them both very happy. Status updates that make my stomach churn make them feel valued and loved.

Lora is happy. She reads her Bible every day for thirty minutes, prays with her husband, communicates her love openly, feels adored when he communicates his love for her, listens for God's voice, and trusts her Heavenly Father when he does speak. And she's the crazy one?

Time will tell. I don't think it's wise to rush into marriage, but who knows. For a while, I had a sick fantasy that Lora and Justin would divorce so my cynicism could be proven right. What the hell is wrong with me?

I don't wish that anymore. I'm now praying that Lora and Justin continue to pursue intimacy with God and each other.

It's amazing how much a heart softens when you hear the story behind a person's behaviors.