On Stealing Another Man’s Girl
“Very briefly, my difficulty is this: I am very much enthralled by a girl who is engaged to another young man. I am currently trying to convince her that she has made a mistake and should break her engagement.
I met her, after having known her in high school several years ago without paying any attention to her, at a recent reunion. I asked her for a date the following Monday. Before Monday came she informed me that she had just accepted an engagement ring from another fellow.
Despite that fact, I started a routine of courtship – roses, telephone calls, visits at her home, etc. I think she is confused and not too sure of herself about marrying this other man. I also think I could do better for her than he could. I badly need advice, and I think she does too. I am 23 years old, and she is 20.”
Most people would roundly condemn you for “poaching”, i.e., trying to take a girl away from the man to whom she is engaged. Indeed, a first glance at your problem indicates that you are doing a moral injustice to the man who has already courted the girl and won from her a promise of her hand and heart in marriage.
Only two circumstances could mitigate your brashness in some degree. The first would be if you had real, objective, almost certain evidence of the fact that the girl is not happy in her engagement or would really be unhappy in marriage to the man to whom she is promised. There is danger that your own infatuation may make you invent such evidence.
Furthermore, your own favors may have been the only thing responsible for making her begin to doubt the wisdom of accepting a ring from someone else. In either case you haven’t a leg to stand on.
The other circumstances that might lessen the degree of injustice in your conduct is if the girl herself were directly and expressly to open the field to candidates for her hand once more. For a sound and solid reason a girl may break an engagement, or insist that she and a boy friend go back to the status quo that existed before they agreed on future marriage.
Only if the girl in question does this, may you continue to pursue her. As long as she is willing to remain bound by her engagement, you have to smother, under your sense of honor and fair play, your infatuation. At 23, you need not fear that the loss of this girl will make you a bachelor for life.
My boy-friend, whom I have promised to marry, wants me to elope with him because of the opposition of our families to our getting married in the near future.
I am 17, have just finished high school, and my family tells me I’m too young to get married. My boy-friend’s family tells him that he is not making enough money to get married.
He is 20, and he works in a factory where he is paid $1.25 an hour, which brings him $50 a week and more when he works overtime. I am terribly in love with him, and am almost agreed that the best thing for us to do is to leave our homes without saying anything to anybody and get married at once. What do you think?
Experience is heavily weighted against your having a happy marriage with such a start as you contemplate. Even secular marriage counseling agencies, which keep statistics on such things, will tell you that marriages that begin with elopement have the least chance of success.
Elopement is a bad beginning for married life for many reasons. First of all, it means a sharp and bitter break with your family, and no matter how much you may think you don’t need your family now, you will, as time goes on, feel deeply the separation you have caused. At your age especially, an elopement would be a combination of selfish mistrust of your parents, of meanness in depriving them of a chance to share in your wedding joy, and of an element of disobedience because you are so young.
Even if they were to forgive you later on, they could never feel quite the same toward you as they did before. As a Catholic, you should know that an elopement, with speedy marriage following, is out of the question. (I hate to think that you may be contemplating a civil marriage, with all its disastrous consequences for your soul.)
As a Catholic, you have to go to your pastor in good time, have to be instructed in the duties of marriage, have to permit the banns of marriage to be published, etc. Of course there is provision made for special cases in which there is an important reason for secrecy or haste. But so often this reason has to do with sin that a young girl who marries hastily and in secret gives grounds for the suspicion that “she had to get married.”
From this distance, it would appear that your parents and your boyfriend’s parents are advising you wisely. You can check this with your pastor or confessor, who will be influenced by no personal motives in advising you, and who will help you to get married before too long if that turns out to be the prudent thing to do. But put out of your mind any thought of an elopement.
On Reluctant Mothers
I am just over 21, and am engaged to be married to a good Catholic young man. We have been going together for eight months. We would like to be married in a month or so, but my mother begs me with tears to put it off for a couple of years, so that she will have me with her that much longer. She tells me that I owe this to her for all that she has done for me. Can you tell me if I do have any obligation to put off our marriage for two years because of my mother’s feelings?
It could be a grave mistake to put off your marriage for even a year merely because your mother wants your companionship. Common sense and experience lay down very definite principles regarding the length of time young people should wait before marrying, once they have become engaged.
There are some cases in which a wait is necessary for serious reasons, such as the actual material dependence of others on the man or woman, or the lack of even a modest income on which to start a home.
These exceptions do not change the universal principle that long engagements are to be avoided whenever possible. The longer two people who are in love with each other put off their marriage, the greater is the danger of their falling into sin. To be in love and engaged and yet to have to wait two years or so before marrying places a great strain on young people’s ability to resist manifestations of affection that of their nature endanger the virtue of chastity.
Mothers who hate to lose their daughters do not think of these things. But a daughter must think of them and must decide the matter according to the best interests of her soul and the soul of her fiancé.
In a situation such as is presented here, a girl would do well to place the decision in the hands of her confessor. He will be able to judge objectively both the reasons for the mother’s reluctance to give up her daughter for a while, and the degree of spiritual danger that will be involved for the engaged couple.
“Many times God allows it to be hard to pray, simply to school us in applying our wills, to teach us that the value of prayer does not depend on the amount of emotion we can whip up. Many times the saints had trouble getting excited about prayers, but they said them, because prayers were due and their value had nothing to do with how eagerly they went about saying them.” -Mary Reed Newland, http://amzn.to/2snNxN7 (afflink)
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