It shouldn't take a ring to commit


Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 9:08 p.m.

For the ancient Hebrews, betrothal was a part - the most binding part - of a marriage transaction.

We have dropped the oaths and reduced the dowry to a ring, making engagement - for those who are ambivalent - more enticing than marriage.

Two people used to begin a life together. Now, two people often have already established lives when they contemplate a union. And while engagement and the idea of marriage remain part of our fairytale, the practical matter of merging can challenge us, even stop us short.

Ah, but the invitation to live happily ever after, presented with a diamond on bended knee, is alluring - even to those stymied by reality, even to those unsure of their love, even to me (smile). Hence, we have learned to say yes to the engagement without duly considering the commitment.

We have learned to use the engagement period as an opportunity to think about it and to back out if we must. Inevitably, one of the engaged parties is more anxious than the other, though.

Thus, the festivities and planning begin! And, yes, it's difficult to withdraw!

Of course, an engagement is intended to be a commitment to marriage, but some of us have conveniently divided it into a commitment to an engagement to be followed by a commitment to marriage, contingent upon our wanting to go through with it.

Postponing the engagement (which is sometimes offered as a consolation prize) until we are ready to commit to marriage may mean doing away with the engagement altogether. Without the engagement, we may not be lured into marriage. Or we may be ready for marriage and need no period to contemplate it or to prepare for it - or to stall.

A truly ready heart has a way of putting everything else - which is relatively insignificant - in perspective. It's the unready heart that can't seem to find a way to bring all the pieces together.

Even two people with individually rooted and complicated lives can fit together when doing so takes precedence over geography and money! And when it doesn't, perhaps we really do need more time to assess our desire to commit.

If you need time, take it. Don't make your assessment under the influence of a flashing diamond and friends planning the next party, though. Do at least some of your thinking in solitude.

For starters, deciding where to live and how to merge two households (sometimes complete with stepchildren) can be daunting. And, being creatures of habit, we can cling to our old routines, however much they leave us wanting.

You don't want to lose who you are in a union. You want to find more of who you are in a union.

The idea is not to give more importance to somebody else's life or dream of a life. Instead, find somebody who shares your dream of a life together.

When you share the same love, the same values, the same heart, you can give priority to uniting. And, in doing so, you can expand and strengthen who you are - rather than lose pieces of you.

You are ready for the engagement ring, but you don't need it to commit.

Maybe you would say yes to a marriage proposal, maybe you are even waiting and hoping for one. Ask yourself if you would also say yes with your whole heart to a commitment. Are you ready to let go of your options? Do you trust your partner as much as you trust yourself? Do you trust your partner's commitment to you and to love?

You can't count on an engagement or marriage to improve on a partner or your relationship. You must be willing to commit to reality, not the fairytale, in order to live the fairytale.

Jan Soroka is a columnist, author and speaker based in Ormond by the Sea. E-mail her at jandenise@nakedrelation ships.com, or visit her Web site at www.nakedrelation ships.com.

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