Friday, August 10, 2012

A letter to my future husband

Dear Sir,

I hope you'll pardon the formal salutation. I don't mean to be stuffy, but as far as I know, we haven't been properly introduced yet, and I am a stickler for decorum. For that matter, I'm not convinced you actually exist, and it would be forward to call an imaginary fiancé "darling." Therefore, for the time being, "sir" you must remain.

I feel a little silly writing this letter at all. If you have read my blog, you may have guessed that I haven't spent much time or energy looking for you. This summer, however, you've been more-than-usually on my mind.  I'm not sure what it is about Alabama, but my marriage prospects seem to be a very interesting topic of conversation down here. From mortgage lenders on the phone to missionaries at the churches I've visited, all sorts of people have brought up the topic of my getting married. My Mississippi-bred mother says this is an example of people in the Deep South being "in your business" in ways they aren't in Texas, and certainly are not in the Midwest where I grew up. These conversations have baffled and amused me; I certainly don't mind if people ask me whether or not I am going to marry, but they all seem much more interested in the question than I am.

Despite my laughter, these conversations have made me curious. Who might you be? Brilliant and introverted like the guys I have dated? Extroverted and funny like so many of my male friends? I hope you know that whatever your virtues, you're up against some pretty high standards. I have grown up around amazing men, including my father, his students, and my own beloved brother-friends. These are men who build houses and non-profits, men who play the piano and plant gardens, men who can put a whole room at ease with a few words, men who stay late to clean up after everyone else has gone home; men who listen and challenge and laugh and pray. Having loved such a strong company, I have learned that when it comes to suitors, my affections rise easily--I will come to care for you quickly--but my respect and admiration are much more difficult to earn. This means, dear sir, that if you're not already doing something good, beautiful, and true with your life, you'd better start today.

This is a strange time for me -- having just finished the first great work of my adult life, I'm embarking on new seas, praying each day for a vision that will guide me in the coming years. That vision might include you, or it might not. There is joy in it either way, but you should know that if we meet and if we wed, I won't be surrendering my vision -- I'll be looking for shared lodestars and common beacons. I've often wished that both husband and wife would change their names upon marriage--that would seem the best possible sign of this mysterious becoming-one-ness I hear about. I will not be absorbed, or purchased, or won, but I could be called, invited, and challenged to exchange this precious single life for something new with you.

I don't need you, my dear sir, and I hope you know that you don't need me either. If we cannot find our deepest joy in Christ and his Church, we have no business trying to find any happiness with one another. And yet,  there may come a day when I want to keep you around. If that day comes, I hope you'll be patient with me, because the thought of linking my life with someone else, of changing my long-loved name, of sharing my bookshelves --well, these things terrify me far more than specters of loneliness.

That's probably enough of my profound musing on the nature and possibilities of marriage. It is, I admit, a subject I know nearly nothing about. More mundanely, I should warn you that while I cook well, I don't do it terribly often. If you're the sort of person who wants supper every night, you'll need to be patient at first.

So ends my first (and perhaps only) letter to you. I write merely out of courtesy; you should have some sense of what you could be getting yourself into. Again, I have my doubts as to your ontological weight, but the people here speak about you as though you could be real. I should also note that for more than twenty years my father has said he prays for you. If you don't exist, I hope God has redirected those prayers to some flesh-and-blood spouse making his ancient and wonderful vows.

Should you choose to reply, I remain

                                                                                                                  sincerely yours,


P.S. If any of those mortgage lenders, missionaries, or other new friends happen to read this, please know that I really don't mind talking about marriage; I just don't have much to say on the subject yet. Furthermore, if you happen to have an inkling as to the whereabouts of my dear sir, do let me know. I've often thought that arranged marriages would save everyone a great deal of time and trouble.


  1. Love your blog, Bethany! (This is Kelly, Andrew Whitehead's wife.) We just moved to Daphne a couple weeks ago, and are finally feeling a bit settled in. Are you looking forward to starting work on Monday? We need to exchange numbers so we can have you over for dinner soon. Have a great weekend!

  2. If you do find your good sir, please do not feel in any way compelled to change your name. I believe our world needs to be more explicit about telling women that they have every right to keep their visions and their names.

    1. Our world, and also our churches -- I'm so thankful I came of age in churches that did not assume that the end-all be-all of a woman's life (and ministry) was marriage -- wonderful and godly as marriage can be :-)

  3. Hi sister (I'm Summer, I have adopted your parents as my own, they are indeed wonderful people). I absolutely love this letter... direct, sweet, and to the point. And to think about the possibility of the man you will marry having read this letter is terribly romantic and exciting :)

  4. Well, when it comes down to it, I believe that more of the world cultures don't change their name when they get married than do. Many Hispanic cultures don't change their names, but the offspring get the last names of both of their parents (which is why sometimes you'll hear Hispanic people with really long names -- first name, middle name, fathers last name, mothers last name, and sometimes "de " where their from, if it's someone back in the day). Either way, I find the idea that both would change their name quite an intriguing prospect. I wonder what I would have said if Liz asked me to merge our last names instead of just change hers. I know that several people would have scorned the idea, but it really represents something. I like that.

    -Luke (Liz's husband)

    1. I didn't know that about those customs among some Hispanic cultures -- that's really interesting. I'm really not sure what I would do if I married -- I really don't like hyphenated names because they seem so...fragile. I would prefer that husband and wife together would just pick or invent an entirely new name that represents something important about their new life together. Future genealogists would despise me, though!

  5. I love you so much. I'd marry you. And I don't mind at all if you keep your own name. (Because I wanted to keep mine, too.) ;)

  6. This made me smile, Bethany, because it reminds me of myself just before I met my husband! Especially the fear of sharing a home, a bookshelf, a name, and a bank account with another human. I knew I would marry him once I was no longer afraid to mix my books with his. :)