February 24 2010

Columbus Dispatch article
April 16, 1992

Seminar Aims to Debunk Myths About Finding Marital Partner

by Carey Kinsolving

Members of the Kenwood Country Club in Bethesda, Md., still may be talking about a sight that greeted them one recent Saturday morning.

A smartly attired single woman advertised her marital intentions with a button that read like a campaign slogan: “Say I Do in 92.”

The occasion was a five-part seminar taught by author Blaine Smith, “The Marriage Decision: A Seminar in Choosing a Marriage Partner – and Finding One.”

Emily Post might call such sloganeering “shocking,” but 43-year-old grandmother Janice Wilkerson calls it “pro-active.”

That’s what Smith calls it, too. In November he taught a singles class at a Bethesda church. He encouraged a pro-active approach to finding a spouse. Wilkerson took his advice to heart.

She threw a pro-active party. As her 80 guests arrived at the door, she pinned buttons on them.

“Immediately there were some dates that were set that evening,” Wilkerson said. “Some relationships have resulted from that party.”

Smith, an ordained Presbyterian minister, said that only a few churches offer guidance on how to choose a marriage partner.

“Why can’t there be a matchmaker on the church staff?” Smith asked.

Singles fending for themselves in choosing a partner is a modern phenomenon, he said. In past generations, parents often played an active role in finding a mate for their son or daughter, and in other cultures this custom still prevails. He commends the Jewish tradition of the “yenta” – typically an elderly Jewish woman who specializes in matchmaking.

Smith devoted the first session to debunking shoddy thinking about finding a marriage partner. Christians often “spiritualize” and harbor unrealistic expectations about God’s guidance.

“Expecting God to guide . . . leaves some Christians uneasy about taking any personal initiative in finding a marriage partner,” Smith said.

Similar problems are caused by “idealizing.” Unrealistic expectations about romantic love or the perfect mate can stymie potential in a good relationship.

Another roadblock is “catastrophizing” or “excessive worrying about the future.”

“Without some willingness to risk – indeed, without a proper sense of adventure – you will never take the plunge into marriage,” Smith said.

Smith’s marital myth-breaking includes a look at the first marriage, as recorded in Genesis. The only reason God gave for offering Eve to Adam, Smith said, was Adam’s need for companionship.

“Nothing is said about Adam deserving a wife,” Smith noted. “The Genesis record teaches that marriage, like salvation itself, is an unmerited gift from God.”

The parents of Lauren Lane, 23, have been married 30 years. For her, the seminar reinforced the importance of the husband’s leadership role. But Lane added that men have responsibility in that role.

“The Bible talks about the man being the spiritual leader,” Lane said. “I think that is something a lot of people have lost, and a lot of women maybe don’t choose to respect their husbands. You can’t have two leaders in a household. It’s not going to work.

“I do have rights, but I believe God has a different role for me. I don’t think that being submissive is being stupid or . . . a robot, especially if my husband is following biblical principles and fulfilling his duty.”

Lane said the seminar challenged her to think about areas of compatibility, which Smith discusses at length in his book, Should I Get Married? The area that impressed Lane most is the importance of friendship and compassion in seeking a mate.

By the last week of the seminar, the effectiveness of the pro-active approach had been validated. Will Townshend, 45, took Smith’s advice for those experiencing difficulty deciding whether to pop the question. He took a weekend off to seek God’s will.

“I went back over all the compatibility issues, prayed about it and made my decision,” Townshend said.

Wilkerson will have to change her button to “I Said I Do in 92.”

She and Townshend are planning a July wedding in Texas.