I’ve been asked to write a couple of letters of recommendation for college applications. The first one didn’t take me very long, but the one I am working on at the moment has been a struggle. A struggle because there are just too many great things to say about this young woman. I’m finding it hard not to write a letter that states, “Because she is freakin’ awesome, and we love her like family, so you better accept her college application or else!”
It has brought up an interesting question for me though. We request letters of recommendation for colleges, jobs, adopting or fostering children, adopting animals, sometimes to get a loan or volunteering. People do credit checks when buying a car or house and get background checks for most jobs. Then why don’t we require more when it comes to marriage or having children?
It seems like a reasonable request, letters of recommendation to support a marital decision. I think if I had asked family and friends for that kind of hard, tangible, in-your-face support in my first marriage, I probably would not have gotten married. There just wouldn’t have been enough people willing to say, “yes, he is the man for you”. Actually, maybe what we really need are letters of recommendation before we even start dating. Isn’t that what happens when you engage in one of those fancy, expensive dating services? I’ve heard that the application process is grueling and sometime your application isn’t even accepted if the selection committee doesn’t think you are a good candidate. There might be a lot less divorces if people had to make a life-long decision based on more than their heart. What if instead of having “pre-marriage counseling” we had to sit down with a financial advisor or a panel of peers? DW and I are not overly religious people, but we did want a very traditional wedding. I was friends with a Baptist minister at the time and had asked him to marry us. One session of “counseling” was required by his church to accept our request. It was such a joke too, because this pastor had never met DW before. The questions were simple:
- For DW – they focused on him being a good provider and spiritual leader.
- For me – they were more directed at being a “good” wife through submission and support.
All of the questions were pointless, to be honest, because we have a marriage based on equality not hierarchy. But in order to have a church wedding, we had to go through the motions. One session could some how determine that we were going to be successful. Not one questions asked:
- Have you ever cheated on a girlfriend/boyfriend?
- What is your current debt to income ratio?
- Who is going to manage the money?
- How many children do you both want?
- How will you divide quality time with each of your families?
Believe it or not, these are all questions that DW and I asked each other. Before I met DW I had made a list of characteristics and qualities that I wanted in a partner. And I mean partner, not husband, because I wanted to make a commitment to a person that saw us as a team, respected my opinion and knew how to compromise. But on that list was also leadership skills, the ability to listen, a strong work-ethic, etc. Isn’t that what we hope someone would write in our recommendation letter? Too many times the things that make or break a relationship are unknown variables only because we didn’t think to ask. For instance:
- An example of a difficult situation in their lives and how did they handle it.
- How many people are in their support system?
- What kind of relationship do they have with their immediate or extended family?
- An example of a time when they thought of others before themselves.
- How many jobs have you had? Have you ever been fired?
- What is the biggest lie you have ever told?
I understand that through dating our hope is that we pick-up on all of these things even if we didn’t ask them directly. However, it will never be as clear as looking at it through the eyes of someone who isn’t as emotionally involved, someone who is more objective than we can be in the heat of the moment. At the very least, getting insight from people who know our partner outside of a romantic relationship would give us a better understanding of who they are at their core.
I can only hope that when our girls start dating, we’ve taught them to ask the right questions, get to really know their boyfriend’s families and friends, maybe even their colleagues and make great mental notes of everything else.
As a parent, can we ask for letters of recommendation, references or maybe even a resume?
That’s my recommendation.