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32-Love Letters from Vietnam: What To Do When One Person Says "No"

Updated on October 1, 2009

Kate's Note to Readers

There is a sentence in Tim's letter today that could have served as red flag (or let us say, atiny pink flag) regarding Tim and Kate's relationship.

The web is awash in sites that give overt red flags to watch out for in determining whether or not a relationship is healthy. Emily Battaglia Life Scripts writer addresses six red flags to watch for in her article Moochers, Mama's Boys and More - 6 Relationship Red Flags. An article on entitled 5 Relationship Red Flagsagain states overt signs of potential problems within a relationship. (The last one on that list is a bit more subtle than the rest and worthy of note.) But maybe more useful than the articles on red flags are articles on healthy relationships. I like's 10 Signs of a Healthy Relationship. Connected with that site are quotes for long distance relationships that are lovely when speaking about a relationship like Tim and Kate's.

But the sentence that is worthy of discussion in Tim's letter today is the sentence that essentially defines the decision regarding premarital sex as "Kate's" alone: "I'm sorry for the pain our love is causing you; that is, by the conflict within you, and the decision you have to make concerning the course of our relationship before we're married. It's because of my weakness that you're forced to make such a decision." (Italics, mine) Was this a red flag as to the power structure in our relationship. Not really, but if I had known then what I know now, I might have pushed a bit harder to make the onus on this decision on both of us.

Whether or not the views of a loved one are well-grounded in rational reasoning (as my views regarding pre-marital sex were probably not), it is nevertheless important that a decision that a couple finds important to them is a decision that needs to be made together. It might not be entirely rational for your fiancee' to say, for example, that she never wants children, Children provide one of life's greatest joys and add a richness that cannot be measured. But if the woman says she doesn't want to have children, one cannot hope that she might change her mind one day. "No" means "No." One must either accept the "no" a partner is uttering in a relationship, or...or what...? Leave? That's hardly useful advice, especially when two people are married and have children. Perhaps the best we can do is this: we simply have to be very careful as to what "No's" we impose on a relationship, and if we're on the receiving end of the "No's," we have to accept that, like the UN, a veto on a proposal means precisely that the proposal is vetoed. If one partner objects, it's a "No," and we move on to a decision that we both can live with - for unlike the UN, we don't have to (or shouldn't have to) deal with three other nations who can mess up the whole apple cart!

13 October, 1969

Click here for a link to all of the Tim and Kate letters

Dearest Kate,

My Love. I hope at this very instant your heart is filled with joy and happiness. Only your heart is a worthy vessel of these precious gifts from God. It's only been a week since we've seen each other, but how I long to be united with the goodness of your gentle soul again. Kate, you don't have to project a light and cheerful mood to make me feel that way. Just your presence, or the sound of your voice, or receiving one of your letters makes me happy. Even in our sorrows, the job of what we have shines through.

I'm so glad to hear that your CCD classes are going well, and that you enjoy them. I hope this means that there will never be another tearful Friday night.(Editor's note: CCD stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. I was teaching 8th graders in the evening after teaching my class of deaf students during the day. I remember specifically the book we were using, It had stories and pictures of Martin Luther King and Ghandi and talked about Christianity in the way I had always felt it to be it's best - when paired with the concept of social justice and peace. However, getting the idea across to 8th graders was the challenge that often produced my tears of frustration to which Tim refers.)

I'm sorry that I haven't been writing very frequently, Kate, but with the big inspection coming up, I've been on detail every minute of my "free" time. I feel so guilty about it because your letters mean so much to me. I find such wisdom in your letters, Kate. They make the weeks seem shorter by giving me so much joy and happiness. But most importantly, Kate, they give me love. Thank you.

I'm sorry for the pain our love is causing you; that is, by the conflict within you, and the decision you have to make concerning the course of our relationship before we're married. It's because of my weakness that you're forced to make such a decision. My prayers are added to your, Kate. (Editor's note: In hindsight, I believe this paragraph is a red flag actually. Read accompanying discussion).

Well it happened again, Kate. My name is on the KP roster. In the span of two weeks, I've had KP twice and guard duty three times. And as a result I missed four days of school. It's absurd, Kate. This school and the army is a farce. Well, I'd better not get started on that! All I can do about it is make a little noise in the right places. Kate, if it was not for your love and the life I hope for us to have together, I don't think I could take it. Thank you for your strength, Katy. Well, I did it again, dwelled on my problems.

I better get to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.



PS Give my love to our families


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