11 years and no one is dead.
This is a legitimate area of concern in our marriage with a Puritan and a Viking at the helm.
Recently I have been involved in an ongoing discussion with a single girlfriend about potential mates to commit one’s entire life with.
A comment had been made in our presence that can be summed up like this,
“Don’t wait forever for the perfect man.”
Since then we have been discussing this comment, what it means, what defines the term perfect, what are non-negotiables, what are deal breakers and how do you make deal breakers work in a marriage WHEN people grow and change in a marriage.
(Notice I said WHEN right there because it’s not a matter of IF your spouse will change. That’s inevitable. People were not meant to remain stagnant. We were meant to change and your spouse will. Sometimes for the better. They will start doing dishes or picking up their underwear! Yes. Miracles happen. (Praise the Lord Almighty!) But other times they will change for the worse. They will have an affair or start an addiction. It’s not a matter of if your spouse will change… it’s a matter of WHEN.)
But I digress.
When I was young and the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” was a hot market item in the Christian circle and when our parents were so worried we would marry a guy similar to one of the guys from the Brat Pack (Under 30’s readers, please Google said reference ) that they started to hype unbeatable marriage goals. Probably because from 1940 to 1970 it was just expected to marry by a certain age and sadly that created a lot of failed and unhealthy marriages. I mean. Most of us are glad for those unhealthy marriages because we were conceived from them. Alive is better than not alive.
Not me though. I’m the reason our parents yearned for us to find the perfect man to marry… out of wedlock pregnancy. That’s me. The tactile reminder to my entire youth group of what happens when you don’t court or have a chaperone. YOU’RE WELCOME.
NO JOKE. At one time it was suggested by a speaker at a church conference to make a list of things we wanted in a spouse. Here were a few suggestions:
#1: Be a Christian. (But not just any Christian. The kind who walked around carrying their Bible and asked people if we could pray with them if they brought up a struggle in their lives. From death to a missing cat.)
#2: A virgin. Whose lips have never touched either another’s, alcohol or any type of rolled paper plant based consumable.
#3: Never having disagreed with their parents about anything from bed time at age 5 to who they will marry.
#4: Never having actually witnessed darkness, except to have physically toiled early in the morning tilling God’s country.
O.K. I exaggerate a little, but honestly not much.
So when I was looking for a husband, that’s pretty close to what I was looking for.
I thought I had found him with my first serious boyfriend. (By serious I refer to post-High-School-relationship because anything prior is just practice and good for writing material later in life. Especially when you are a writer. (*insert evil laugh here*)
He had most of the qualities above. Our relationship quickly degraded however because it contained one very unhealthy teenage girl who had undiagnosed trauma and mental illness and one young narcissist who like this firecracker redhead, but who deep down inside wanted a petite blonde virgin. He STILL wanted a virgin after we had… deflowered… each other. He told me that… after taking my virginity. That was fuel to my already deteriorating mental status. As an adult I give him grace because we were young and I HOPE TO GOD ALMIGHTY that he treats the petite blonde wife better than he did me. ( Oh yea. He did stick to his list when he married. )
BACK to the point!
I did NOT stick to my list.
Nope. I chose my husband. Rather he asked me to marry him several times and hounded me as I tried to back out of our engagement about 4 times in the upcoming weeks to our wedding.
I don’t feel the need to lay out my husband’s dirty laundry. That’s his story. What I will say is that our upcoming marriage was so controversial that my girlfriends at that time, whose weddings I had been in, refused to even attend my wedding. I got ONE and she lived far away AND she’s still pretty cut up because I made her work in the sun and she got sunburned that day. (Jots note to send her flowers).
*This is why I need an editor. This was intended to be a facebook post and is now a small novel.*
My husband was NOT the perfect man that my parents or I wished for me by any means. However, my husband was a good man. From the first night I met him I saw that he cared deeply for his family. Especially his younger brothers and sisters. I saw the way he interacted with his 2 year old sister and saw how he would one day be with our daughters. I watched him fight, argue and disagree with his parents, but still honor them by taking care of their needs and helping out with the things they were not able to do. I saw him work a job where he was caring for people who had both physical and mental disabilities. He enjoyed the job, cared for his clients, and constantly went the extra mile for them. Including setting up water balloon fights and watching The Jungle Book (a client’s favorite movie) so many times with him they wore out the VHS.
Still to this day, I do NOT understand why he chose me. I’m not as naturally caring or giving as he is. I’m wracked with instability and have a list of diagnoses longer than your arm. But he says the same I say about him, he saw the good in me and the crazy (spice he calls is) was just a part of my personality that keeps him on his toes.
So my advice is this: Marry someone who isn’t perfect. Stop waiting for perfection. It’s
O.K. to have expectations and a list, but don’t set those expectations so high that you miss out on something amazing. The Lord doesn’t use the Pharisees. (O.K. I stand corrected. He did use Paul in a pretty big way.) He uses the broken. The ones who’ve walked through mud. The unexpected. The ones who are considered cast-a-ways.
Your happy ending may not be a knight on a white horse.
It may be a curly haired, dew-rag wearing, serial dating, beer fridge owning, unstable, TINY ( I mean TINY) YELLOW car driving kind of boy your mom warned you about.
( Guys. I wish I had a photo of that yellow car. )
Yet here we are. 11 years later. And I can honestly say he is not what I expected, but everything I needed. We’ve been through hell and back in our short 11 years. We have packed a lifetime’s worth of struggle into those 11 years and we have come out the other side still best friends. Because that’s what has held us together. Our friendship, not whether or not we were virgins when we got married. There is no magic secret to choosing your spouse. There is no magic secret to making a marriage work. There is about a million marriage cliché’s that are applicable.
But my assessment is this:
Don’t wait forever for the perfect man.
Because he doesn’t exist and you might miss out on YOUR perfect man by holding him to YOUR standards and not the standards of what God knows you need. Just marry someone you like.
Happy 11 years to us! Imperfection at it’s finest. My biggest reminder that God’s plans are WAY better than my plans.
Be smart. Criminal history, addiction, mental illness, physical and verbal abuse, narcissistic behavior, and other alarming behaviors are a deal breaker. DO NOT willingly put yourself in harm’s way. NO. You cannot save them, change the or learn to deal with it. It’s a different game plan if these things occur once you are already married, but it’s another if you walk into these struggles before a marriage. Don’t step into harm’s way.
I’m also not saying you learn to “deal with” these things in a marriage either. Don’t allow yourself or consciously continue to put yourself in harm’s way, but there is commitment (in sickness and in health) and steps to be taken towards healing once you are in a marriage. I’ve seen people have to walk away and marriages disintegrate because their spouse is harmful and I’ve seen marriages thrive after seeking help.
But be smart. Seek help. Stay safe.