Winner: 2014’s Blog of the Year #7
I’m getting married in a couple weeks and I’m wondering if you have any advice?
Dear Future Spouse,
Thank you so much for writing! You draw my attention to the curious fact that I have not yet tackled this subject and that surprises me because it’s easily one where some good quality meditation can really make a huge difference. My advice is that you should answer these two questions entirely honestly:
Do you want to be married?
Do you think the smartest and greatest thing you’ve ever done is to permanently connect yourself to who you’re marrying?
This is one of life’s biggest life decisions so let’s not dance around the facts. In North America half the people who say I do actually in the end, don’t. Half. Answer yes to those two questions and you stand a decent chance of being in the half that makes it. But if it’s no to either then you’re in the half that doesn’t for sure. Marriage isn’t heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and lingerie. Marriage is a partnership to run a household and maybe raise children. Yes it can be a ton of fun with the right personalities working together, but there’s a lot of heavy lifting in life so what really matters in a partner is their motivation. Do they care enough to lift the weight?
By care enough, I mean about those two questions. Because you can get two awesome people who can get married and it still won’t work if either one doesn’t want to be married or doesn’t want to be married to who they’re married to. It’s that simple. Looks, ambition, sophistication and education don’t matter if the attraction isn’t magnetic. You can’t bind two people together with admiration for superficial qualities. The only thing that truly works is the gravitational pull of compatible characters.
To illustrate my point I want to tell you a true story. Mine.
I was in my 20’s and was planning my future as a filmmaker. At a hall party I asked a pretty girl to dance and I asked her what her favourite movie was. In an age where most people our age would list some A-list blockbuster comedy, she said Doctor Zhivago. That’s all it took. That and a super-funny first date at a pizza place where the couple at the table next to us laughed their heads off when a simple bit of confusion lead to us unwittingly and accidentally have a really dirty conversation in public.
Five years later, after a lot of travelling and living together she asked me what were we doing? Was I serious about this. Serious? I hadn’t even thought about where it was going. I was stuck to her by choice. I was there because, on balance, it was way better than it wasn’t. We weren’t some amazing electric couple. But we had a lot of fun and we enjoyed a lot of living together and we were certainly big supporters of each other. So since we didn’t argue all that much, and I was okay with every aspect of her—including what I thought-of then as faults. Plus we were getting into our later 20’s so I figured, yeah, I guess this is it. And I agreed to propose.
Does this seem crazy yet? Because I know we’re not even at the proposal yet and already I’m lost. Because you don’t get married because there’s not any reasons not to. You get married because you think attaching your life to this other person’s is a super smart bet that will pay off with a really good life, however you may interpret that. So again, it’s not supposed to be like two stressed interlocked hooks that are made of commitment or dedication or loyalty. It’s like two hands coming together to pray. They’re naturally moving toward each other. Their natural personal motion brings them together. Our case wasn’t like that.
Understand that I married a fantastic woman. I can honestly say there wasn’t really anything I didn’t like about my wife. I could get irritated about small stuff, but that was more me than her. When push came to shove I remember asking myself how much a price I’d pay to be with her, and I realized it was a lot. And when we seemed certainly doomed to die when a semi trailer truck climbed over our sedan on the highway, I reached across her body and told the universe to take me instead of her. And I realized afterwards that I really meant that. And to be honest it kind of shocked me how profoundly I actually loved her. Plus hey, she was a super-hot swimsuit model.
Five years of dating, and then she says what’s up and I do a fancy proposal and some flowers and invites and here she is coming down the aisle. And you know what I was thinking? Oh man, she looks nervous. Come on Ed, just get her up here to me so I can hold her hand and help to calm her down. And I realized I loved her. And then I said to myself, but this is not how this day is supposed to feel.
And I was horrified that I’d done that to her—that I’d not even realized the huge mistake that I now thought we might be making. Shouldn’t this feel like the greatest day of my life? I mean, I really do love her and I can imagine being with her for my entire future, but still… it feels like it should feel more…. “Right” was the word I used that day, although I’m less inclined to today. But we all know that feeling. That feeling of knowing something. And what I knew that day watching her come down the aisle, was that I felt very strongly and lovingly about her, but I didn’t feel like a man who was getting married so he could create an inspiring partnership. We were more like solid friends who could live and sleep together.
We both earnestly tried for five more years. And maybe the mature people we’ve become could pull it off, but the people we were then just didn’t have the necessary knowledge or life-skills. I know I regret many of the things I said and did and I suspect she would too. Youth. But I do believe she was sincere in her love and I know I was. And I know we were both very sincere in wanting each other to have wonderful lives going forward. So I don’t regret the experience one bit. I have been a much better partner in later relationships because that’s the only way I could think of to apologize to my by-then ex-wife for my mistakes. I learned the hard way, but I also think with a bit of guidance I would have been able to meet her, have a great time, and have it all work out better for both people.
If you imagine your life with this person and that imagining feels vital and amazing and beautiful and right, then trust that. But if you’re like me and a lot of other people and the feeling wasn’t negative, but it also wasn’t positive, then take note. Because if even one of my best men had said to me, Hey Scott, I like your girlfriend and everything, but this feels weird to me. Are you sure you want to get married? I honestly think I would have found that so shocking that I would have really thought about it and if I’d done that I really do think I would have realized the mistake before we got married. I would have thought about why they asked that and I think I would have noticed the obvious.
They did think it. All of them. But none of them said so. I don’t blame them. That would be super-hard. But I should have known before then too. And so should you. So just ask yourself the questions and then be honest.
I wish you both the very best.