Monday, March 2, 2009

So I'm Watching the Bachelor...

...and I can't help but wonder if these women really know what to look for in a husband.

I generally don't watch The Bachelor - I had enough of pretty, catty girls in high school, but I have to confess I was sucked in by the promise of "the most shocking Final Rose Ceremony EVER!" I can't imagine what the shocking twist could be. He asks one girl, turns down another girl, or disses them both. I can't see a lot of other ways this could go. But here I sit, watching with a morbid fascination.

One of the final girls is a darling 25 year old who has openly confessed her undying love for the Bachelor. I can tell she is really feeling it, but in the back of my mind I keep hearing one of my Grandma Ruth's favorite sayings, "You can't put an old head on a young body". There is so much emotion (whether genuine or edited, I can't say...). She keeps saying sweet, lovely things about this being a fairy tale and how much she wants to spend her life with this man. It isn't that I doubt her sincerity. I just think that life and marriage and real, true love are so different than what this sweet girl may think. True love is different than what I thought it was when I said my vows. I think that is true of most everyone.

Now that isn't to say that young love won't become true love, but I think that is something that happens over time and through trials and tears, joy and laughter. What I thought I wanted in a husband at 20 was very different than what I thought I wanted after several serious relationships. Sure, I was physically attracted to my husband while we were dating. I saw his sweet, serious side, I loved his sense of humor and respected his work ethic. On our wedding day, I allowed myself that moment of being introspective and brutally honest about whether I was really ready to jump off that cliff with Mark. I didn't have even an ounce of doubt. When I walked down that aisle and saw Mark there, I felt the fairy tale. I know exactly what the 25 year old is talking about.

Mark and I will celebrate our 10 year anniversary this May, and so much has changed over this last decade. We've moved to two different cities, had two children, and we have each changed tremendously as individuals. Life, real life, isn't always a fairy tale. We have been through some really tough times. We have also laughed more than you can imagine. There is a great scene in the movie "Good Will Hunting" where Robin Williams' character is sharing about his deceased wife. He laughs and talk about how she would fart in her sleep and one time did it do loud she woke herself up. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that is one of the best descriptions of true love I have ever heard. There is no one in the world who knows me like Mark does, and yet he remains my most faithful friend and ally. He loves me. I never doubt that. I live in that.

Like my Gram says, you can't put an old head on a new body. But I would love to be able to convince a young girl what, after 10 years of a pretty darn good marriage, I think is really worth looking for in a future husband.

1. Forget loving him. Do you like him? Don't get me wrong, I think there is something very important about the butterflies in the stomach and the racing heart in the minutes before you see him, but that isn't necessarily the best gauge of true love. I am not knocking chemistry, but I have found over the years that liking my husband has been way more important than feeling giddy about him. Find someone you like to hang out with, someone you like to talk to. Someone who makes you laugh. Those things will carry you through the hard times more effectively than the butterflies can.

2. No one stays the same. Over time you will both change. The key is do you like the direction he is heading? No, you can't predict what someone will be like in 10, 15 years. But you can usually get a good read on whether he is growing more mature, more compassionate, more forgiving, more wise, more godly. Really ask yourself if he is like wine, getting better with age, or if he is like Easter peeps, fresh at first, but hard as a rock in time. There isn't a fool proof formula for this, but there are little signs along the way. Watch for them.

3. Pay attention to how he disagrees with you. It can be more important how you fight than how you love. If a man hits you, he isn't husband material. Bottom line. That's it. But beyond that, when you disagree does he still speak to you respectfully? This is hard - arguments get heated, and people are passionate about being right, and being married doesn't change that. Mark and I still have disagreements (when he is wrong). But they are brief, and we usually are both working towards understanding much sooner than we used to. Disagreeing with kindness is a very sexy trait in a man.

4. It's great to have deep, heat to heart conversations, but do you enjoy talking about the weather with him? There is no doubt that a large part of having a deep connection with someone is sharing pieces of your soul. Those moments are the glue that bind two people together. But love and marriage happen in the every day. Do you like talking about the every day things? If your relationship revolves around deep, philosophical ponderings you have to understand that real life may not lend itself to that as regularly as the relationship might need to survive. At some point, your talk will revolve around your newborn's poop. If you like chatting with a boy about nothing as much as deep late night talks with him, that's a good sign.

5. Does he make you laugh as often as he makes you cry? I dated a boy in high school who I was convinced I "loved". (Now that makes me laugh...) The problem was that our relationship was stuck in this intense phase. There was drama, turmoil, and tears, but not a lot of laughter. Some people are serious by nature, but life is meant to be enjoyed. Laughter is a powerful aphrodisiac. It makes all of life better. Be sure you laugh with him more than you cry over him.

6. Popularity means nothing. Nada. Zip. When you are 35, you won't care if your husband was a jock, nerd, geek, or punk rocker (or whatever groups you all have these days). In high school there were certain guys who girls were crazy over. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't bank your future on what the kids in 11th grade think. Of all my dearest and favorite girlfriends who are happily married, I would guess the majority didn't marry the "big man on campus" from their high school. The world is a lot bigger than high school or even college for that matter. The only popularity contest he needs to win is the one with you.

I am sure in the next ten years of my marriage, I will wish I could talk to my 35 year old self and share the wisdom that our next decade will inevitably bring. But the good news tonight is that, after 10 years, I like Mark, he makes me laugh, and I love the man I he is growing into. That's not too bad a fairy tale if I do say so myself.

And by the way, the Bachelor did take a seriously dramatic turn...wow. It will be interesting to see where that goes...

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