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The Myth of the Right (or Wrong) Person

My wife and I met when we were pretty young. I was 18 and almost finished with my first quarter in college. She was just over a month away from turning 16 and a sophomore in high school. A friend of mine who was still in high school threw a party for the cast of a play that he was in, and knowing I’d be back in town for Thanksgiving break and that I was friends with most of the cast, he invited me to come.

She was one of two cast members I didn’t know yet. I don’t recall if we talked much that night, but She struck me as a fun, energetic, cute-attractive girl. I have no idea how I struck Her. A large portion of the group (maybe the whole group; I can’t recall) made plans to play Ultimate Frisbee in the park later that week and then (somewhat foolishly, in retrospect) to go “hang out” (none of us had much money for shopping) in Little Five Points in Atlanta on Black Friday.

YoungAndInLove1

She and I got to talk and flirt and just goof around together during the frisbee game some, and we got to talk and flirt and goof around some more over lunch and hanging out on Black Friday, and then I went back to college for Finals Week. I don’t remember it clearly, but according to my roommate and one of his friends who was always in our room, I talked about Her constantly that week. When I got back home for Christmas break, a mutual friend let me know that She hoped I would ask her on a date. This struck me as encouragement that She might say “yes” if I did, so I asked Her.

And we’ve been together ever since. As I mentioned in my last post, we celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on Sunday, May 22. Clearly, we were made for each other. Right?

Were We Actually Made for Each Other?

I want to be clear about a few things before I make my real point:

  1. I don’t think arranged marriages are a good idea. I believe strongly in personal freedom and finding your own way in life. Also, as a stubborn person, my initial inclination is to push back when I’m told what to do, even when what I’m told to do might be in my best interest. As such, I think people should be free to find their own partner in life.
  2. I think of myself as relatively romantic, by which I mean romantic on a budget.
  3. I love my wife dearly and exclusively. There will never be another Mrs. Davis Hipps as long as she’s alive, which I hope (somewhat selfishly, perhaps) is longer than I’m alive.

With all of that said, I don’t believe in the seemingly romantic idea of the “soulmate,” that there’s only one person for each of us before we get married, the “one single person in the world who fills your heart with joy,” to quote Tom Hanks’s character in You’ve Got Mail. The idea is popular in Hollywood, as is the corollary that two people might be meant for each other but unable to connect for some reason.

I bring this up because I think this “soulmate” idea has damaged our perception of what love is and, therefore, what marriage is. Let’s say you married young. Maybe you and your wife have been arguing more than ever lately. Maybe you’ve gotten used to each other, and you don’t make a point of doing fun things together anymore. Maybe you meet someone at work with whom you feel an instant connection, or maybe you re-connect with a former girlfriend on Facebook. You spend time interacting with this person, and maybe you start to wonder what life would be like if you were married to her instead of your actual wife. You wonder if this other person would be more understanding. You wonder if this other person would be more fun. You start to think that maybe you and your wife aren’t meant for each other; maybe you’re meant for this other woman.

ConfusedMan_Insoluble

I mention these possibilities because they’re unfortunately common. Women are often more romantically-minded than men, but men often fall victim to this “what if I’ve married the wrong person” idea as well, that maybe they were “meant for” someone else.

But that’s nonsense. That way of thinking leaves you open to questioning whether you’re with the right person every time anything starts to go wrong in life. Any time you don’t feel head-over-heels in love with your wife, you question if she’s “the one.”

Let me help you with that: she is.

Your current wife is the one for you.

I know this because you’re married to her right now.

Remember earlier that I said, “I don’t believe… that there’s only one person for each of us before we get married.” I put it that way for a reason. I do firmly believe that once we get married, there is then only one person for us. The traditional version of the marriage vows includes the phrase “forsaking all others,” which means that even if you start to see someone else as a better potential partner for life, you’ve already committed to forsake that person in favor of your wife and to “keep yourself only to her.”

What to Do If This Situation Arises

If you feel yourself giving more time or relationship energy to someone who is not your wife, the most effective method of fighting back is to sever all contact with this other woman. If it’s a Facebook re-connection, unfriend them, and make sure your wife knows your Facebook password or that you have a joint account. If it’s a co-worker, you should avoid being alone together. You might even seriously consider looking for another job: your current job is not worth sacrificing your marriage, no matter what that job is, from Janitor to President.

And above all, focus on your wife. As I mentioned a while back (and I’m sure I’ll mention again), marriage is a commitment to a person, not a feeling. But that doesn’t mean you need to accept that the feelings are gone. If you feel that you and your wife don’t have fun anymore, own your part in that and do something fun. I almost wrote “plan to do something fun,” but honestly, you should probably be more spontaneous than that.

Go on a date.

Tonight.

If you’re bored with each other or feel you’re drifting apart, meet with a marriage counselor. Marriage takes effort sometimes, but the result is always worth that effort.

Homework:

If you’re worried that your marriage is in trouble, meet with a marriage counselor. If you’re worried that your marriage is getting dull, do something spontaneous and fun together. If your marriage has been going great, do something spontaneous and fun together! Tell me about your best ideas for this in the comments.

1 comment

  1. Kathi

    It is really refreshing to see a man/husband/ father encourage marriage and commitment. My husband and I married young. He was a 19-year-old Navy man and I was 18 and just graduating high school. We have had our share of problems, but we have had our share of blessings as well. We just celebrated our 36 year anniversary in April and are a testimony to your statement of “….once we get married, there is then only one person for us.”

    Great blog, great heart, and wonderful passion for marriage and married couples.

    I am a fan!!

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