Pretty Good Advice

I just finished a Formspring question (see box to the right) about an hour ago and I felt like I gave a pretty good answer, so I wanted to make sure everyone saw it.  It’s been a while since my blog was updated and that’s unfortunate, hopefully I’ll get to some good stuff soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this question from an anonymous person and my darned fine answer, if I do say so myself.

Q: How do you have such a strong marriage? Any tips for a single woman looking for commitment?

This is a very intense question and I can only hope that I provide a decent, well-thought out response.

Regarding the strong marriage, there are two inspirational stones in our home. We’re not the sort of people who go for inspirational kitsch all that often, so there is usually a fairly strong impetus behind things of that nature. That is to say, we don’t like to dust around things, so the less clutter the better. Anyway, back to the stones. One is engraved “trust” and the other “always” and that, I believe, is the backbone of a strong marriage. Now there are certainly other values that are involved, but the bedrock of a strong marriage is trust. And, I think that the other values are sort of based on that trust. You have honesty, love, and commitment…all of which have a foundation in trust. Truth be told, I don’t think I’m telling anything that hasn’t been told a thousand times before, but it’s important to reinforce these values, particularly in a society that so easily dismisses them. And, I’m not one of these people who believe that marriage is some sort of sacred institution (as the joke goes…who wants to be in an institution), but I do believe it should be reserved for people who have the desire to commit themselves to each other through trust, whether they be straight, gay, illegal immigrants, or what have you. In addition to all of this, you have to be willing to go through the good AND the bad, and there will always be both, in order to have a strong marriage. Strong marriages are not easy. If they were, you’d see a lot more of them. My parents have been married for over 35 years and theirs is a strong marriage. They have had many ups and downs I’m sure. I can remember some pretty big blow ups in our house, but I also remember the funny, happy, goofy moments that made their marriage work as well. C. and I both had excellent role models for marriage and I think that having that to draw from also helps. If your parents didn’t fare so well, all is not lost. You’re still able to learn from what didn’t work for them and make your marriage the best it can be.

As for being a single woman, let me give you two pieces of advice. First, I don’t know how old you are, but be patient. I understand that it’s frustrating and it can feel like time is running out. I remember thinking that I had passed the point of no return as far as finding a person to share my life with when I was only 23. Twenty-three is so young, heck, thirty-three is young. There have been times when I thought that had I waited a few more years it still may have been rushing it. C. will tell you that she felt rushed right up until the moment she walked down the aisle. Secondly, and this is the most important, there is a rule to live by for anyone that you think might be “the one” and it boils down to this: Does he/she make your life better? When you can answer this question “yes” honestly from a deep part of your soul, then see part 1 about being patient. It’s hard to nail down exactly how you will know, but when it occurs, you’ll be able to write this answer yourself. How did I know? Ask anyone who knew me before I met C. and they will tell you I was a miserable sonofabitch who was on the slippery slope to lonely and depressed. After I met C., my life became immeasurably better on a number of scales, some easy to identify and some a little less tangible. Still, I can say with certainty that there will be a tipping point when you absolutely can say to someone else “They make my life better” and mean it with your very being and that will be the starting point for you. Then, and only then, should you start working toward a strong relationship. On the other hand, if you ever find yourself in a relationship where the answer is already, or becomes “no, they do not make my life better” it’s time to move on. This is true even if you’ve been in that relationship for a decade…and I’ve told people that. It’s only recently that C. and I decided on this “Better Life” anthem for single friends who want to know our secret, but it has been true for everyone who has asked the question.

You want someone who can share your dreams, your failures, your success, and your pain. You want someone who knows how and when to listen and can be there even if you just need a shoulder to lean on. You want someone who will dance with you in the middle of the frozen food section at Kroger and laugh, even if its halfheartedly, at your stupid jokes. You want someone who challenges you to be the best you can be and support you in that goal. You want someone who can beat you at Jeopardy but still be humble, share a coffee and newspaper with you during a Saturday morning rainstorm, and be happy to get you cold medicine at 2 a.m. When you meet that someone, let me know and I will sing at your wedding, whoever you are, because I will know that you’ve found the right person.

I really do wish you the best of luck, because I know it seems like the most awful thing in the world to be single. And, I hated the usual platitudes that people used when I was in your shoes. Things like “you just have to stop looking,” “plenty of fish in the sea,” “it’ll happen when you least expect it,” just make you more angry and less likely to be open about the possibilities. Don’t force it. Cinderella’s shoes only fit on her foot. I hope you find the happiness that I continue to share with my wife. And I hope that this long answers helps.

See you in the funny papers!

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2 thoughts on “Pretty Good Advice

  1. Great answer. Trust is definitely the key, I think. Realizing that it’s just the two of you that matter in your marriage is also key. Even after kids, I think that’s true in regards to marriage, but I don’t have them, so some people may think that’s bogus, automatically.

    In regards to being a single woman. It sucks just as much as it’s awesome. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy being single, but there are some fun times to be had all by yourself. One thing I hated when I was single was when people tell me, “When you stop trying so hard, it will just happen (falling in love).” I hated that, but damn, they were right!

  2. Wonderful and heartfelt reply. Many things here ring true – although my marriage was lost after 23 years – I can still see the good that once was ‘us’. My parents will celebrate 55 years together tomorrow – so, yes, I have had great role models – and I can’t help but think, gee, why didn’t my marriage last? It did last for a long while – but didn’t continue. I don’t totally enjoy the ‘single’ life – but there is a lot to be said for quality time – whether alone or with someone. I get lonely – no doubt – and am a sucker for ‘romance’ but you got it 100% right when you said its about TRUST. Thanks for sharing!

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