Saturday, 15 September 2012

Too Picky?/Settling?

There's a fine line between being "too picky" and "settling" and it is difficult to describe this fine line.

This chap tries to explain it here, in terms that make a married woman (i.e. me) blink.

Talking about the Single life is much different from talking about the Married life, because when a married person talks about the Married life, the reader cannot help but look past the writer to their silent spouse. This is one reason why I will never have a Seraphic Marrieds blog, peeps! B.A. is really laid-back and tolerant, but there is a limit.

I didn't identify with Quinn's piece because I did, in fact, marry my soulmate.* That is, I fell crazy-insane in love and gave up my Canadian life to live in this cold and rainy (and very beautiful) country with Mr. Perfect for Me.

And when I say Perfect for Me, I mean that. For example, we are both over a certain age, so we no longer possess the radiant beauty of YOUTH. And one night after spending a delightful evening with some radiantly beautiful youths, I came home and looked at unconscious, snoring B.A. and was so thankful that, on top of having the same religious outlook, and sharing a love of art and literature and old stuff and people, we are the same age. He does not look at me and think "Old person." He cannot but look at me and think "Normal."

Living with another person, one who is on other levels extremely different, being male and a Scot, can be challenging, so these moments of gratitude are very important.

But I am a woman and therefore as deep as the sea. As far as what motivates men to marry, if they decide that that way forward is to find a pretty girl who seems nice, make a commitment to her and stick to it, great. Whatever makes men marry instead of flollop around aimlessly or acting as though finding a wife is just like finding the ultimate sound system.

Of course, it is probably not a great idea for them to write arresting pieces describing how their wives are not their soulmates. It might hurt their wives' feelings or decrease their status in the eyes of their peers.

It strikes me as something only a young man would do. But then it would be very unfair if young men possessed both radiant beauty and the wisdom of age, too.

*I am not actually sure of the definition of soulmate. I don't believe that there is only one person in the world you could marry and if you don't find him, it's your fault. That's ridiculous. I think that God might have a person or people in mind for you, as part of His plan for you and for all of us together. It's His job to bring you together, and your job to be good.

Update: You may be thinking, "But what about Hauerwas? He's no spring chicken, and he said it too." And my answer to that is that Hauerwas said it generally, about the random thoughts of married people in general. He did not say "My wife is not perfect for me."

The problem with "I married the wrong person" is not that most married people do not occasionally think this. Of course we do, especially if we are in a very cranky or selfish or lustful mood. (And academia is packed with men who ditched the wives of their youth for their sparkiest, tastiest graduate students.)

It's that sometimes--sometimes--the married people are right. Then the question is if the marriage really is a marriage, in which case you just have to come to terms with it, or if it isn't, in which case you may seek to be released from the false bonds.


MaryJane said...

Two things: first, someone once told me that Chesterton said that whomever you marry is your soulmate. As in, "soulmate" status is retroactive. I think this is certainly worth considering.

Second, many years ago a friend and I were discussing whether or not "the one" existed, or whether there were many/a few people with whom marriage would be quite possible. (And similarly so for religious orders.) She suggested that perhaps for some people, there really is a "one" and for others, there might be a variety of options, all good, of course. I think this is a valid suggestion because it is commensurate with what I have heard from married people. Some are convinced that they only could have married their spouse, and others think that it is possible they could have married (a hypothetical) someone else, but they are very happy to be married to the concrete person they actually did marry. One friend who was engaged to a different man before her current husband tells me that she could have married the previous fiance, and they probably would have had a happy marriage, but she is MUCH happier with her current husband than she ever could have been with the other man.

I think the "soulmate" category is usually hypothetical and therefore not always helpful. "Perfect FOR ME" is much more concrete and therefore accessible. Discerning hypotheticals is impossible. One can only discern realities, and asking, "is he perfect FOR ME?" is question more rooted in reality than, "is he my soulmate?".

Mustard Seed said...

What do you think about the commenter on that blog who said something like "just as no one is perfect, no one is perfect FOR ME"? I have a friend who has been struggling with whether her current boyfriend is enough of a good match for her - they get along quite well and she says she's happy with him, but that he lacks certain qualities that she had wanted in a husband (mostly shared interests, which seems low on the importance scale to me personally). Based on my friends who have gotten happily married, it seems that this question of "but am I settling?" is not even on the radar when the right guy comes along. For me I guess it's hard to imagine how that would look, since I haven't experienced it yet. How is a person supposed to balance those expectations between idealism and reality? Or is it really true that when the right person comes along, it's just that clear?

Sheila said...

I'm with him -- I don't believe in soulmates. I wrote a blog post once defending this point, saying that my husband and I are not actually all that compatible ... and he asked me to take it down because he thought it "made him sound like jerk." I thought it was complimentary, but I guess that's just one more way we aren't compatible, huh? At any rate, I did take it down, because as you say bloggers have to be considerate of their spouses.

I mean, personality tests say I should be with, I can't remember, an INFJ? Or an ENFJ? Or something else my husband isn't. He's like one trait away from that "ideal." I have to admit that instead of his faults being those exact faults which are most complimented by my virtues and vice versa, we each have several faults that the other finds annoying as heck. But we are ALSO madly in love with each other, and on all the crucial stuff he's exactly the kind of guy I want and need -- introverted, responsible, detail-oriented, intellectual, hard-working, family-focused.

On the other hand, oddly enough, I wonder if I am my husband's soul mate. Whereas I am very easy to please and get along with anyone, he's sort of prickly and couldn't be happy with anyone but a very specific kind of person ... a person like me. So maybe it's true that some of us have soul mates and some don't.

I think the soul mate ideal gives some people the impression that they can be happy and get along with their spouse with zero effort, or else they're the wrong person. And no matter how soul-matey you are with someone, it's still gonna take some work. My marriage perhaps takes more work than most, because we are incompatible in some ways. I wonder sometimes, "What was I thinking, marrying a neat freak? Didn't I know I would NEVER be able to keep the house up to his standards?" But on the other hand, isn't the effort helpful to me -- even if it does spark a few fights?

I suppose people don't like to hear from a married woman, "I could have been married to and happy with someone else." Still less for me to admit I might have had it easier with someone else. But that doesn't mean that NOW, I would trade him for anything. I love him and I wouldn't have him any different. You don't see me asking to trade in my parents or my kids. Once you love someone and commit to them, it doesn't matter so much what faults you find in them.

My husband likes to speculate, "Maybe if you'd waited longer, you might have found someone better." And I say, "But I didn't want to wait longer. I met you and the rest was kind of a moot point." I knew he was what I wanted, even though he wasn't "perfect for me." And anyway, how likely is it that I could have found a guy who shared every single one of my interests and had every single personality trait I get along with best?

american (not) in deutschland said...

I got from his explanations that he WAS saying "soulmate" meant "the One" that you have to find or live forever substandard. Or the idea that a spouse should be a matching puzzle piece, however you dream them up, perfectly calibrated to meet you pro for con. I agree that young people should distance themselves from that kind of theoreticizing. "Only the concrete is good"!

I personally think of "soulmate" more like "someone who not-necessarily-romantically has shared a deep experience with you and understands you in a way that doesn't take tons of explanation," and tend to think that way of people like my twin sister.

MaryJane said...

american (not) in deuschtland, your point about a soulmate being more a friend less of a romantic lover is a really good one. I can think of one female friend who is like a sister to me, and she seems much more like a "soulmate" than any man I will probably find, in the sense of really understanding me in ways that do not require a lot of explanation. We also share many formative life experiences, despite not having met until our twenties.

I doubt any man will have enough intuition to complete my sentences, at least not until after many years of marriage. Maybe a lot of women want a man who will be their "soulmate" in the sense of intuition, but men are rarely intuitive, so then women feel frustrated (?).

healthily sanguine said...

Haha, I read that piece last night and like Auntie Seraphic's counterpoint. It seemed to me that the article was written for a particular sort of guy who has a tendency to objectify women, not in the classic sense of sexual objectification, but in a more extended sense: and this is the kind of guy who subconsciously expects a woman to be a sort of glorified (and sexy, I expect) personal assistant who can anticipate his every need and desire. On the other hand, the sane and more dignified thing to desire in a spouse is PARTNERSHIP, someone you can partner with to get along the business of living life; that looks different for different people. I don't object to the reality check, though, that even in the happiest marriages there is friction--and that maybe when we say "perfect for me" we really might be envisioning something closer to "flat out perfect" that we admit to ourselves.

Rachel said...

Wait, what did Hauerwas say? I'm curious now.

Alisha said...

Grr. My comment just got erased. Just wanted to say I agree very much with Mary Jane and american!
I think marriages and friendships and all kinds of relationships are like works of art, as are souls: unique. Some are light and bright and colourful and some have more shadows but do not lack harmony or truth or redemption.

Sarah said...

Oooh, this is highly appropriate:

"Your love is one in a million/you couldn't buy it at any price/but of the 999,999 other loves/statistically some of them would be equally nice."

I don't believe in soul mates. I believe God may have one specific person in mind for you, and if you follow God's Will, you'll find them. But I don't believe in the whole "perfect match" thing.

I do, however, agree with American (not) in Deutschland, because I think friendships are generally undervalued, and that I have found better "matches" in the sense of what people usually think is reserved for "soul mates" in friends.

Seraphic said...

What Hauerwas said is in the article I linked to.

Good ideas in this combox about "soulmate" and friendship. The whole idea that your husband should be your "best friend" is extremely recent. And it is a bit dodgy, too, like when mothers say their babies are their "best friends" or "I'm more than a mother to my kids; I'm their FRIEND." Umm... Where to begin.

Marriage is the social, sexual, economic and familial bond between a man and a woman, but after that, there are all kinds of marriages, including marriages arranged between strangers determined to make a go of it because "that is their culture" and other marriages of convenience.

I have a very high respect for marriages that follow the "" moment so mentioned and celebrated in "Sleepless in Seattle," and that's what mine followed (with the caveat that I had the brains/good luck/blessing to feel that way with a good, moral, ethical, God-fearing, gainfully employed, good-humoured, amiable man my age). But I recognized that there are all sorts of other marriages that work quite satisfactorily.

Sarah said...

Oh, I don't think spouses can't or shouldn't be best friends. Not in the least. My parents are best friends.

But your best friend doesn't have to be that "perfect match" with whom you're totally balanced out, who completely understands you, etc.

Urszula said...

Maybe it's different for everybody? I realize this may sound very general and may not be enlightening, but perhaps there is something in the idea that it depends on your expectations?

Some people feel they may be happy only with a 'soulmate' - and that very well may be true in their case, that only one person will ever make them happy.

Other people, I feel, could be married to a few different kinds of people and still make it work.

Others yet, who have grown up their whole life expected to be in arranged marriages, may really find that love develops after marriage, once they get to know each other and deepen their bond. An ex-boyfriend was Indian, his sisters (who had never left his province in India) were both in arranged marriages and they seemed genuinely happy - maybe because they had never expected the Western storybook head-over-heels kind of love.

I have a problem with "the One" and the 'soulmate" thinking, because it can make you very picky and very guarded to people who might be outside of your expectations. Also, that kind of thinking is dangerous, because it can lead to worries that you have somehow scared off "The One" and you will never have a second chance. I feel our God is a God of second chances.