Why I Didn’t Marry My Dream Girl

why i didn't marry my dream girl

This year I celebrated my second Valentine’s Day as a married man. I remember imagining days like this when I was single. I dreamt of a time when Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a cold, dark reminder of my celibacy. Instead of drinking cheap Scotch and hiccuping my way through 50(ish) renditions of Katy Perry’s ‘The One That Got Away’, festivities as a married man would include good food, hearty laughter, star-crossed eyes and (of course) sex.

All this would take place, I pictured, with the girl of my dreams. Ah, yes! She’d be the moon to my sun, the Juliet to my Romeo, the Kim to my Kanye.

But the thing is: I didn’t marry my dream girl.

Now let me be clear: my wife is an incredible woman. She’s smart, not in a

kind of way. But with academic subtly. The kind you can’t appreciate unless you regularly read books with titles like “The Hermeneutic Spiral of Decentralized Rhetoric.” She’s also kind, funny, encouraging and charming. She’s even pretty- gorgeous really. She’s the kind beautiful that, whenever we walk in public, prompts passer-byes to go: “What…does he have a lot of money?”

I cannot say it enough: my wife is an amazing woman. I’m lucky to be married (at all but especially) to her.

But I didn’t marry my dream girl.

Let me explain: when I was younger, I knew exactly what I wanted in my wife. Youth retreats taught me that my wife should be Biblical. They taught me that I ought to desire a ‘Proverbs 31 woman’, one who espoused biblical virtue but was archaically sexy (based on Song of Solomon). To be honest, I didn’t really want a woman with breasts like two fawns. But I figured that deer-ish breasts were better than no breasts at all, which was what I currently had access to. Thus the church gifted me with a vague framework for desirability in a spouse: one derived from equally vague notions of purity and godliness.

Culture also taught me a thing or two about the girl I should marry. From Jane Austen I learned that the perfect woman was bookish and independent though ultimately submissive to my desires. How I Met Your Mother taught me that the ‘perfect’ one is out there- ‘perfect’ meaning she was the missing factor in an equation for an idealized marriage, one I deserved. Magazine covers told me what body type to expect. 500 Days of Summer showed me how the ideal girl would be quirky- but in all the right ways.

The point is, life as a single person was filled with aspirations about the woman I would one day marry. I cherry-picked attributes from cultural and religious influences and compiled the various parts and traits- like a virtual snow(o)man- to craft my perfect girl. I even threw in a couple of traits from people I’d dated; carrying over positive attributes from failed romantics while conveniently forgetting the human imperfections that accompanied them.

And, thus, I waited. I dated. I waited some more. I dumped and was dumped. I laughed and I cried. I became ‘an adult.’ I was ready to get married. Ready to meet my dream girl.

And on the day I first met my wife, sparks flied. She was visiting the graduate school where I was a student. And from the moment I saw her I knew she was about to swoop in and homewreck my long-term relationship with Greek vocabulary cards. The first time she smiled at me I felt as though all the angels in heaven were singing my name. On our first date we finished each others

It was bliss. A fairy tale. I’d found my dream girl.

But then a startling thing happened. As our relationship progressed the dream girl I’d begun dating started to unravel before me. My dream girl would love me; this girl needed love from me too. My dream girl would understand that I was introverted, that I needed alone time; this girl needed quality time-not on my schedule but on hers. My dream girl was Biblically certified; this girl came with baggage and needed grace.

There was a time when I reached the height of disillusionment. I got the stage where I felt like

And I thought about ending our relationship. About moving on. There were other girls out there. This relationship had started out well. But, ultimately, it failed the litmus test. It was not my ideal. Not my dream.

But what I was reminded of then, and realize more so every day, is that I was never going to marry a dream. It wouldn’t be a dream I’d hold hands with, dance with, laugh with. It wouldn’t be a dream walking down the isle, climbing into bed and growing old with me. It would be a woman. And no woman is perfect- kinda like no man is (anywhere close to being) perfect.

Kinda like me.

My idea of a perfect woman reflected an understanding of marriage that evolved around me. While I never would have admitted as much, I saw marriage as a kind of self-fulfillment, the final piece of the puzzle of my ego. What I was looking for in a spouse was someone who catered to exactly what I wanted, what I desired. Someone with whom I could be myself. Someone who didn’t require that I change, who didn’t suggest that I had imperfections. Someone who didn’t demand work.

But marriage is the acknowledgement of a love which is greater than two people, greater than all humanity. It’s the acknowledgment and expressed commitment to live out that love with another person. Not an ideal. Not a build-your-own-spouse. Not a dream.

What I wanted was someone who would cater to me. What I got was a woman who’s imperfections have merged with mine and created a marriage that is equally imperfect. And thus it demands that I be less selfish and more selfless; less prideful and more sacrificial; care less about my desires and more about someone else’s needs. It’s a marriage that is less about the god of me and more about the God of love. I’ve learned that a healthy marriage demands these things. Otherwise it’s like a leasing a car, though there’s more paperwork to fill out when the other person stops living up to expectations.

And so I did not marry a prototype, a build-your-own wife that I could adapt with custom settings on humor and looks alike. I did not marry a figment of my imagination, a character from a 90-minute indie film, or someone who checks every box on a list of requirements. Rather, I married a real girl with real quirks, real problems, real pain, real ambitions, real sins, real selfishness, real beauty and real love. Love to be developed, cherished, fought for, and shared.

I did not marry my dream girl. And I’m so glad.

Because the woman I woke up with today is real. And each day she looks more beautiful than the last. And each day she’s sanding down my rough edges; her presence in my life demands that I be a better person, a better husband, a better follower of Christ. Our relationship may be messy, may require work, may involve fights and tears and heartache and apologies. But it’s better than anything I could have ever imagined.

Because she’s the real deal, the real girl.

She’s better than the girl of my dreams.

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Always Second Chances: The Man Cave

Below is another post in the ongoing effort between myself and a fellow blogger to prompt good discussion on Christian relationships. Today we addressed the inevitable question: “What are you thinking about?” If you like this snippet, then be sure to check out the full discussion here.

 

man cave

 

 

DEBBIE: 
“What are you thinking…?”

“Oh, nothing… what are you thinking…?”
It’s this endless charade between couples, a vicious cycle that highlights the vast differences between males and females. Because, when a man says he isn’t thinking anything… he usually isn’t. When a woman says she isn’t thinking anything… she usually is.
I didn’t really believe this until recently when enough guys that I casually surveyed admitted that there, indeed, is such a thing as the ‘man cave’. The place where men go mentally to escape every day life. The place where they are literally, sometimes, not thinking about anything.
I can look back at myself in the “what are you thinking” circles in past relationships, believing firmly that the men were actually holding back some secret thoughts from me. I knew I was…so, naturally, they would be too.  The thing about the “what are you thinking” moments, is that the girls ask guys what they are thinking out of some desire to know, but mostly out of an ulterior motivation to be able to tell men what they are actually thinking (or they’re simply fishing for compliments). The thing about the “what are you thinking” moments, is that guys are usually honest about their thoughts (no matter how shallow, stupid and non-related to the relationship they are), where girls tend to reveal only half truths or generous overtures about their significant other in hopes that he will one-up her. The thing about these moments is that girls are often verbal processors and guys just need to think about absolutely nothing for a while…or something seemingly insignificant to her or their relationship.
I don’t really get it, since I’m currently unable to sleep because my mind keeps racing and because, while I’m in one, a relationship seems to occupy a lot of my thoughts. How do guys think about nothing? Can you enlighten me (and our audience) on this one, Bryn?
ME: 
This is an interesting question, and unfortunately I think it varies wildly from one guy to another, particularly as you cross lines between extroverts and introverts. I’ll simply speak from personal experience as a somewhat (read: very) introverted male.

There are innumerous times when my fiancé will ask me “what are you thinking about?”. To be fair, it’s usually because I asked her first. More often than not, she has a clear succinct answer and it’s usually sweet or endearing; it usually relates to us. What’s awkward is when she turns the question around on me and the only thing I’m positive I wasn’t thinking about was exactly what I should’ve been thinking about: us. Many a car trip has evolved around conversations such as:

Me: “What are you thinking about, dear?”
Her: “Oh, I was just thinking about how much I love taking drives with you. What are you thinking about?”
Me: “Oh-uh, I was just wondering who on earth came up with the color for yellow lines in the middle of the road. Don’t you think life would be totally different if they were, say, lime green?”

The thing is, I find females (particularly extroverted ones) often take this personally and think that because a guy isn’t thinking about them while they’re sharing a quaint experience (such as cross-country road trips) he must not care. This simply is not true. The only time an introverted male has a one track mind is during sporting events or in the middle of a really gripping movie; I’d throw physical intimacy into the mix but the truth is even during passionate moments a guy can be pondering deep mysteries of the universe. Horrible as that may sound, this is nothing personal; it does not mean we don’t care about you, its just part of how we’re wired. For introverted men, we are either hyper-focusing (to the extent that breaking our concentration would be as safe as lighting a fire cracker by a sleeping tiger) or wandering down a million different paths of thought at once (which is where the nickname “space cadet” may come in handy). Many times, the thinking question will catch me off guard, and instead of attempting to explain everything that was running through my head (“did I turn off the stove?”, “I bet the Bruins are gonna pull up an upset tonight…”, “Man, Bill Bryon’s new book was spellbinding…”, “Did I call my Father for Father’s day?”, “Oh- I love this radio station!”) my response will just be “nothing”. This is not a lie, but a simplified truth. As a fellow introverted professor one told me “you have no idea what it’s like being inside my brain!”. Sometimes, ladies, we tell simplified truths to spare you the realization that you’re dating a half-crazed, ADHD poster-child.

On the flip side, there is truth in the fact that we sometimes need to retreat into a space where we don’t need to think about anything and can just clear our heads. For me, this is while running and the drive to work in the morning; if anyone tries to talk to me during these moments they will be greeted with the conversational quality of a brick wall. This is how we recharge; it’s how we empty ourselves and gain a sense of where we are in the world. It’s vital that an introvert get this time, vital that a man feels secure in his place in the cosmos before stepping into a relationship. Thus, if my significant other asks me what I’m thinking about in these moments, she’s lucky if I even answer “nothing”. If I do, this is not a simplified truth, but as real as the car we’re driving in.

The key to understanding another person isn’t (ironically) understanding them. It’s grasping that there’s some spheres of their consciousness that you will never understand. It’s easy to take things personally, and easier still to fill in the blanks. The response “I wasn’t thinking about anything” can easily lead into the conceived notion that “he’s lying, he’s gotta be thinking about something. So I bet it’s how annoyed he is with me. Or I bet he’s thinking about his ex-girlfriend, and that cashier at the counter that bashed her eyes at him…how could he do this to me?” In situations like this, trust is essential. Learn to trust the person you’re with, let their “nothing” be nothing and their silence be a sign of respect. Let them sit in their “man-cave” when needed and leave well enough alone.

After all, we may just be thinking about why the median lines aren’t lime-green.

DEBBIE:
I think it’s good for us females to realize the broad spectrum of what we might be up against when we ask The Question. Mostly I think it’s good for us to realize that we shouldn’t take it personally and it may be good for us to recognize that we should be aware of possible ulterior motives when we ask what our guys are thinking.  If we really want to know, fine… but if we’re just fishing for a compliment, or if we are trying to get him to ask us what we are thinking…
we should maybe think twice about our approach.

I think there’s something really valuable in letting go of this need we have to understand each other, too. Of letting ourselves exist in our weird trains of thought without having to completely understand the other and without taking any of it personally. Great points and insights here. Trustis essential and letting these moments be what they are can simply be life-giving…instead of having to over-analyze, read into, believe lies about what the other is thinking (or not thinking).

Sometimes the silence is a beautiful thing, too.
The silence as we both think about a million things, or stare off into the abyss, wondering about absolutely nothing at all…and letting ourselves just exist in each other’s presence, understanding that we won’t understand everything and that it’s okay.

Let’s let the men have their mental ‘Man Cave’ and not take it personally when we can’t go there with them.

 

Always Second Chances: Casual Dating?

Below is another post in the ongoing effort between myself and a fellow blogger to prompt good discussion on Christian relationships. This week approached the somewhat undefinable topic of “casual dating”. Check out the full discussion here

ME: 
You know the situation, surely you’ve been there before. You just started dating someone, one, maybe two months ago. It’s going well, they’re cute, funny, and don’t cheer for the Chicago Bears so no major red flags yet. Then you’re sitting at lunch with your best friend one day, and they ask you the inevitable question.

“So…have you two discussed the big “M” word yet?”

You pause because suddenly the discussion got awkward. “Mast-“

“*Marriage*.” They clarify.

“Oh.” Now it’s even more awkward. You hadn’t thought about marriage yet; heck, you were barely to the point of seeing past your next date. And yes, your significant other is nice and all, but…. marriage? Lifetime? Kids? Commitment? IN-LAWS!?

“Well I hadn’t really thought about it,” you say, “I guess I’m just dating casually.” Or maybe you didn’t say that, but something along those lines. This can draw varied reactions within the Christian circle. Contemporary meanings of the term “dating casually” usually equate to “sleeping around”. But that’s not what you mean at all. You’re just looking to get to know this person better and have a fun time doing so. Is there anything wrong with that?

In a situation like this, the first thing to address is whether or not the relationship is glorifying to God. Marriage relationships are designed to be a representation of Christ’s love for His church. Dating, on the other hand, is a fairly recent invention driven partially by the sexual revolution, feminist movement and a certain sense of egocentric thinking. The point of most dating relationships is me. What do I want in a person? What do I want in a relationship? I need to get out of this relationship because it’s not good for me. This person isn’t right for me…etc. For instance, if dating casually does relate to the fulfillment of a selfish desire and/or some sort of physical lucidity, then yes there is something unhealthy about that. But, if your form of dating casually involves two people getting to know each other on an intentional but not-entirely committed level, then it can most certainly glorify God. The necessity, as in any relationship, is not to ask “what’s in it for me?” Instead ask yourself: Are you dating this person “casually” because they make you feel good about yourself? Because you have fun with them? Because it’s nice to have someone to cuddle with during Finding Nemo? Or are you pursing this relationship as a way of giving more than you receive, are you seeing it as a growing opportunity and a chance to deepen a relationship with one of God’s children in a manner that elevates them and humbles you? These can help you identify your motives and, thus, the actual situation.

DEBBIE:
Your thoughts on ‘casual dating’ are interesting. I don’t entirely disagree with them.. but perhaps we’re operating on two different definitions of the concept. When I think of ‘casual dating’ l still think, “What’s the point?” It’s seems non-committal and it seems like a place that you can be dating different people simultaneously….it seems like there’s absolutely no thoughts of a prospective future with that person. If you’re not interested in looking for something for the long haul, how beneficial can the relationship actually be? Bryn mentioned that honoring the Lord is a crucial aspect of relationships…and I wonder if that’s even possible when dating “casually”? Would it be perhaps be more honoring to the Lord to refrain from entering into a romantic relationship where the likelihood of breaking someone’s heart seems quite feasible? The more you spend time together, invest in each other, and come to really care for each other on an emotional level the more I think we are entering into a territory that is intended for marriage.

….read the entire article at Always Second Chances. What do you think? Can you date casually?