A Post that Was Requested by Readers
I’m the first to admit that I probably married my husband for the wrong reasons. One of those reasons: his hands. Seriously, this is no joke. The very first time we held hands, I thought this: “His hand feels like husband material.”
And if you are thinking, “No wonder that crazy loon ended up with marital problems,” I must ask you this. Why did you marry your spouse? Why did you think your spouse was husband or wife material?
It’s my firm belief that the vast majority of us marry for the wrong reasons—especially the first time around. We deem someone as “marriage material” based on the following factors:
- The kind of car he drives (I used the “he” pronoun here because I don’t know too many men who care about the kinds of cars women drive, but you can correct me in the comments if you think I’m way off base).
- The strength of the goo-goo gah-gah sensation you have when he or she is around.
- How he or she performs in bed.
- Whether or not he or she can cook.
I’m sure you could list a bunch more. Here’s the point I’m driving at: none of those factors will guarantee that your marriage will be good, and most of them are ethereal. It’s sad to say, but we all get old. A good income can disappear with the shift of the economy or even just a new boss who wants to hire his or her cronies. Cars break down. Goo-goo gah gah goes away.
Good sex is a skill that anyone can learn by reading, experimenting and doing it a lot. Think about that for a moment because it has important implications. Great lovers got great, in part, by loving a lot of people. That doesn’t necessarily make someone marriage material. I’m not saying it rules someone out, either. I’m just saying that someone who is great in bed might keep you orgasmically happy for years or might have some serious problems when it comes to remaining faithful. It could go either way.
As for cooking, it sure is nice, but the best meatloaf in the world isn’t going to save an otherwise horrific marriage.
For years premarital counselors have been trying to get couples to delve beyond such superficial things and to talk about stuff like whether or not they want children and how they feel about money. Still, just because you both believe in 2.5 kids and a 401-K doesn’t mean you are well suited for one another, and it has nothing to do with whether you will both excel at the art of being married.
No, to excel at the art of being married, one needs a number of qualities that include—but are not limited to—selflessness, patience, resilience and the ability to embrace change.
If I were single and thinking about getting hitched all over again, these are the kinds of questions I would ask to tease out whether a potential mate was marriage material:
- If I was in a car accident and became a quadriplegic, what would you do?
- If I suffered from a medical condition that prevented me from ever having sex again for the rest of my life, what would you do?
- If you thought I was having an affair, what would you do?
- If you found yourself attracted to someone other than me, what would you do?
- If I told you I was unhappy with our marriage and wanted to see a counselor, what would you do?
- If I lost my job, stopped showering, ate Twinkies all day long, and never lifted my dirty stinking ass off the couch, what would you do?
I’m sure I could come up with 50 more hypotheticals, but you get the idea. These are all tough issues that do really come up during a lifetime of a marriage. You all know. I’m preaching to my choir. You read this blog because you have been there.
If all goes right and your marriage does not suffer the curse of Job, you will hopefully only have to navigate just one of these horrific situations together. The point is: these things happen. Wives get breast cancer. Husbands get soft (and yes, I’m talking about down there). We all get old. Money comes and goes. So does illness, depression, stress, and good fortune.
It is only the resilient, forgiving person who is able to say with conviction, “I would still love you and I would find a way to get through it with you by my side” no matter what the circumstance. And it’s that person who is true marriage material.
What do you think?
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.