Wedding season is here again and I remember the year that a girlfriend of mine became engaged. One of the things that her bridal party decided to gift her was a collection of marriage advice from family and friends.
I politely declined.
With one failed marriage under my belt and, at the time, 5 years into my marriage to my husband, Kelly, I hardly considered myself a marriage expert. But as I started thinking about writing this post, it occurred to me that there is one question that I've been asked repeatedly over the years: "How did you know that Kelly was 'The One?'" I even received a letter from one woman whom I shared my advice with (Kiki, my hair stylist, at the time), thanking me. I wasn't aware that she had taken my advice seriously, but she had, apparently, and found her man.
By now, I’ve repeated it enough that it has evolved into seven, neat little bullet points. If you've reached the place where you think you need to take a different tact, then consider the following:
1. Stop dating your "type.”
One of the reasons why you haven’t had any luck finding "The One" is because the men/women you're dating aren't. Chances are, your attempts to find your ideal is being driven by your own insecurities. From my experience, a lot of what we believe is our type is social conditioning and, let’s face it, social pressure (which we allow, consciously or subconsciously) from the ones who care about us the most; our families and friends. Before I met my husband, the mere thought of dating a guy who was shorter than I was a non-starter. Superficial, I admit, but true. Give more importance to the chemistry that you feel with that person and the interests and values that you share than, say, to the length of his/her legs.
2. Get off of your high horse and say, "Yes," to a second date.
I didn’t see any fireworks on my first date with Kelly, though I was impressed by his impeccable manners, how bright he was and his beautiful, green eyes were hard to ignore. But he wore an outfit that was so awful that it looked like he found it at a rummage sale twenty years earlier (and made me wonder what was going on with him). And I didn't have an appreciation for what he did for a living (he was flying jets for the US Navy). But what did stand out for me was how passionate he was about his career. It was his calling, he explained, that he had followed from an early age. He was living his dream and, as it turned out, was also talented at it. When it finally came time to decide whether or not a second date was worthy of my time or his, I didn't make a list of pros and cons. Instead, I suspended my judgments until further notice and listened to my intuition which kept urging me to say "Yes."
3. Lucky is as lucky does.
While I do believe that there is an element of fate or luck in meeting "The One," as with any other kind of luck, like winning the lottery, it’s not the winning that counts, but what you do with all that cash once you’ve received it. The abundant universe has presented you with an opportunity, after all. Are you going to throw it away or treat it with care and attention? Previously, I would have been dismissive. But this time, I decided to take the time to get to know Kelly. I always tell anyone who asks me, "Court, don't date." I know it's an old fashioned and corny term, but "dating" is a general term that could mean a lot of things these days. And it sounds transient to me, frankly. Have fun together, experience new places and great events, have crazy monkey sex. But if you're marriage-minded, you should both be earnestly vested in learning about each other and assessing whether or not you would make great marriage partners.
Kelly and I were living about 300 miles apart when we first started seeing each other. Making time to be together required extra effort. We were both working a lot, too, and Kelly's schedule was such that he would be away for days, even weeks at a time. In retrospect, this provided a great environment to make those important assessments. After a hot and heavy weekend with him, I was able to cool my jets and reflect with clarity on my experiences with him.
4. Sex matters.
Sexual compatibility is fundamental. Do NOT underestimate it. Don’t fake your orgasms (ever) and if it just isn’t there, then you’re with the wrong person. You may argue, “But, Margaret, he/she's gorgeous and fun and successful." But if your sex drives aren’t a match, it will eventually undermine your relationship. I promise. And while we’re on the topic, don't think that just because someone is shy or geeky or whatever that it’s going to translate into the bedroom. You may be delightfully surprised. And one final thing: If you can’t truly and authentically be yourself during sexual intimacy, this is a huge red flag and it means that you need to work on yourself and face your truths. Make this your priority.
5. Opposites DON’T attract.
This is a huge fallacy, yet I still hear the phrase being used. The truth is that like attracts like. If you’re attracting potential partners who are dishonest, pushy or abusive, for example, you need to do some deep work on yourself before you even have a shot at meeting "The One." And with regards to healing work, when I was younger, I tried traditional counseling but experienced little success with it, committed as I was. Be open to other modalities such as intuitive life coaches and energy healers. I achieved tremendous healing over the years and strongly recommend them. Just make sure that they come with solid references and, most importantly, trust your gut!
6. Start with the end in mind.
Have you ever asked yourself how the person you're seeing would treat you if your relationship ended in a break-up or divorce? Are they vicious or cruel in their dealings with others? Do they try to game the system at every opportunity? Do they blame the demise of their last relationship/marriage on their partner? Do they malign them? Did they cheat? Don't think that you are so special to him/her that they would treat you any differently, because they won’t. This is who they are and they can't be anyone else if they are not themselves. You do not possess the magic juju that will change them. Only they can change themselves and that kind of transformation does not come in a convenient and easy-to-use magic wand. And this is another very big red flag, by the way, and not just about them, but about yourself (well, those red flags always are). It's time for some more inner work.
Kelly and I spoke openly and honestly about our divorces. It was one of the most revealing conversations I had with him back then. I learned that he was the kind of person who could rise above his own hurt feelings and act fairly and maturely. I also learned that he took responsibility for his part in the breakup.
Total disclosure: After five amazing and life-changing months with Kelly, I broke up with him. Why? Because I felt like things were getting out of control. I felt vulnerable in a way that I hadn't before. I felt suffocated - except that it didn't feel like it was coming from Kelly and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. The only way that I could think of remedying the discomfort was by letting him know that it wasn't going to work between us.
So I told him, after which I felt relieved, but just until the adrenaline wore off. And then I felt like someone had reached into my chest and tore my heart right out. It hurt so much that I had trouble falling asleep that night. When I woke up the next morning, I still felt awful. All day at work, I was distracted by the pain in my chest. And by the time I got home that evening, I couldn't walk across the room without feeling utterly exhausted. By then, I was confused, on top of feeling absolutely miserable. I was supposed to feel better, lighter, freer, right?
So I called my coach, Louise, whom I hadn't spoken to in months and brought her up to speed. "Have you considered that you may have fallen in love, maybe for the first time in your entire life?" I thought her question was preposterous. I was thirty seven years old and had plenty of life experiences that I could draw from. "Of course I've been in love before, thank you very much," I thought to myself. But Louise had never given me bad advise so I decided to consider it a possibility, however remote. Yet I continued to hold on to my belief for the next few days, but not feeling any better for it. Finally, I had to face the possibility that Louise was right. "So, is this what the real thing feels like?" I asked myself.
The matter still unresolved (admittedly, I am a hard nut to crack), I missed Kelly more and more with each passing day. He was the light in my life and the spring in my step and the joy in my heart. In his arms, I was often overcome by an incredible sense of peace that often lulled me into a deep, restful sleep - something I had never experienced in previous relationships. If my head couldn't figure it out, I reasoned, a larger part of me had. In this case, I decided to side with the majority.
So I called him. I asked him to forgive me and to take me back. I may have pleaded a bit, too (my ego wasn't present at the time - I had given it a big time-out). And, luckily for me, Kelly took me back in true form: Kindly, willing, lovingly.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Or should I say, "Ourstory."
7. Buy a Craftsman ratchet set
I can't remember if it was just before or after we were married when one of Kelly's relatives approached me and wanted a guarantee from me that our marriage was an until-death-do-us-part scenario. I flatly told her that I would not give it to her - or anyone else, for that matter. If you want a lifetime guarantee, you're better off buying a ratchet set from Sears because as far as I can tell, relationships don't come with one.
I believe that this kind of thinking is fear-based and when you commit to someone for, presumably, the rest of your life, you need to base it on 1) L-O-V-E; the love for yourself (first and foremost), the love for your beloved, and what you're creating together; and 2) Courage; which comes from the Latin, cor, or heart. A committed relationship, especially if you've chosen the right partner, will be one of the most epic adventures you will embark on in your entire life. Commitment is not so much sacrificing yourself for something bigger (your marriage) as many of us have been taught, as much as it's a promise (to yourself and to your soon-to-be spouse) that you will continue to vigorously explore and pursue your self-actualization within the sacred contract of your marriage. When you're at your best, you're elevating all of your relationships. Think of what the world would look like if we were all doing this! If you've picked the right guy/gal, not only will they be in the relationship for the same reasons, he/she will be the one supporting your growth, courageously and confidently, every step of the way.
Being married to Kelly has done this for me. And what I've realized is that as I continue to stretch beyond my own perceived limitations, a dynamic tension is created between us: It renews and reinvigorates our relationship. I feel the excitement and promise today that I felt over a decade ago when we first started dating.
And time seems to have flown by...
June 20th will be our 9th wedding anniversary. How are we doing, you might ask? Well, as of this morning, as we have every day for nearly ten years, Kelly and I chose one another, once again.