Oh, the single years.
I remember the single years very well, those times when every gathering provided an opportunity to scope out possible dating prospects.
Oh, the single years.
From the ripe, knowledgable perspective of almost eight years of marriage, my attitude toward the single years has changed. I look back now and wonder why I agonized over men who wouldn’t commit, first dates, and flirting games.
(Flirting games are kind of like the Hunger Games, but they typically involve much less dirt or need to pee in the wilderness.)
Recently I read an article by Tracy McMillan, Why You’re Not Married. It hit home because I saw the single, lonely, miserable, and confused version of myself in many of her points. (If you’re easily offended by blunt language, this may not be the article for you to click through and read.)
I loved her second explanation for why you aren’t married: Because You’re Shallow!
“When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man’s character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you’re not married, I already know it isn’t. Because if you were looking for a man of character, you would have found one by now. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit.
Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Or someone who knows what an Eames chair is. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl. And men of character do not want to marry teenaged girls. Because teenage girls are never happy. And they never feel like cooking, either.”
Why do I love her words so much? Because I am an advocate of The List. And, valuable as the list can be, it can also lead us into shallow thinking.
If you’ve ever attended church camp, you’ve heard about The List. “Write down a list of all the things that are important to you to have in a spouse – before you are in relationship with anyone – and then when you meet that person, you’ll have a guide to know if they’re… (whisper of daring hope) the one.”
As a single I wrote my list. Oh, my, did I write my list! I re-copied that list in every journal I kept from the ages of 15-to-28. The List grew longer and longer as I aged.
By the time I met Lizard, I had 32 items on The List. Some of them were significant — “A man who loves God more than he loves me,” “Someone who speaks about me with respect whether I’m in the room or not and welcomes people into our home,” “Intelligent and considerate” — those were all qualities I stand by today (and my husband possesses).
But then there were the… other… items. Things like, “Must be 6′ or taller,” “Likes to drive trucks,” “Can fix things.” There’s nothing wrong with these qualities… yet they aren’t true indicators of a possible pornography addiction, someone who will give the romantic once-over to anyone they see, or a refusal to prioritize free time with an orientation toward children who may or may not expel body fluids on them without a moment’s notice.
The List doesn’t always deal with character traits.
Shallow thinking toward a potential spouse is easy to spot after the fact, but hard to notice in the moment when you’re more interested in chemistry, creating romantic memories, and The Future.
Many a smoldering, athletic body has given away to pudge or injury as time marches on… yet a person’s character acquires a beauty over the course of a lifetime.
I have met many elderly couples whose obvious love makes me clear my throat and furiously blink tears away. Yet at no point have their wrinkles, polyester-dominant fashion sense, and smelliness made me envious. (Not to be rude… but older people do tend to smell. The smells put me off nursing homes completely after a bad Christmas caroling experience as a child.)
Liver spots don’t make a young single’s heart go pitter-patter. But… a handsome character (combined with liver spots) equals a love worth pursuing for a lifetime.
My main point: if you’re shallow, snap out of it! You’re not going to end up happy.
And if you are in a marriage founded on shallowness… well, “rent a backhoe” and get to work deepening your character. It’ll take effort, but it’s worth it in the long run.
If you’re married, what is the most important quality you’d tell a single to look for in their spouse? If you’re single, what quality do you imagine will be most significant in your marriage?