Dina found this article in the leftist Washington Post, of all places. The author explains how her husband lovingly helped her to recover from her Caesarian section. He actually had to to carry her to and from the bathroom, very slowly. Until she was better.
At the time, I thought: This is why I married this man. Not for his fabulous head of hair or his beautiful, light-brown eyes — though those things were certainly bonuses. But no. It was his gentleness, his thoughtfulness, his loving heart, his caring nature that sealed the deal for me.
As a dating coach who works with singles in their 20s to 50s, I see a lot of people focusing on superficial things that have little to do with a potential partner’s character. I get it — I once obsessed over those things, too.
Most of all, I see how the trap of chemistry can lead people astray. Chemistry is important, but as far as relationships go, it’s only half the equation.
So how do you look for these deeper, more important qualities in the early stages of dating? Some might argue there’s no way to tell in, say, the first several months of dating someone — after all, it is the honeymoon stage — if this is the type of person who will help you onto the toilet during times of trial. I disagree.
Looking back to the early days of dating Dave, all the signs were there. He treated my friends with care and kindness, which showed me he had the ability to be compassionate. The way he scoured the Internet for the perfect gifts for my parents and nephews showed me his thoughtful, generous side. He rubbed my back and wiped my tears after I suffered a heart-wrenching squash match loss, showing me that validating my feelings was important to him (even if I’m the most competitive person alive and it was just a squash match). He listened to me vent after a difficult fallout with a colleague, showing me he was ready and willing to be a part of my support system.
When he stayed up until the early hours of the morning, helping me with Web site issues relating to my coaching business, I knew I’d found someone who would support me in my professional goals as well as physically and emotionally. When he held my hands and said “We’ll figure it out” while I was dealing with a frustrating medical situation, that was probably my biggest clue that he’d be so supportive in that hospital room years down the line.
Singles should keep their eyes open for these signs. They’re more telling than a person’s job, salary, ambition or education; whether he or she is the “right age”; has the perfect body; or can dazzle you with their charm and wit.
Keep your eyes open for the type of person who one day might lovingly help you onto the toilet.
When you are married, the amount of time you spend having fun and feeling thrilled is minuscule. The real problems you face are money problems, sex problems, in-law problems, holiday problems, parenting problems, etc. Most often in marriage hard stuff needs to get done. Compromises need to be made. There is actually very little fun and thrills. If you want to prepare for most of what marriage is about, then it’s best to focus on responsibilities, expectations and obligations. Spouses need each other, and the ability to sense someone else’s needs and to care for them, even when it’s not fun for you, is non-negotiable.
The bottom line for people to understand is that you can’t be a selfish fun-seeking, thrill-seeking, FOMO-traveling hedonist all your life, and then jump into marriage at the last minute. You have to mature and grow your character so that you are ready for the responsibilities, expectations and obligations that marriage requires. If you go through your 20s and 30s always doing what feels good “in the moment”, then don’t expect that any last-second desperate marriage will last. You are are the person who makes all the decisions before you marry. If your repeated pattern of decision making is to do what feels good “in the moment”, then you won’t suddenly be able to turn into a person who is comfortable with doing what marriage requires of you. You have to form your character first so that you are comfortable with what marriage requires of you.
Believe me when I tell you that some women who hate the things I write are now divorced, unemployed and running short of money because they thought that following their heart was the right approach to life. If you’re not practicing how to deny your own self-interest and practicing how to build up the people around you to practice for marriage, then your marriage won’t last. If you push away people who are wiser than you are, so that you can follow your heart, your marriage won’t last. If you think that you have to delay marriage in order to tick off items on a list of impressive, fun things that the feminist culture says are “more important” than marriage, then your marriage won’t last. The prerequisite to a successful marriage is growing up.