Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Do You KNOW?

photo by Andreas Reh, purchased at istockphoto

Several people in my life have reached important turning points with their spouse or significant other over the past few months. At varying places in their lives and relationships, the question they all seem to have in common is - How do you KNOW? How do you know you are with the right person? How do you know that this man is your true love ("Wuv, Twooo wuv..."), the Westley to your Buttercup, and that this is IT?

My father and I had a talk about this a few weeks ago. The Guy and I have become fairly serious. I think my father is nervous. He has been married more than once and knows it doesn't always work out. He wants me to be happy, but is naturally worried. (Which I think is a big part of parenting. Right up there with teaching us to use the big person potty and share our toys and keeping us from breaking too many limbs at one time. We grow older and these things just shift. They hope we will learn to take care of ourselves, be good to other people and not get our hearts broken too badly.)

When I was younger, my father told me that he never wanted me to depend on a man. He wanted me to take care of myself, to always land on my feet. There have been many divorces in our family, as well as some unhappy marriages that lasted. Perhaps this awareness prompted him to raise me to be cautious and self-sufficient.

Standing in his driveway the other day, my father listened to me explain where things stood with my new beau. What I saw happening here. He listened; my father who has had his heart broken, who was left by a woman he pledged to stay with for the rest of his life, and who has now been married to the same woman for over two decades and with her has been though both better and worse. I stood talking hopefully about my future to this man who saw my last long term relationship crumble and watched me go through the ensuing depression and struggle to pick up the pieces.

With this pained expression on his face he said, "I wish I had some great words of wisdom, some way to guide you. But I don't."

I understand his concern, but I told him this - I think everyone hopes for an answer. We all want a silver bullet. People who aren't married hope the people they know who ARE married can tell them The Secret. How you KNOW? How you can be CERTAIN? But he's off the hook because I don't think it's like that.

Everyone would like to think that when you meet THE person they will glow with a halo of light and you will hear music in the air and then you will KNOW - that there will be signs (wouldn't it be freaky as hell if that actually happened?). You probably should listen to your gut... but then I think all you can do is make the best CHOICE that you can. Don't get married unless you love them, but just being crazy about them isn't enough. Choose someone who you like as well as love. Choose someone who is just as willing to put in the effort as you are. Choose someone you have a lot in common with so when you're 80 you still have something to talk about. My grandmother always said to choose someone who makes you laugh, that nothing else will get you through hard times the way that laughter will. And even the most loving couples have doubts and/or times when they want to bonk their partner over the head with a frying pan a'la Wile E. Coyote. That's to be expected.

You make a commitment and spend the rest of your life making it work. I realize there are no guarantees except perhaps that life won't be perfect no matter who you are with. I can live with that. But I imagine it's better if you're in it with the right partner.

Frogs don't turn into princes. So you choose carefully. After that all you can do is give it your all. Single or married or whatever, the lucky ones are the ones who find their home - the life and the places and the people that fit them and increase their happiness.

Funnily enough I learned a lot of this from watching my father. I think he has more wisdom to share than he knows.

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