My sons are now 16 and 18, and I wonder how much more they will grow emotionally over the next 10 years. They will encounter many challenges, discover their own strengths, ride the roller coaster of emotions, meet many people and forge new relationships.
During that time, they may meet the women they will marry. I wonder how much wiser I will be at that time and what advice I may give them.
My parents always told us that the most important thing in a future partner is shared values. Ethnicity and religion are secondary to being a good, caring person.
I realize that any advice I may give my children before or after they meet their future spouses may not be heeded. Falling in love can be intoxicating and we can be as irrational as when we are drunk. In the sober hangover phase, we realize that we may have made different decisions.
One of my good friends waited for the perfect partner. This meant that he was eating dinner with his parents long after the rest of us had children.
Most of us will never meet the perfect partner because none of us is perfect ourselves. We are all flawed and foolish but lovable nonetheless. The quirky qualities that at first endear us to one another – a crooked smile, a goofy laugh, a sassy attitude, a habit of being too early or too late, our obsessions and passions – often irritate us when daily life becomes mundane. In early romance, finding someone who tells you the straight truth can be refreshing. That same quality can be irritating when you have to hear the ugly truth every morning.
When we fall into routine, our individual flaws can grate on the nerves. Before getting to our wits’ end, we have to imagine that sometime in the future, we may miss those flaws and quirks when our loved ones are gone.
More important is compatibility. This doesn’t mean that you have to have the same strengths and interests. Two lawyers who are used to winning arguments would not be a great match. Likewise, two people with explosive tempers.
Sometimes our strengths can be complementary. However, the passive and domineering combination can be a source of future conflict. If one is eager to please and the other more eager to be pleased, the relationship can become lopsidedly unfair.
When my children are having cold feet before their wedding days, I may ask them these questions. Can you live together? What can you live with? What can’t you live with?
None of us is a saint. We all have our moods. Living together is rarely blissful. Some people are rude to others if they think they’ll never see them again, but most of us save the worst of ourselves for the people we live with. We can be our meanest with those who should mean the most to us.
This can be a rude awakening to newlyweds. Sometime after the wedding day, some of us may ask, “Who is this person I am living with, and how are we going to live together?”
Next: my survival manual for surviving together.