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Would you rather marry someone you never met or
eat nothing but cucumbers for the rest of your life?
This was the question posed by one of the 5 girls in the back of my van. At twelve and thirteen years of age, most of the questions in their game of Would You Rather? revolved around marital circumstances.
It’s an interesting question…
On the one hand, you have a known future: cucumbers.
For the rest of your life. The girls established the rules: No chocolate dipped cucumbers (I’m not sure that would be an improvement), no salsa and cucumbers, no cucumbers and ranch… nothing but cucumbers and cucumber water for the rest. of. your. life.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with cucumbers. I rather like them. But is the humble fruit sufficient sustenance for the rest of your life? And really…wouldn’t it get old?
On the other hand, there’s an unknown future: marriage to someone you’ve never met… someone whose face you’ve never seen… someone who may or may not make you happy.
You don’t know what he’s interested in.
You don’t know what is health is like.
You don’t know if he will go bald in 10 years.
The girls decided the cucumbers were a better option.
We’re often like that as humans, willing to deal with an unpleasant, yet known option, rather than risk it on an uncertain outcome.
I think the girls picked the cucumbers because they believe in a WYSIWYG model of spousal selection. WYSIWYG (pronounced wiz-ee-wig) is a computer editing system where the text appears on the screen exactly as it will appear in print. It’s an acronym for What You See is What You Get.
Most people believe marriage is like that too. That’s why so many think it’s better to live together before you get married. “Then, I’ll know what he’s really like,” they think.
Seems logical, but as it turns out, they’re wrong. Even as commonplace as it is–two-thirds of married couples cohabited before marriage–those relationships end in divorce more often than those who wait to reside together.
It could be that once you share a dog, a dresser, and a utility bill, it seems like marriage is the default. It’s not really a choice or a committment.
And marriage is a commitment if nothing else.
Marriage is committing to love someone even when they don’t fulfill you.
It’s committing to honor their feelings and desires, to respect and care for them, even when you don’t see eye-to-eye.
It’s chosing to remain faithful, even when you’re not together, seperated by miles of distance or conflicting schedules.
And it’s not a WYSIWYG situation.
I married someone I hadn’t met.
When I married my husband at 21 years of age, I was making that committment to his 22 year old face…but I was also making the committment to someone I’d never met,
to a face I’ve never seen,
to someone who may or may not make me happy.
I married him as he was then, and as he would be in the uncertain future.
I was making a committment to honor and support his 35 year old self. I was choosing to admire his 58 year old face. I was promising to care for his 83 year old body. I vowed to pray for him: his spiritual development, his career, his heart, his fatherhood, everything.
I married his angry self, his sick self, his happy self, his selfish self…all the versions of himself that I may or may not have already met.
I made him my family, not a long-term boyfriend.
It is a big risk. But oh, so worth it!
Because of that risk, I have a family, 4 beautiful children whom I love, and a whole set of in-laws (what an unsuitable term for the people who are so dear to me!).
Because of that risk, I have him, my closest friend, my dearest advisor, the one who knows me better than anyone and wants the best for me always.
I loved him through the hard times when it didn’t feel like the right thing to do, when money was tight, and we weren’t on the same page about managing it, when we felt more like roommates than lovers, when we both felt used and unappreciated, when we weren’t sure what we were doing, and life kept moving forward.
Because of that committment, and his committment to me, I get to enjoy the good times of security, adoration, fun and family. I know he’s there for me at the end of the day. No matter what.
I accepted the unknown future of being married to a man who may or may not make me happy. As it turns out, the very act of choosing him–then and every day since–is what makes our marriage a happy one.
No, I won’t be sending my daughters off into some arranged marriages to unfit matches. But I will advise them on the choice to love someone, even when you don’t always know what you’re going to get.
It’s a lot better than a lifetime of cucumbers.