My bride is okay, but I think I could have done better …
Have you ever felt you could have “done better”? Maybe you don’t think it exactly like that, but you see another woman who does something your bride does not do, or does not do as well, or you remember how someone you dated did something, and for a moment you feel a bit of doubt or regret. I suppose to some extent that is the old “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” thing, but it’s made far worse by the huge variety of choice we have in who to marry.
For most of human history, the vast majority of people married someone they had known most of their life. The choices were limited; a couple dozen to a hundred individuals of the right age who were not close relatives. Of those, only a couple would feel like they might be a good fit. The result was people married someone feeling they had made an excellent choice given the options, and that limited second thoughts.
Today, most of us have met many hundreds, if not thousands, of potential spouse choices by the time we married. If that’s not enough, there are dating/matchmaking services that will match you with the best of their tens or hundreds of thousands of possible mates. How then can you feel you made the “best” possible choice? She is certainly in the top 10%, maybe even in the top 1%, but is she the very best possible? In the TED video I suggested yesterday (The paradox of choice) Barry Schwartz explained that more choices leads to less satisfaction with the choice one makes. We get fixated on making the perfect choice, and then have “buyer’s remorse” when we wonder if we got it right.
The other part of this is that we now feel we can try another. Regardless of how you feel about divorce, most of us live in a society that makes divorce easy and relatively free of stigma. Your family, close friends, and church might not approve, but if worse came to worst you could divorce, move, and start over: a second chance to get it right! I’m in no way advocating that, but it is the reality of our lives, and I suspect those struggling in their marriages think such things from time to time.
There are several ways of looking at this issue:
God’s sovereign will: Some say God puts us with someone and that makes it the best possible match. This means that regardless of how you feel, you have the best spouse for you.
Free will: Other say we have free will, and we can make a mess of things. This means it’s unlikely we have chosen the very best possible wife.
Seeking His will: Still others, me included, say we have the free will to make a mess of things, but we also have the free will to seek His will for our lives. If we heard and followed well, we might have the best spouse – but there will always be some doubt.
If you believe the first, then it’s settled – you have the best, and you just need to walk it out. For the rest, the scary reality is you might not have the one woman who would have been the very best wife we could have. However, that was then, and both you and this mystery woman have changed so that you are no longer the perfect match – so let that go. Beyond that, we know from the Bible that it is God’s will for us to remain married if possible. Yes I think there are a very few situations where divorce is allowed (allowed, not required – there is a difference), but even when it is allowed it should be the last ditch, nothing works and I just can’t live this way choice. The vast majority of folks who divorce today are not even close to that!
I think the horrible divorce rate is due in large part to the huge number of choices we see, the vast number of other people to whom we could be married. People start looking at what could have been, or what could be, and that results in growing dissatisfaction with what they have. It starts to seem that starting over would be easier. It feels like the problems are mostly on her part, so if you could start with another woman you would have it so much better.
Please know that all of these are lies! The rate of divorce for second marriages is even worse than for first marriages. Statistically, the more times you try, the less likely you are to get it right. Statistically, you have a better chance of a good marriage with the woman who is now your wife than with any other woman in the world.
My advice is to accept that for better or worse this is the marriage you have. Rather than imaging how it would be better with another, focus on what you can do to make this marriage better. Rather than hedging your bets or holding back, go all in; give your marriage everything you have, work at it like your very life depends on it! It’s amazing what happens when a husband decides to give his marriage all his time and attention – try it and see.
A final note: If you are thinking of divorcing with someone in mind to be your next wife, you are very certainly in the wrong place. THAT IS NOT GOD! If you are thinking of divorce, you need to be open to the possibility of never remarrying. You most certainly need to be free of any thoughts of dating. Divorce hurts people, and there is a necessary grieving process to go through. Rebound relationships are almost always ugly. Moreover, divorce changes people in various ways. If you divorce, you will not be the same person after the divorce that you are now, and that means the “best” possible spouse for you is not the same as it was before.
Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:
Black and Married with Kids
Do You Treat Your Marriage Like A Real Job?: Do you give your wife as much respect as you give your co-workers?
Hot, Holy and Humorous
Rainy Days and Ugly Days Always Get Me Down: Two reasons to click this one: 1) to better understand your wife’s body image struggles, and 2) to see a really ugly little dog.
”husband”, a user’s guide”
We’re Being Replaced?: “Don’t become an app!”
Intimacy in Marriage
Sex at the In-Laws? Is this a Good Idea?: A great article, and a good conversation starter if you need to discuss this with your bride.
Fun Date Night Ideas for Married Couples: I doubt anyone will like all of these, but the variety is great to get you thinking about better dates.
One Flesh Marriage
The Power of Listening: If you are an “Uh-huh” guy, you NEED to read this.
The Romantic Vineyard
Mark Your Calendar: I share this for Debi’s bit at the top. Read about a wise man who knows his wife, and how to meet her needs.
WHY Is It Important To Study Your Spouse?: A perfect follow up to the above.
Staying Current: Are you current with your bride?
Safe at home
A Different Kind of Christmas For Your Family: A great idea, and a great way to show kids what Christmas is supposed to be all about.
What do you control at the Holidays?: Don’t waste effort on things you can not control!
Irreconcilable Differences is a Silly Excuse for Divorce: Very true!
This is Who God Says I Am…And You Too: As Stu says, “…it is really important to know WHO we are in our marriage.”
What I learned from a Piano Recital : Challenge your fears!
Stupendous Marriage Show 021: Husbands with Low Sex Drive and Reaping what you Sow: The wining hand show!