Marriage is … the promise of love between two people and the explicit commitment to work to maintain that love no matter what obstacles life may bring.
Why prepare for a wedding when one should prepare for the marriage?
How cynical or is it being practical? One learns about marriage by actually being in one. Sure, there are signs to watch out for in An Ideal Husband. My husband was my boyfriend for 7 years but I never really knew him or what marriage entailed until I lived it.
Father Pat Connor spent decades of marriage counseling which led him to distill some “common sense” advice about how to avoid partners who would maul your happiness.
“Hollywood says you can be deeply in love with someone and then your marriage will work,” the twinkly eyed, white-haired priest says. “But you can be deeply in love with someone to whom you cannot be successfully married.”
The priest gave lectures for the past 40 years on “Whom Not to Marry” to high school seniors, mostly girls because they’re seem more eager to understand.
You might wonder about the reliability of the priest’ observations but as I went through his list, I have to agree with the signs to watch out for. Let me go through the list and cite a few examples.
1. “Never marry a man who has no friends,” he starts. This usually means that he will be incapable of the intimacy that marriage demands.
I know of someone who ran away from her husband bringing nothing with her but her wallet. The husband (soon to be divorced) begged me to convince her to go back to him. He said “She was my life. She was my only friend”. I didn’t want to meddle with their affairs because the husband apparently called every friend. I was thinking “he just wants her back because he is lonely…no friends”. What a loser. Good thing, my friend pursued the divorce from her obsessive husband.
2. “Does he use money responsibly? Is he stingy? Most marriages that flounder do so because of money — she’s thrifty, he’s on his 10th credit card.
I can so relate to this. One of the marital fights with my husband in our early years of marriage was his non-frugal ways. I might have been the stingy one but since he was just a law student, I expected him to be more thrifty. It took more than 15 years for him to spend money wisely and 18 years before he completely let me handle our financial affairs.
3. “Steer clear of someone whose life you can run, who never makes demands counter to yours. It’s good to have a doormat in the home, but not if it’s your husband.
I don’t really know any doormat among my peers. I had a friend who had a doormat of a husband in their younger years. For some strange reason, their roles reversed when the husband retired.
4. “Is he overly attached to his mother and her mythical apron strings? When he wants to make a decision, say, about where you should go on your honeymoon, he doesn’t consult you, he consults his mother.
If there is anything more annoying is a mother-in-law joining your husband in a honeymoon. This happened to my sister. Can I say that the in-law relationship was always rocky throughout their marriage? I am glad that my husband is not too attached to his mother. Of course, I give space when he wants to bond with his mother. It’s not that often so I don’t mind.
5. “Does he have a sense of humor?
My husband grew up in a family that didn’t laugh as much as my family did. I loved cracking jokes and laughing in stitches. My husband seemed such a killjoy at times. One day when his mother came for a visit, he told me to lower my voice or tone down my laughter because it might disturb his mother who is not used to “noise”. I was mortified.
Now that we are over 26 years married, my husband has an awesome sense of humor that I cannot match.
6. “A therapist friend insists that ‘more marriages are killed by silence than by violence.’ The strong, silent type can be charming but ultimately destructive.
This is similar to my doormat example. I never imagined that this soft-spoken husband carried an affair. As a young girl, I thought this distant relative was a good and faithful husband because he was quiet. When I got married, this relative encouraged my husband to seek out girls for pleasure. How terrible. Of course, I found out about it because my husband was so appalled. (or appeared to be shocked to me)
7. “Don’t marry a problem character thinking you will change him. He’s a heavy drinker, or some other kind of addict, but if he marries a good woman, he’ll settle down. People are the same after marriage as before, only more so.
A girl friend called off her wedding a week before the wedding date. To her hororr, she discovered her soon-to-be husband in the arms of another girl inside the hospital room of his auntie. She was the auntie’s nurse. Apparently the guy was just forced to marry my friend because his mother found her a suitable wife instead of his other girlfriend. A year later, the guy decided to tie the knot with my friend due to guilt. My friend nearly died in an accident and he blamed himself for it. I warned my friend that the guy won’t change his ways. She was so in love with him and thought marriage will change everything. Guess what? Five years after their wedding, the guy started an extra-marital affair with his girlfriend who apparently is his true love. They now have a child.
8. “Take a good, unsentimental look at his family — you’ll learn a lot about him and his attitude towards women.
I think most men are “mama’s boy”. They never really get over being a son especially if the man is unable to nuture his inner child in his adult years. My husband was raised by two grandmothers in his formative years. You can just imagine how he sought maternal love, how his inner child was probably not nutured well. Though not a “mama’s boy” in the strictest sense, I found out that he looked up to me as a “mother” and wife. I used to get annoyed, having to deal with another “child” but I got used to it.
9. Does he possess those character traits that add up to a good human being — the willingness to forgive, praise, be courteous? Or is he inclined to be a fibber, to fits of rage, to be a control freak, to be envious of you, to be secretive?
The man whom NOT to marry should not be a control freak or wife beater. He is a basically a good human being.
I have already written an entry on The Ideal Husband For My Girls
I told my daughters,
“It’s best if your husband is spiritual or have a personal relationship with God”. Then I added, “This is with the assumption that you also have close relationship with God as well.
With God in their married life, it makes it easier to work together as partners, where both make adjustment and aim not merely to please each other, but to be better human beings and to make a solid teamwork.
As I looked through the list, it appears that most married couples experience these “Whom Not to Marry” advice at one point in their lives. I know I did. I probably knew what I was getting into but I knew I could handle the trials and challenges. The “Whom NOT to marry” list practically eliminates every male specie which now makes it impossible to seek the Ideal Man. However, it opens the eyes of young girls who plan to get married one day or to prepare themselves for the idiosyncrasies of their lifetime partners. I don’t know with the men but perhaps they can get a tip or two here.
Do you have any other “mostly common sense” advice?