I’ve been married for nearly 20 years. Twenty years. Seems like a long time.
About This American Life
I listen to a wonderful radio show called This American Life produced by WBEZ. These are the same folks responsible for the wildly popular show, Serial. (Side Note: Please don’t sleep on This American Life, its one of the best programs out there.)
Anyway, they produced an episode called Choosing Wrong. It’s all about people who make the wrong choices. The episode is full of human examples of selecting the wrong thing, from Wilt Chamberlain opting not to shoot underhanded even though doing so was his best method for hitting his free throws, to a dude who regrets his vote for Brexit, to a chilling nine minute segment with Alain De Botton about how you, me, and anyone married…all of us are married to the wrong person.
I listened to the marriage segment three times in a row. To say it was eye-opening is an understatement. The chilling part is, all things considered, Botton is right. I chose the wrong partner (follow me for a bit before you think you need to counsel me about the perils of divorce). The reasons for marriage are complex. Certainly we marry because we love the other person. But the one thing Botton surmises about our defective spousal choices is our lack of knowing very much about ourselves.
What Did I Know?
Me? I married in my early twenties with no clear idea of what I wanted for a career. More of a reactor than an instigator, I struggled with being proactive in all areas of my life. I did not possess respect for my skills as a writer (I wrote in the closet, publishing romance stories that did not have my name on them). Being sensitive? I hated that too. Also, I didn’t have a lot of requirements for my husband at that time, other than he be a fellow Christian, a hard worker (like my dad), that he be kind (since I’d dated my fair share of selfish idiots), and he should be health-minded with nice teeth (another throwback to my dad). And he would have to love reading because a writer cannot be married to a guy who hasn’t read a full book since high school.
But that was it. I had my list of things I was seeking in a partner, but there was so much about my OWN personality I missed back then. Did I know I was an incurable introvert? Nope. That I would develop an unquenchable thirst for line dance, bop and cha-cha? No. Did I realize I hate clutter and will do anything to avoid it to the point where even Tony Shaloub from the TV show Monk would shake his head at me? That I have no patience? That I listen to way too much hip-hop and not enough contemporary Christian music. And on, and on, and on. I understood none of that nor how all those personality quirks would affect my marriage through the years.
An Imperfect Partner
I can’t explain the whole concept of how our disillusionment with marriage begins with ourselves, but we tend to blame it on our partners. And bit by bit, day by day, we look at our partners and they look like less of what works for us and more of what we don’t like. We see them under the microscope, up close and personal in a way the rest of the world doesn’t see. We can easily pick at anything under that level of scrutiny. And we do. We know our marriages aren’t perfect. Our partners aren’t the best people in the world. The wisest of us accept that. We also stomach the fact that on the other side of the mirror is a fiercely imperfect person in a committed relationship that appears one way in Facebook and Instagram pics, and another way entirely in the cocoon we call our homes.
The main characters in Broken Together are imperfect.
Because people are imperfect.
Because marriage IS imperfect.