I’m glad I didn’t marry my ‘soul mate’

Serious business.
Serious business.

Today my husband and I are celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary. And as much as I love to celebrate and love to love, I also love to remind people that choosing a marriage partner is serious business. Sure, it involves those butterflies and fireworks, but it also involves solid doses of reality.

Here’s one: finding your soul mate is not a prerequisite for marriage. Sometimes, even, that person who feels like your “soul mate” may end up not being a good partner for you.

I love this reminder from a psychology professor at my alma mater: “Stop looking for a soul mate.” Scott Braithwaite said that when you have the idea that your soul mate is out there somewhere, and if you feel you’ve found him, you may think that the marriage relationship will be easy. Or later on when marriage does get hard (which it will), you may feel you made a mistake and thought you’d found your soul mate but didn’t. What happens then? Either looking outside the marriage for the “real” soul mate or ending the marriage to do so.

Back in my teen years and early 20s, I dated a lot. I had fun with plenty of young men. I had several serious relationships. I thought a couple might lead to marriage. They didn’t. I could even say that I probably had kind of the notion that one of those was my “soul mate.” We were a lot alike, were best friends, and had that “connection.” But it didn’t work out. While I mourned the loss of the friendship for a long time, I came to realize I was blessed not to end up marrying that person. In fact, one quality lacking in that person was something that I realized was important to me, and when I was dating my now-husband, he showed he had it.

Honestly, my husband and I don’t have what I would call a “great love story,” one that seemed fated, or meant to be, or in the stars. I probably was “crazier” about some other guys. I don’t think of him as “my best friend.” He’s not my soul mate. And that is OK. More than OK. It’s a good thing. I chose him. I chose him because of the qualities he exhibited, his dedication to me, his desire to be a good husband, his desire to be a father. He put me first. That he made me grin, was an easygoing complement to my type-A personality whom everyone can’t help but like, was a great dancer, was a great kisser… well, all those were icing on the cake.

Today, 22 years later, I am so grateful that I chose him. He wasn’t just “meant for me.” Our love story wasn’t out of our hands. It has been completely in our hands: we have written it together over all this time. We made three gorgeous babies and adopted another adorable one. We’ve moved, traveled, made friends, experienced life together, laughed, cried, supported each other. This year is particularly sweet because we got to see our oldest make her own choice of a fine husband. Today, I celebrate making a fabulous choice.

20 years and counting

Wedding 1

What to say about 20 years of happy married life? If it’s true that all happy families are alike, as Tolstoy put it, perhaps all happy marriages are alike and I have nothing to write about.

Perhaps I’ll write about what our marriage isn’t, to start. I hear so many people saying they are so lucky that they married their best friend. To be completely honest, I don’t know if my husband is my absolute bestie. Sure, I tell him pretty much everything, and we spend the most time together talking of anyone else in my life, but I think a couple of my female friends are still who I’d call my “best friends.”

I definitely don’t consider my husband my “soul mate.” There may very well be people out there who truly are married to their soul mates, and I guess I consider them lucky. But that’s not me.

My husband isn’t who I always dreamed of marrying, either. I didn’t picture myself with an Asian guy (I guess it never occurred to me); I suppose I assumed I’d end up with another Caucasian like myself, dirty blond, maybe, perhaps on the tall side, but not more than 6 feet. Maybe hazel or blue eyes. Nope, that didn’t happen either.

The person I did end up choosing to marry is 5-foot-8, Filipino, trim, good-looking but probably not someone who stops traffic. He has a laugh that cracks me up, and I love when he really smiles and it makes his eyes crinkle. I don’t get to catch this real smile in most photos because usually he strikes a funny pose (gah!), but when I do, I love to go back and look at the picture again and again. He has strong hands, very masculine.

I chose my husband not because I was hopelessly in love with him (though I definitely am in love with him, even 20 years later), but because I knew he would be a GOOD HUSBAND. After other dating experiences that disappointed me, I knew from dating Marce that he would do all he could to take care of me, to be kind to me, to try to do better when he did something that hurt or frustrated me. He was dedicated to being a husband, to someday being a father. He was excited for those roles. I had every confidence that he would always be there for me.

Twenty years later, I can say that I was right. He has worked hard to provide for our family, he has listened to my frustrations about all kinds of things and tried to do what he can to help, he has fully participated in taking care of our children (he changed diapers before I even did with our firstborn!).

We’ve had struggles; we’ve gone through trials. I’ve had moments, even days, where I’ve been angry at him. Our love story has sometimes been romantic enough for a movie; other times, it’s been laying low in the background as we’ve just gotten by, gotten through, raised our kids, tried to work, tried to sleep, tried to just make do. Some days I’ve disliked him a bit; most of the time, though, I’ve been reminded of just how much I do like him, for how fun he is, how laid-back, how pleasant to be around he is. He hasn’t made me laugh out loud a lot, but he’s made me smile far more times than I could possibly count. We’ve shared thoughts; we’ve completed sentences; we’ve understood each other well enough we haven’t had to say anything out loud. (At the same time, though, I’m flabbergasted by how he can somehow not hear and/or forget what I’ve told him three times or have absolutely no idea what I might like for a gift. Go figure.)

I don’t consider our married life any kind of fairy tale. Pretty much no part of our courtship was; the proposal left me wanting more (don’t get me started on that story). But we have shared a lovely 20 years and I expect many more in this life. Even better, I expect to spend eternity with him, because we believe that a marriage performed by the proper authority in our temples can truly last forever. (This short explanation from Mormon.org may be of help:)

Most people think of a marriage made in heaven as a rare occurrence in which both parties are deeply in love and highly compatible. We like to think that all our marriages are made in heaven. When a man and woman enters one of our holy temples to be married, they covenant (or promise) they will stay together forever—on earth and in heaven after they die, if they are faithful to each other and their promises to the Lord. A temple marriage doesn’t include phrases like, “Till death do you part” or “So long as you both shall live.” If we keep these promises, our children also become part of this heavenly promise—sealed to us forever. Read more about the importance of family at Mormon.org.

In short, it’s been an eventful 20 years. It’s not been easy, it hasn’t been a fairy tale; it’s been hard work. But I am grateful for every moment and for this good man who has been so good to me.