My husband and I celebrated our 14 year anniversary in November. It was, of course, a happy occasion - especially in the age of divorce when many relationships don't last this long. It was also a time of reflection, as I pondered where the time had gone, how lucky I was to have such a wonderful husband, and how I actually loved him more now than I even did on the day we got married.
All that pondering called up one really important question:
How did that one decision to marry him - “Mr. Soulmate” - instead of “Mr. Almost Right” or “Mr. Really, Really Wrong,” change my life?
Everything is better and easier, even when life is not.
The truth is, I came perilously close to making the wrong decision about 16 years ago.
At that time, I was engaged to another man. I remember saying “yes” to his proposal, even when I knew in my heart and gut that it wasn’t right.
He wasn’t a bad guy; we just really were not meant for the long haul. He was super jealous; I am extremely independent. I am a workaholic, he was still finding out what he wanted to do when he grew up. I prefer discussing issues calmly; he preferred emotional outbursts.
Even knowing all of this, I stuck it out for a few more months, giving myself stomach ulcers; the worrying about actually having to pull the plug on the engagement was literally eating away at me.
Finally, 100% sure that we weren’t meant for each other, I ended the engagement, and immediately felt better than I had in ages.
Realizing that I didn’t want to repeat this relationship again (and, if I am honest, I had a bit of a track record with this sort of thing, if I'm honest), I then took time to be myself and figure out who I was and what I really wanted.
During this time, a friend said to me, “You know, you always date guys because they like you; when are you going to start dating people because you like them?”
I hadn’t thought about it like that. As a woman, you get asked out by people, and you think, “Well, he seems alright. I’ll go.” Nothing wrong with that exactly, but what ends up happening is you often get into a relationship with someone that has almost all the qualities you want, but you figure you’ll just put up with the missing things, rather than try to find someone that matches you completely. (This is the phenomenon known as “settling." Ignore elderly aunts and intrusive co-workers that might tell you that you should settle. You shouldn't.)
It dawned on me that I really didn’t want to settle. So, I ended up doing extensive work on myself to be the best person I could be and to really know myself and what I truly wanted.
And, I got really, really comfortable with being single. I honestly, in my heart of hearts, decided that if - and only if - I found the perfect guy, I’d get married.
If not, I would happily be single.
Then, on January 17th, 1999, I went on a blind date and fell in love at first sight with my husband. I still remember the first thought that came into my head as I met him: “Oh, there you are.” (I also remember immediately wondering why in the world such a notion had popped in my head!)
The second our eyes met, I knew my soul had been searching for him all along. We talked non-stop for hours that night; the waitress actually apologized for having to give us our bill, as the restaurant was closing.
Four months later, we were engaged, and six months after that, we were married. Honestly, I could have married him the night we met, and I would never have looked back.
Fourteen years later, and I realize how much better and easier my life is because of that one (tough) decision to break an engagement and hold out for the right guy.
However, falling in love with the perfect person doesn't mean that life will always be perfect; it just means that it will be easier to get through with a true partner by your side.
As I look at our 14+ year journey, the truth is that it’s been pretty crazy -and certainly has not always been easy. We’ve definitely lived up to our marriage vows (and more):
We’ve had better:
I wrote my book, and he supported me 100%, doing all the cooking and cleaning and sacrificing a social life so I could work around the clock writing. He’s been promoted in various companies several times. In a crazy-awesome moment, we went to Romania for a book tour, and he was an incredible, beaming support the whole time.
We’ve had worse:
We’ve moved 13 times (seriously) and sold 3 houses in 14 years. We’ve been through two hurricanes, one of which we couldn’t evacuate for (and was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through).
We watched my beloved grandmother die of cancer. He cried with me, because he loved her, too.
Being true entrepreneurs, we both took the chance and worked (ridiculously hard) for different start up companies.
Being true entrepreneurs, we both were screwed by the founders of those start ups, leaving us with debt and feeling betrayed and exhausted (it seems like most entrepreneurs have a similar experience in their resume).
We rented out our home to people who not only treated our home like a garbage dump for a year, they also were raided by the FTC and FBI for running a credit card scam. To add insult to injury, their son got back in the house a month after they moved out and threw a party, ruining several of our beautiful wood tables and spilling corrosive stuff all over our wood floor. This was not the best moment of our lives, I can assure you.
We’ve had sickness and health:
I had mononucleosis and worked myself almost to death (ignoring the doctor’s instructions to take 6 weeks off); my husband supported me as I had to heal myself again after it turned into Chronic Fatigue.
He had a hip replacement, which was a MUCH more major surgery than the surgeon indicated (to say the least!). I was his only caregiver; we’re really proud of getting through this together. Now he walks pain-free, which is an amazing gift.
Through it all, we’ve been a team. We’ve made every single decision together, and we support each other 100%.
With all of this, I realize that there are some real perks to making sure you hold out for your soulmate (and because of that, I seriously encourage you to do so).
Here's why you hold out to find your soulmate - because when you do:
You expend less energy fighting, and more energy doing.
When you are not fighting and crying and dealing with all the ways that you are different from each other, you realize that you have a heck of a lot of time to accomplish a lot more. I couldn’t have accomplished 1/10th of what I have if I had a spouse who wanted to fight all the time.
You have more confidence in your decisions.
With someone that truly, unconditionally loves you as your partner in life, you can trust that they will be there with you, supporting all your decisions and the results of those decisions.
When you don’t have to “work” on your relationship, you can can work on your life together.
Because we fit together so well, we don’t fight at all. Now, most people cannot imagine that - but I have to tell you, it’s true. I honestly believe that people that tell you that relationships have to be hard work are 100% wrong.
Find your soulmate, enjoy your relationship, no work involved.
During bad times, you pull together, not apart.
It’s amazing to me with all the stress that we’ve gone through, that every single time, we became closer as a couple. As I look at all we’ve been through, if I had been with anyone else, the stress of the situation would have magnified our differences, and we’d likely be divorced. Amazingly, we have always leaned on each other more to get through the bad stuff, and that has been a real gift.
You find the funny in the bad.
Lord knows that coming back to our home and seeing it wrecked by a bunch of teenage strangers was not fun, especially when we were just going through our 8th move in 22 months. However, walking up the stairs and seeing a butt mark on the wall at the top of the stairs ended up making us both laugh at the utter absurdity of it all.
When you are with your soulmate, you end up having the same sense of humor, and that makes a huge difference to get through the bad days.
Your partner will want your happiness as much as their own, not more or less.
My guilty pleasure is watching “Say Yes to the Dress” - I love seeing those beautiful gowns! But one thing I am always shocked by is, upon being asked what is so wonderful about their fiance, how often a woman will answer, “He will do absolutely anything to make me happy” or “He always puts me first and gets me whatever I want.”
That may sound nice to some people, but the reality is that when one person is always the "giver", it eventually leads to resentment. Resentment can lead to the "giver" refusing to keep fulfilling the "taker's" needs all the time, which leads to anger and the breakdown of the relationship.
To create a beautiful, balanced relationship, it needs to be a true give-and-take, where both people want for both the other’s happiness and their own happiness. You marry your soulmate, this is a given.
You grow together and love each other for the person you’ve become.
I know people who are terrified that their husband will cheat on them or leave them because they’ve gained a little weight. I know others whose marriages have been ruined because they’ve grown into very different people.
When you marry your soulmate, you don’t have to worry about that stuff. We’ve both gained and lost weight, looked terrible and wonderful, been grumpy and happy and everything in between, and grown in a myriad of ways. Through it all, we’ve loved each other, respected each other, and grown together.
As I look at that fateful decision to end my engagement and hold out for my soulmate, I can only encourage you to do the same (or stay single if you don’t find him or her). Life is sweeter, easier, and happier when you do - and you end up becoming more than you could have dreamt possible as a team.
Have you found your soulmate? What advice do you have for others that might still be looking?
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