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“the one you can’t live without.”

December 29, 2014

There’s a piece of advice almost all single have probably heard or read:

“Don’t marry a person you can live with, marry the one you can’t live without.”

This really hits you, emotionally, I’m guessing. And, there seems to be a lot of wisdom in it.

But yesterday, I was listening to my aunt and mom talk about one of my aunt’s friends. What I heard inspired me to re-evaluate this advice.

Mom and my aunt were discussing the love life of a successful, fun, attractive woman who is in her 50’s. I wouldn’t exactly call this woman a serial dater.. someone who goes out with a great many men, and takes no time off in between. She’s more the type to have a boyfriend for awhile, then not date for some months or even a year, then get into another relationship.

The guy she had been with for over a year, but who she broke up with a few days ago, is, in my aunt’s opinion, a good and worthy man. He had treated my aunt’s friend very well.

According to my aunt, her friend often got irritated by very very small things the guy did, even though he did not do these small things frequently. I did not hear or participate enough in the conversation to learn what exactly these minor things are. But, they are small things, not often done. The woman kept reacting very negatively. My aunt described her friend as being rather picky, and a perfectionist when it comes to men.

After being part of the conversation for a little while, the advice about marrying the one you can’t live without didn’t seem like such a good idea to me. I brought this up, and my aunt said she also thought it was not the best advice.

Here’s why..

If you are looking for the “one you can’t live without,” and continue to do so as you age, you might eventually find yourself much older than my aunt’s friend, and very alone.

You might meet many people you can marry and do very well with.. men or women you can live with, but you might never find or marry the person you feel you can’t live without. It might not happen.

Perhaps, instead of this advice being very sound, it’s actually romantic-comedy film/romance novel nonsense. People watch romantic films and read romantic books because these movies and books are idealized love, and not real love.

Emotions, especially when one is in love, can be hard to trust. Years ago, I almost got engaged to a woman I felt I could not live without. This feeling was tremendously strong, but the woman turned out to be terrible for me. I am glad beyond words that I did not marry her, and eventually broke up with her instead.

Unlike me, many people do get married to those they feel they cannot live without. After having been married for a few years or more, they find themselves wondering what the hell they did! Feelings change. Marriage takes work. Can we really depend on strong romantic feelings, such as the powerful emotions one feels when falling in love with someone he or she “cannot live without?”

What about my aunt’s friend? I don’t have the highest of hopes for her. It can be tough not being a perfectionist, especially if a person has been a perfectionist for over half a century. Maybe this woman will drift from man to man. Maybe, because she doesn’t feel she absolutely cannot live without her former boyfriend, she’ll not get back together with him. Maybe if they do reunite, and she marries him, she’ll feel down about him. She might feel she did something wrong by marrying someone she could live with, and not marrying someone she could not live without.

People in Eastern cultures sometimes have arranged marriages, and avoid all this dating and pre-marriage turmoil. I’ve read, years ago, that arranged marriages have a very high success rate.. by that I mean very few arranged marriages end in divorce.

This is partly to do with divorce being culturally frowned upon, I’m guessing, but that’s only partly it.

Let’s consider a man and a woman living in India. Their marriage is arranged before they’ve even met. They meet after the wedding date has been set, talk, and seem to at least sort of hit it off, but don’t get to know each other very well.

They get married, slowly get to know each other, and grow to love each other. This happens quite often in India.

I once heard a woman from India say that in the West, love and marriage takes off like a rocket, and sometime after the marriage, it fizzles out and crashes. And people get divorced. However, in India, first there is marriage, and then the love grows after that. The love of arranged marriages is a slow burn that takes years to build, but it does build, and more often than not, couples are happy.

American culture is highly individualistic. Choosing for ourselves is the American way. Arranged marriages seem absolutely insane to Americans. Not something that will catch on here. We are so addicted to freedom and having an overabundance of choice. We are faced with a great many options of who we can marry. The number of options one has depends on one’s looks, personality, career/economic status, and at least to some extent, on race. But despite all that, it’s likely pretty much all of us have many, or at least some, potential mates to choose from.

It can be very easy to take the advice of not marrying someone we can live with, but finding someone we cannot live without. If we had only a very few options, taking this advice would not be a problem. But almost all of us have many options.. many people to choose from.

I think, because of this advice, countless people have probably passed on marrying other people who would have made excellent spouses. And this is a tragedy. The divorce rate in America still hovers around 50 percent. The only reason it has gone down is because more people are choosing non-married co-habitation instead of marriage. As gay marriage is gradually becoming legal in most states, the marriage rate will be going up. I predict the divorce rate will go up also.

One reason for this is that people take the wrong advice. My advice is to rethink the advice you’ve already been given.

Yes, I know, it’s tricky… figuring out who a person can successfully live with. Do you wait until you’ve found that magical Disney emotional rush of a romance? Do you base any of your decisions on practical concerns?

If you are considering getting married, please be careful in taking any advice, including mine, but at least consider marrying someone you can live with, and not trying to find the one person you can’t live without.

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