Secret #2: The Musts are All that Matter

 In essence , my message is to be the person you’re looking for.

Reva Seth, First Comes Marriage

Given the billions of conversations we’ve forgotten, isn’t it fascinating to consider the ones we remember? This little nugget has been lodged in my mind for nearly 40 years:

Marvin: “You’re the kind of guy I hope my daughter marries.”
Me: “Come on Marvin. You wouldn’t want your daughter to date me.”
Marvin: “You’re right. I wouldn’t want her to date you. I’d want her to marry you after she’s gotten dating out of her system.”

Marvin was my rather hippie boss who, by the way, didn’t have any kids. He was just letting me know that he considered me stable, responsible… and boring. Even Marvin, with his rather pot-muddled brain, could intuit what makes for a positive life-long commitment.

Seth, in this chapter, encourages women to distinguish between their marriage “musts” and their marriage “wants.” She describes the “just for now” syndrome in which people spend time together without any intention of it becoming serious. However, things often continue to slide towards emotional enmeshment and practical entanglements. If we aren’t clear about our long-term “musts,” then we’ll choose based on our short-term “wants.” Seth seems to be echoing the advice I imagine Marvin would give to his daughter: “If you’ve got to have some dating adventures, just don’t lose sight of what really matters.”

Seth tells the story of one woman who dodged a bullet. This woman was dating a guy who was a lot of fun, but who lost his job. When he couldn’t pay for his apartment any longer, she agreed to let him move in “for a little while.” She was jarred awake at their engagement party when her finance’ toasted her with something like, “Thanks to this little lady, I’ll never have to worry about paying bills.” In a moment of clarity and wisdom, sadly often missing these days, she called off the wedding.

A situation like this would almost never develop in the arranged marriage model. Trusted family members take responsibility for the “musts.” In our romance based model, we each have to be thoughtful about such things or we will end up asking ourselves, “How in the world did I end up here?”

So, as I try to shine a light on what this means for those of us who are already married, here’s a few questions:

  • What has your marriage revealed about your “musts” and “wants?”
  • To what degree does your spouse embody your “musts.”
  • To what degree have you allowed your disappointment over “wants” to infect your respect and admiration for your spouse?
  • How angry are you that your spouse has actually turned out to be the person he or she seemed to be when you were dating?

Let’s keep muddling on…








About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
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