Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm a lucky woman

When I arrived at college -- eight years ago now -- I had it in my head that I would likely find my future husband there.  I wasn't exactly aiming for my MRS degree ... but college did seem a good place to find someone.

I had a list in my head of things I wanted in a husband.  My number-one thing was that he would make a good dad.  If I was going to have kids with someone, I wanted to make sure to give those future kids the best dad I could.  That meant several things: not only did he have to be good with kids, but he had to be responsible, mature, and a hard worker.  For myself, I was hoping for someone smart, easy to talk to, sensitive to my feelings, and with that particular sort of prickly temperament I happen to like.  (Turns out I'm drawn to melancholic/choleric INTJ's.  They aren't particularly easy to get along with, but I love 'em and have several close friends of this temperament.)  He also had to be hot -- my definition of hot, which I admit is not stereotypical at all.

I am not going to tell our whole love story here, because it took five years and would make another ten-part series.  And besides I don't even remember half of it anymore.  But the short version is that I met John, became good friends with him, and slowly became convinced that he was the exact personification of my "list."  Unfortunately I had a hard time convincing him of this fact; it took years but eventually I talked him around into turning our long friendship into something more.

The first-ever picture of the two of us together.  Soooo embarrassing.

(I mention this fact because I'm tired of reading everywhere, on every blog and book of "rules," that girls must never, ever, EVER go for the guys they like.  They should wait around until they're so desperate they'll take any comer.  And I can tell you for sure, there's a certain kind of guy who can't be captured that way.  I think it was only my utter ignorance about "the game" or "the rules" that allowed me to be a lot more straightforward with John and make the first move.  It worked for us.  Your mileage may vary.  You know your relationships much better than I do.  John is the only person I've ever been in a relationship with and we basically reinvented the wheel with it so I am NO GOOD at relationship advice.)

The knowledge that I chose my husband, that I sized him up with a calculating eye and decided he was the one for me, has been so important for me.  I know that I didn't settle, that when I chose him at eighteen years old I knew I might have many more options later, but decided on the one I had.  I also know that I had five years to change my mind, and many times when I saw John at his worst and very well could have changed my mind.  But I didn't.  I didn't because I knew I really couldn't do better ... that I had found the man for me, and I had no desire to trade him in for a better model.

Eight years later, I'd still choose him again.  Many great qualities have come out in him that I never could have recognized before, but the old things I loved about him are still around.  Here are a few:

He's absolutely brilliant.  I know he doesn't believe me; he thinks I'm the smart one because I'm a fast reader, a quick study with languages and science, and because I got better grades in college.  But John's the one with the analytical mind, the one who easily unweaves tangles in other people's reasoning and who clearly explains to me things like the electoral process or the economic principles of F. A. Hayek or the relationship between faith and reason.  Lately I've relied on him a lot as I've undertaken a study of Catholic doctrine and can come to him with anything I find confusing.  He always makes it clear and straightforward to me.  Last night, we talked about Vatican II for over an hour (yes, we're sleep-deprived, but who can catch up on sleep when there's Gaudium et Spes to talk about?) and all I could think was, "I have never met anyone who understands the Catholic faith as well as this one does."  Since I was rather confused about everything when I got out of boarding school, it's not just helpful to have a guy like that -- it's indispensable.  Everyone should have one.

He's conscientious.  This is the guy who used to leave at 5 a.m. and come home at 7 p.m., just to make ends meet for our family and give us a good life.  And because he wasn't content just to get by and not think of the future, he did his masters class in the evenings, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.  (Can I just say I'm glad those days are behind us?)  He pulls his weight in housework -- really more than his weight, if you consider the percentage of his time he gets to spend at home.  A large chunk of that is given over to doing the grocery shopping (with my carefully-prepared list that he follows to a T) or weedwhacking the yard.  And he takes an even bigger role with the kids.  As I dreamed he would be, he is a dad before anything else.  This is not one of those guys who says, "I bring home a paycheck, that's my contribution." This is a guy who wants to be the one who sings his son to sleep at night, who is always up for a snuggle or a silly game.  He's happy to have found an audience for his corny jokes for the next 18 years.  And, though he has a much harder time with being up at night than I do, he's handled almost all of the wakeups with Marko since Michael was born.

He's a planner.  I know a lot of girls find the guy with the day planner a little unsexy.  But let me tell you, I love it when he comes to me with a plan.  He's not a guy who says, "I don't know, what do you want to do?"  He's a guy who says, "Want to go yard-saling today?" and when I say yes, he pulls out a list of sales to hit up and directions to each.  He's the guy who, when we're walking out the door to a fun adventure with the kids, is tucking the sippy cup into the diaper bag.  I never have my head quite screwed on straight, and I find it so hot when he has everything taken care of so that I can just relax and enjoy the ride.

He's passionate.  Just get him going on racism or libertarianism (of course!) or economics.  Nothing is just an abstract topic; they all matter because ideas matter to him.  I have to admit I intentionally stir the pot by bringing up some controversial issue, just so I can watch him go.  I'm not laughing at him -- it's honestly what I find attractive.  Some girls like to watch guys lift weights.  I like watching mine tear down the arguments of the opposition.

He's hilarious.  Not everyone finds his personal brand of humor that funny -- it's dry, a little earthy and sometimes just straight-up silly.  But when he's doing little extemporaneous comedy routines, he tends to gather a crowd of listeners.

He's not an alpha male.  I find the stereotypical alpha male as unappealing as a guy with big burly muscles. I'm just not into that; I'm a smart, capable girl who doesn't need to be overwhelmed with a dominating man.  I wanted someone who would be an equal and treat me as a friend, and that's what I have.  On the other hand, though, John has a special kind of leadership that has him always bringing out the best in others.  He's rarely the official leader of a group, but he's always the brains behind the operation.  He has no interest in taking charge, but yet he's always finding himself followed by people who thought he looked like a guy who knows where he's going.

Most people who know him think he's a really cool guy.  They're always telling me, "Wow, your husband's so smart!  He's so eloquent!  What a guy!"  Then in the next breath they say, "I could not be married to him or I'd shoot myself."  What can I say, that prickly INTJ temperament does take some careful handling.  He has incredibly high standards for himself and gets frustrated when other people don't live up to them.  But I enjoy the challenge of explaining to him things like "human weakness" or "irrational decisions based on emotion."  I think he would agree with me that I help balance him out and make him a better person, like he does with me.

I'm not going to lie and say these three years of marriage, or the five years beforehand, have been all sunshine.  They've actually been pretty rough.  There was a huge change of identity for both of us in getting married and having kids.  We've never had very much money.  Earning enough money to live on always takes a lot of time; the pressure is high to keep working, save money, take care of our growing family.  Each of us has had some rough patches dealing with it all.  And if you're married, you know there's no such thing as one of you going through a rough patch.  Everything that affects one of you, affects both.

When things are tough, patience goes down and it's hard to see the immense value of the person you're married to.  There have been times when John's tendency to plan ahead drove me crazy as he crunched budgets for five years in the future, or made me angry when he asked me if the diaper bag is packed ("What am I, an airhead?  Oh right, the sippy cup").  There have been times when the last thing I wanted was to hear his opinion on the Republican primary.  There have been times, on a day where our interaction is limited to "Hello, which kid are you doing bedime for," before we both collapse into bed, asleep before our heads hit the pillow, that I thought, "What the heck did I bother getting married for?  This isn't any fun."

One of the few recent pictures of us together that I could find.

But when we've joined hands and pulled one another out of the morass that is the stress and worry and unhappiness that we suffer, when we stand side-by-side and behold the bright light of day, I have zero regrets.  I think the sunshine is brighter for the rains we've endured, and our relationship is so much stronger for all it's been through.  I look at my beautiful family -- beloved husband, two wonderful sons -- and I can only think how lucky I am ... and how glad I am I didn't just walk out the door on the bad days.

I'm so glad I married him, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

(This post was written as part of a deal: John wrote a post about me and I said that means I get to write about him!  Here's what he said.)


Anonymous said...

I read his testimonial to you first and thought it was beautiful. But now that I read yours, I truly see how the two of you complete one another.

I did not comment on his blog because my computer wouldn't let me for some reason, but I've commented on yours several times before with no issue.

Your piece on him is also beautifully done, and is a true testimonial to true love. :)

The Sojourner said...

My husband is an INTP, but he sounds a lot like yours. For example, I LOVE tossing him a controversial topic and just letting him go. So entertaining. I'm a prickly INTJ myself (go us!), but I don't have the classical philosophical training he has.

Oh, and I'm not into the alpha male thing either.

Off to read your husband's post now...

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