When I set out to find a wife nearly 40 years ago, my basic criteria were to find someone who looked alright and who would marry me. My assumptions were that I would have sex on a plate, and in my ‘laidbackness’ I thought I could make marriage work with any woman. How naïve and stupid?!
It took me four and a half years to persuade Jan to marry me, and now, after nearly 32 years, I realise that she fulfilled other really important criteria.
My biggest need: commitment
Over time, I have come to realise that my biggest need for my marriage partner is commitment.
Her commitment to be in it with me forever, come what may, despite my failings (of which there are many), gives us a solid platform on which to disagree; having confidence that there would be no hurdle too high that would cause us to part.
It’s a commitment to meet each other’s needs by giving 100% to each other rather than making it dependent on a ‘sufficient’ quid pro quo. I can be sure that she is giving her 100% to the marriage whilst I am trying to give mine; so neither of us have to try and figure out what our ‘fair’, 50% contribution should be.
Strong alignment on parenting
It may be that at some stage you find yourselves with a screaming, pooing, needy little bundle of life, if indeed you wanted one and are blessed with having children (better make sure you agree on that up front!) By the time baby arrives you really need to be so tightly bound together as one unit, that even a sledgehammer couldn’t drive a wedge between you. As well as that little ‘button presser’ doing its best to drive you apart to get what it wants, the very process of parenting will give you your own challenges, with your differing views and approaches.
I love being a dad (and now a grandad), but it is hard to rise well to that challenge without having solid alignment between you as a couple on your methods, and how you will ensure that one of you is never played off against the other by children.
Sex has been a maturing, ever changing journey loaded with compromises, as our needs and desires have come together through our seasons of life.
Sex through the seasons of life
Going back to my opening statement, it turns out that sex doesn’t just come on a plate, or indeed in a glass …the old Martini advert — anytime, any place, anywhere — echoed both my desires and my expectations, but it did not reflect reality.
Whatever your sexual experiences at the beginning of a relationship, sex will need commitment and effort to keep it interesting and enjoyable. I am thankful that my wife has always been committed to wanting our sex life to function well, even if at times she’s had to settle for ‘wanting to want’ sex. I should say here that we do have 3 children so there is no denying some level of activity! Seriously though, it has been a maturing, ever changing journey loaded with compromises, as our needs and desires have come together through our seasons of life.
Respecting and growing through our differences
Jan and I are very different people, and I’ve realised that our differences can help us each to grow. I have become a much more rounded and complete person as a result of doing life with my wife. She has always affirmed me in public, never criticising, but building me up in my strengths. She has drawn on those of my strengths which have developed her, but also helped me grow in those many areas in which she is so much more skilled.
There are many other things that contribute to making the ‘perfect match’, including accepting that spoons don’t drain on the draining board when they are face up, and that it only takes half an hour to pack a suitcase. We need to know what these, and our other differences, are so that we can commit to embrace them rather than expecting our partner to change.
Our values tend to be the ones that motivate our purpose and ambitions in life, so it is important that we are aligned.
Another strong need is for us to have shared values, particularly spiritual ones. Almost all of us have values around spirituality whether they are based on religion or something else. These values tend to be the ones that motivate our purpose and ambitions in life, so it is important that we are aligned. In our case, this is the reason why it took me four and a half years to persuade my now wife to marry me. It took us that long to become aligned spiritually, and once we did our Christian faith became the central pillar of our marriage, our parenting, and our life goals.
Choosing friendship and love
In our marriage, we have found such deep friendship that we want to meet each other’s needs with fun, joy, compassion and tears. We accept that there will be highs and lows, some of them extreme, but we are there for each other anyway, for better and for worse.
Curiously, my naïve thought that ‘I can make marriage work with ‘any woman who will marry me’ in some ways holds the key. Because it is the fact that: we choose to be committed to the other person; we choose to give our 100%; we choose to work with our differences; we choose to be friends; we choose to be lovers, and we choose to meet each other’s needs, not just relying on our mushy feelings. I’ve found that I can stick to my choices, but my feelings are much less reliable.
So, what do I think a man should look for in a wife?
…someone who shares his values;
…where there will be mutual respect;
…who will be his best friend in life;
…who will commit to do love with him, and he, her, forever, despite their differences, come what may.
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