November 5, 2005 was one of the greatest days of my life. It was the beginning of a brand new, lifelong adventure filled with immense joy, incredible pain and frustration along with undeserved grace and redemption. But most of all, it was the beginning of an adventure held steadfast by an undying love. Nothing would ever be the same, and not just because I moved out of my parents house. On that cold November day, I got married.
I just wish it would have happened later …
Let me preface that last statement with this: I absolutely love my wife and do not want to spend the rest of my days running towards the geriatric ward with anyone else but her by my side. She is the love of my life and I would not have what I currently do, without her. What ensues are three things, that in hindsight, I believe would have helped prepare me to be the partner that I know my wife deserves: a man who knows how to protect love at all costs, a man who truly knows who he is, and a man filled with passions who will stop at nothing to bring them to fruition. These are the three things I wish had happened before I got married:
1. Get dumped
That’s right. I said it. I’ve always been the dumper, never the dumpee. Sounds good right? Always breaking hearts and never having mine truly broken. Never being blindsided by the “let’s just be friends” or “it’s not you it’s me” conversation, phone call or text.
Here’s the one major drawback about never experiencing deep loss in a relationship: You have a tendency take the love of your life for granted and don’t know what is required to protect the love you have.
When you get married young and have never truly lost someone you’ve loved, you have no idea just how precious and fragile love really is. Nor do you know how to protect it. In many ways, I’ve become complacent. I expect things and take them for granted.
But trust me, your spouse deserves to honoured and protected at all costs.
2. Figure out who I was
To this day, I still don’t fully know who this greying haired, thirty year old man is that awkwardly stares back from the bathroom mirror. I am trying my absolute best to understand him, to find out what makes him tick. Where do his greatest strengths lie? What are his blind spots? What is it that adds the extra sparkle in his blue eyes some days but snuffs it out on others?
Growing up in our materialistic North American culture where voices constantly tell us to be smarter, get paid more and be who everyone wants you to be, it’s little wonder that so many in our generation don’t know who they really are. We’ve been trained to only worry what others think. Are we wearing the right clothes? Are we taking the right classes to get right job? Are we making enough money to prove that we are valuable?
Most of my twenties were spent treading water in a dead end job in a dying industry that did more to crush my “american dreams” than it did to line my pockets with cash. What that place did for me, however, was allowed me to read like crazy and start discovering who I really am. It gave me the freedom to explore diverse ways of thinking and find my love and passion for ideas and storytelling.
I was 28 when year five hit in my marriage, just had my second daughter and had only begun to discover who I really was.
3. Focus on my passion
Once you’ve found your passion, work like hell to master it. Whatever it is. Focus on yourself, your dreams, and your vision for the future then chase it. This means embracing selfishness. Not to be confused with the egocentric nature of being self-centered. Rather, focus your energy on the things that drive you. The things that make you come alive the most and inspire your creative aspirations. This will require many late nights alone, steering conversations in a direction so you benefit more than anyone else in the room, and putting your dreams above those of your friends’ and family.
Spend time working and developing yourself into the person you want to be. For the rest of your life. Not only will you thank yourself but so will your spouse and kids. It’s difficult to give all of who you are to your partner and support their passions fully when you are not confident in who you are or what you’re passionate about, let alone trying to foster and develop passions and creativity within your kids when they come along.
The best thing you can do for your future family is to start being selfish.
Despite the fact that 53 per cent of divorced women and 61.1 per cent of divorced men in the US were married between the ages of 20 and 29, this is not a manifesto to discourage getting married in your twenties. Believe me, there are a lot of great things about getting married young that I absolutely would not trade, like having a spouse to grow and discover with whom also inspires and supports your creative passions. However, there are some key elements in your own development which will allow you to better nurture, protect and cherish your spouse that can only come with time and life experience.
Flickr photo (cc) by kylesteed