Once I realized I would be married to at least five different women in my lifetime, it was a lot easier to get married.
You may think my wife would cringe when reading this statement, but by my count, I’ve already been married to two different women since Lynnette and I tied the knot in 2004. And she’s been married to a handful, too.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll always be married to Lynnette. But who Lynnette is will change – and should change – over the course of our life together. This is why, when thinking hard about whether or not she was the one for me, I felt confident knowing she’d be someone who would grow and change as I grew and changed.
It was a smart professor and mentor who tipped me off to this notion. He told me, in his controversial style, that it would be best for me to be married to many different women. My conservative self (at the time) took offense at his suggestion until he broke it down for me. And it made sense.
Certainly I was going to change throughout the rest of my life. Why wouldn’t I want to be married to someone who did the same? In fact, to expect someone to stay the same would be ignorant at best and oppressive at worst.
I had just turned 23 when I got married. My 29-year-old self looks at pictures of our wedding day and laughs in retrospect at the people dressed in black and white who said their original vows to one another while a barefoot guitarist strummed a song about stars. Our preacher handed us the rings to put on each other’s fingers. We promised simple things to each other and pledged that we’d try our best to make this thing last. The people in the picture, though, are not the same people married today.
A few years later we’d each have full-time jobs we weren’t crazy about. We became homeowners and pet owners. We traveled together to cities like Philadelphia and Chicago and went away for a week when our first few anniversaries hit. She went back to school to get a degree to pursue a job in a field she loved. Last April, she came downstairs while I was eating a cupcake, a positive pregnancy test in one hand and a hopeful smirk to go with it.
And here we are – years later – as parents, trying to figure out together what makes a baby stop crying when she was so happy four minutes ago and what it will be like to drive to Mississippi with her on Memorial Day. We look at each other with a look that says, “I know who you are, even if you’re different than the person I became infatuated with as we stayed up late to talk about God and life and dreams in St. Louis that summer it was so hot and there were lots of mosquitoes.”
For some reason, people are led to believe that when they say “I do” they’re making that declaration to a static human who will forever have the same values and assumptions present on the wedding day. Nothing could be more dangerous.
Perhaps more marriages wouldn’t end so badly – or wouldn’t begin in the first place – if we acknowledged the obvious: that our human brains and emotions are subject to an array of external forces beyond our control. To live a full life, there will be times when convictions and behaviors and ideas will change. And if we promise to love a person and not a belief, another human being instead of that human’s stance on an issue, then maybe we can make this work and be really happy together.
Realizing that you’ll be married to more than one person may be the very thing that keeps you married to only one person.