I remember the day I discovered that the guy I liked was eight years younger than me. For a few weeks, I’d been processing the fact that he was seven years younger, and thanks to a few stories from friends about similar age differences, I’d almost come to terms with it. Then I did the math again and discovered the awful truth: He was eight full years younger than I.
My heart sank. The feelings I experienced were grief. I mean, everything else about this guy seemed perfect. We both loved kids and had a passion for children’s ministry. We had experienced a similar upbringing. He was handsome and smart and funny (the triple threat). Everything seemed right … except for this “one thing.” And surely I couldn’t ever marry a guy who was that much younger.
I was recently talking to a friend who met a great guy at church. The two of them have compatible personalities and share many common interests. And their relationship is built on a quality friendship they’ve developed for more than a year. Still, there’s this “one thing” that’s not perfect — it’s not a deal-breaker but something that could present an issue as they move forward toward marriage. If that one thing weren’t there, my friend says, she would feel confident this was the guy for her.
As I’ve talked with more of my dating and married friends, they all identify that there was at least “one thing” that wasn’t ideal in the relationship; something that wasn’t a red flag, per se, but something that gave them pause as to if this relationship were “right.”
This has made me wonder about our obsession with the “one thing.” Distance, age difference, physical appearance, a person’s level of education or career, a health problem, a person’s family: There are many areas where our expectations for a life partner can shatter. And for some reason, when our list of expectations is challenged, it can be very unnerving.
The thing is, expectations never survive unchallenged — particularly when you move into marriage and do daily life with someone. Both of you are constantly changing and growing. Even if your entire list of expectations is met before the altar (which is unlikely), you will probably face some unexpected developments afterward. Maybe your spouse loses his or her job, develops a health issue, gains weight, experiences depression or decides to change careers.
Marriage is about committing to an individual — whatever may come — not a made-to-order checklist of desired attributes. I reminded my friend that the thing she finds unsettling about her boyfriend now may not even be something they would contend within marriage. On the flip side, something else may arise in their marriage that is more challenging than the “one thing” she’s concerned about now. (Read my article “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” for more thoughts on this topic.)
I’m thankful that I didn’t let my “one thing” hold me back from getting to know the great guy who has been my husband for the past three years. The age difference has not proven to be a negative in our relationship. If anything, it has brought together the dynamic combination of youthful enthusiasm and life experience and allowed us to be an effective couple for God’s glory. What I once considered to be less than ideal, I now see as the working out of God’s specific plan.
Have you experienced the “one thing” in your relationships? How did you come to terms with it … or not?
Copyright 2012 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.