Recently, my best friend suggested that I read Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed, the follow-up to her wildly successful Eat, Pray, Love. As an engaged girl who has dated the same guy for almost 8 years, I have found some excellent advice about marriage from reading Committed. I must say, reading this book has not only taught me about the history of marriage, but it has made me really consider the importance of marriage before I say "I do."
Gilbert recounts a conversation she had with her fiance (at the time), Felipe. Felipe says, "It's the same with relationships, I think. People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other's personalities. Who wouldn't? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that's not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner's faults honestly and say, 'I can work around that. I can make something out of that.' Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it's always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you" (Gilbert 130).
After digesting that thought for a few moments, I started to think about my own relationship. Let me just begin by saying that my fiance is a pretty amazing man. For some reason, he loves me unconditionally, which either makes him a saint or a glutton for punishment. We are high school sweethearts in a non-traditional sense, in my opinion. Most people assumed that we would be the first couple married out of high school, but surprise (!), we will be one of the last. Let me regress for a moment here. Mr. Right and I met when I was only 15. He was 16, almost 17. After a dramatic year of dating, breaking up, and getting back together, we got back together when I was a junior in high school and have not broken up since (I'm now 2 years out of college). While I knew that I loved this man and I wanted to marry him - someday - I also knew that I wanted more out of life, and apparently, he felt the same way. Since high school, we have both done everything that we have wanted to do to further our different educational pursuits. We have taken our time, giving ourselves time and space to grow up, blazing our own paths in life.
People sometimes ask how Mr. Right and I have maintained such a "perfect" relationship. This comment brings me back to my connection with the above passage from Committed. Sure, it's easy to love another person at the beginning of a relationship (when BOTH people are still on their "good behavior"). It's easy to love your significant other when things are going well. However, I think of the famous Marilyn Monroe quotation where she says, "If you can't handle me at my worst, you sure don't deserve me at my best." The true test of a relationship is how both people respond to each other over the course of time, how they weather a variety of storms. Do they draw closer to each other during the tough times, or do they let the outside world tear them apart? No matter how people handle good or bad situations, no relationship is perfect. In the case of Mr. Right and me, we learned at a young age that communication is key. Instead of airing our dirty laundry, we talk about our frustrations - with each other. We have learned to give each other space when one of us starts getting on the other's nerves. It's the little things that you learn about another person that help you to stay committed.
To maintain a long, healthy, committed relationship, you have to learn to love the good, the bad and the ugly. Gilbert writes, "There is hardly a more gracious gift that we can offer somebody than to accept them fully, to love them almost despite themselves" (130). Isn't this the truth? Not a person on this earth can claim perfection in a relationship. We have all had our fair share of "ugly" moments where we have been less than kind or fair or respectful (or you keep filling in the blank here....) to our partner. Personally, I believe that Mr. Right has shown me enough mercy in my times of being utterly selfish and stupid that it's only fair that I do the same for him. Gilbert continues, "To be fully seen by somebody, then, and to be loved anyhow - this is a human offering that can border on the miraculous" (131). Amen, Gilbert! So what if Mr. Right is occasionally annoying? So what if he sometimes tells embarrassing stories to my friends? So what if he can't read my mind? He has fully seen me, and loves me anyway.
What better form of committment is there?