This piece was written by my dear friend Greg not long before he left this world. It contains many wonderful pearls of wisdom that I had to learn the hard way. It’s a treasure and a legacy he has left behind. May it save you the trouble!
Finding “The Right One” by Greg Shaver
The following comes out of much reflection. My recent reflection started when a single woman friend of mine was having some “dating relationship” problems and said, “You and Linda have been married a long time. I see that you two are happy, what is your secret?” Soon after my son was in position to use some good advice when he was trying too evaluate if he should go to the next level in his search for a life partner – so I did some more reflection and further writing.
Unfortunately, my folks did not help me much with this kind of advice. My dad never once told me what to look for in a wife. My mom only shared one thing with me: “When you meet the right person, you will ‘just know’.” I love my Mom very much, but part of the problem for me was the one and only piece of advice she gave me was the very reason I dated Linda for three years before marrying her – because I never did “just know.”
I’m going share with you a few things that I wish someone had shared with me “back in the day.” What I’d tell myself if I could go back in a time machine and have a heart-to-heart talk with the younger me. These are things that I’ve had a chance to discover over the past few decades – whether I learned through observation, experience, or reading it from a source I trust and rely on. Unfortunately for me, much of this I learned long after I could put it to use, but not too late to pass it on to someone who needs to hear it now.
The good news is there is more than one “right person” for you in this world. But the bad news is there are many more wrong people.
The common wisdom when I was dating was to search for the “one right person,” as if when they were made, they had a name stamped on their butt. All I had to do was look at enough butts until I found the one with my name on it.
I’ve known too many people that were happily married more than once for this to be strictly true. After their first “perfect” mate dies, they spend some time alone before meeting that second “perfect” person.
There is more than one human with whom you can be happy; more than one man/woman with whom you could spend the rest of your life with and be happy yet challenged, relaxed yet energized in so doing. There are also potential partners who would make your life miserable. You can ratchet down your tension a little bit by knowing you don’t have to find “perfection” in a mate. You do not need to find “the” one – more like “a” one.
The big question is in knowing how to tell the difference between someone who could become a life partner, and someone who would not – let me give you a few things to look for.
Find a man who loves (loved) his mom, or conversely, a woman who loves (loved) her dad
This is maybe one of the most important things I can share. If your future mate and his or her opposite sexed parent did not get along, you will inherit every problem they ever had in their opposite parent relationship.
Some problems in relationships are minor some are not. If she did not (does not) respect her dad, she will not respect you. If he did not (does not) love his mom, he will not love you. If he yelled at his mom when he communicated with her, then be prepared to need ear plugs. If she never felt her father paid her enough attention/affection, she will demand that missing attention /affection from you – maybe more than you can reasonably expect to deliver. I think you get the idea.
Relationships can be healed. I’ve seen it. It usually involves the grace of God. However, getting along with a mate is tough enough in its own right than to have to work your way through someone else’s preexisting problem. Hint to you, if you don’t get along with your opposite sex parent, start working on that relationship now if you can. Your future spouse will appreciate it. If your parent has passed away, then work through any needed forgiveness issues you have and forgive them posthumously. Remember, you only need to forgive if they did something wrong. Acknowledging you were indeed wronged is part of the forgiveness processes – and it usually is a processes. Also remember that if they were guilty, your lack of forgiveness only punishes you, not them.
Doors should marry Doors, Walls should marry Walls – mixed marriages are lots of work and often that work is painful and or unsuccessful
If you don’t know about the “door/wall” thing it is high time you learn. It comes out of the Song of Solomon. A “Door” is someone who is open sexually. They know about sex, are interested in sex, enjoy sex. A “door” will quickly pick up on innuendos that can sail right over the top of a “wall’s” head. A door can often pick up on someone’s “less than straight” sexual orientation, even as a wall will wonder “how can you possibly know?” A true door really can’t imagine life without sex, and a true wall can have a good day, even a great day, and never once even think about sex.
A “Wall” is not all that aware of things sexual. They don’t look for it, they could take it or leave it, and it is certainly not a central or essential part of their life.
Happy is the man and woman who knows which they are, and finds a like mate. Frustrated is the man or woman who marries a partner with the opposite sexual nature. Pretty basic but very important. And don’t assume all men are doors and all women are walls – big mistake.
If you are in a “mixed nature” relationship, my advice to the wall in that relationship is to do what you can to accommodate your door mate – even if it does not thrill you or make sense – or be prepared for your mate to seek others to scratch that itch.
Know your opposite’s “resting state” and its compatibility with your own.
Isaac Newton stated that the nature of an object is to be at rest until acted upon by another force. We all seek a resting state, but not all rest states are the identical. It is good if your resting state is the same, or only marginally different, than your mate’s.
When the day is done, when no chores are screaming at you to be completed, when you can let your hair down – who are you? Are you content or restless? Are you in perpetual search for another project to start working on or are you able to just set for awhile? Are you social when you rest or do you lean more toward being the recluse? Do you laugh or cry? Do you want it quiet, or do you need noise to rest? Are you happy about finishing your work or are you depressed. Do you look for someone to give energy too, or take energy from? It is important to know and be aware of your own resting state. It is also important for you to know and be aware of your future husband’s (wife’s) resting state. If your resting state is the polar opposite of your perspective mate, know that in this life, you will get little rest if you are together. Sad, but unavoidably true. You will want to sit and read a book, and your mate will want to go out on the town; each puzzled by the other’s idea of rest.
The good news is, there are a lot of people who share your resting state or one close enough to yours to allow you both to rest within each other’s company.
Remember, that the majority of time the average wife and husband spend together (given that at least one partner works outside the home) is time spent in this state.
Know your core personality and that of your partner
If you squeeze an orange, what comes out? Orange juice, right? If you squeeze a lemon, what comes out? Lemon juice, right? (“Duh, but what’s my point!?”)
When you put something, under pressure, what comes oozing out is what was already inside. Its essence or core is revealed. The same is true for people.
It is during the pressure of stressful situations that we get a good glimpse of a person’s true character and personality. Do they buck up and rise to meet the pressure? Do they try to put others in the situation with them at ease, (with humor or encouragement, or something else) or do they lash out or put others down to help ease their own tension? Do they meet stress with hopeful optimism, or hopeless depression? Do they take responsibility for being in a stressful situation (perhaps one of their own making), or do they seek to blame others (or “fate”) for their predicament? For example: how do you and your partner react when you are running late for an important appointment? The same? Opposite?
I won’t continue to beat this drum, but will tell you that part of that dating process is to be with a prospective mate long enough to share some stressful situations. In doing so, you get a very good, and un-masked, look at their core.
Lord help you if your prospective partner LIKES stress, and seeks to create it around him or herself. These people exist, but they need to find like-minded partners.
Another way to see someone’s core is when they are drunk – not falling down passing out drunk, but just enough to drink for their inhibitions to melt away. I used to tell people that a person becomes, after drinking, who they will become when they are old, as when you age, your inhibitions melt away. Brace yourself for what you may see.
And while you are looking at your prospective mate under stress, don’t forget to look at how YOU react. Maybe you are that person that no one else wants to be around when stressed. Perhaps you need to make some adjustments close to home.
Can your prospective mate put you at the top of their list?
I recently shared with a friend that one of the main reasons for the “dating processes” was to determine if you can treat your mate as your complete equal. And for you to discover if your mate is ready to treat you as his or her complete equal in all things. But further than that, you both need to be able to put your future mate ahead of everyone else in your lives. (Parents, children, and best friends included!)
This is a tough standard: “Equal to self, ahead of all others.” Though this is a tough test, it is one that must be passed before you can enter into a quality, long lasting, marriage.
This is straight out of the bible, and an unshakeable truth. We are called to treat our mate as if we were treating ourselves. Give them the same care and thoughtfulness as we do for ourselves. Again, this is tough and very lofty test.
The “equal treatment” part is in all things and at all times – neither to be worshiped as master, nor treated as slave.
Just as important is treating our mates better, ahead of, with more priority than, everyone else in our lives – no matter how much we might love that third person, no matter how needy that third person might be, no matter how important that third person is or how much we might want to impress that third person. Our mate always comes first – and needs to know it.
This is a process of discovery. You would not expect it to happen on date one. But after months of dating, you should see a definite movement toward this goal. If this can’t be done by both people in the relationship, then either you are “wrong” for each other, or one or both of you is not ready for marriage. It is just that simple. The good news is, this is a learned behavior not one (like the resting state) that “just is.” We can decide to put our mate ahead of others.
Shared or compatible priorities and goals
You will spend a lot of your life’s energy attaining goals and working on your priorities. A married life is a life of sharing – including your goals. If they lie in opposite directions, as you walk toward your goal, you will be walking away from your mate as they walk toward their’s. If you can walk toward the same goal, or in compatibility walk with each other toward each other’s goals, you will not just stay close but become closer.
If the only goal you share with your spouse is raising your kids, guess what happens to the marriage when the kids are grown and gone?
And this one last piece of advice:
You can change your mind, you can even change some habits, but only God can change your core.
When it comes to goals, you can change them. When it comes to putting your husband or wife equal with you and ahead of all others, it is a decision you can make. (And should make, and usually will need to keep making your whole life.)
But your personality IS your personality. Your rest state IS your rest state. Your core IS your core. Your Door/Wall nature IS your Door/Wall nature. You really can’t change these things. They just ARE. Even your relationship with your opposite gendered parent is difficult, though not impossible, to change.
The same is true about your perspective mate. What can be changed they can “decide” to change (or not); the rest is simply not changeable – at least not by human means. It is wise to know which is which, and to decide on a mate who’s “unchangeable” parts mesh nicely with your own unchangeable bits.
However, I have seen people changed by God. I’ve known and witnessed radical “core being” changes take place in peoples’ lives when God was invited in to make that change. In my opinion, that is one of His on-going miracles in the world today.
Thankfully, He has worked changes in me to make me more compatible with my wife and life partner.
If you end up in a marriage and one of the unchangeable parts of your nature is not compatible with that of your spouse, don’t walk, but run to God and ask His help in changing you. I’ve seen it happen in other’s lives to the glory of God and to the lasting peace of the marriage. Without His help in these areas there is no hope of change.
And one last anecdote on change: “Men get married to women with the hope they never change, while women get married to men with the hope they can change them. They are usually both in for a life of disappointment.”
Hope this is helpful, Greg