You’re just 21 and about to graduate from college. You haven’t dated much, and you’re beginning to really wonder if you’ll ever get married. You don’t know it, but you’ll walk down the aisle in four years and begin life together with the best man you’ve ever known — a man who doesn’t look much like what you imagine and fits few of the superficial criteria on that list in your head.
It’s a good thing you don’t know, because four years right now seems like a very long time. But those years, and the ones that follow, will pass only too quickly, I promise.
Between now and the altar, there are hard times and laughter and loneliness and many bad choices. To ease the way, I wish I could give you a little loving advice.
Rethink your concept of the ideal man for you. You believe you need someone who is as ambitious and driven as you are, someone who will compete with your intellect. You want the smartest guy in the room, the slightly intimidating, self-assured one who catches everyone’s attention. But a truly humble man is a find far more rare. And in marriage, a complement is better than a competitor.
Forget the flashy personality. The man who will care for your heart is strong, but gentle. He’s soft-spoken and easy to overlook, but unafraid to speak the truth. You’ll draw him out, and he will calm your driven energy and teach you to trust. Happiness in love, it turns out, is less about scintillating wit and more about kindness and being able to forgive each other again and again.
When you struggle to find the man you believe you need, don’t let frustration cause you to lower your standards. Men who disregard your boundaries are not worth your time. Nor are men who only pretend to listen when you talk. When the man who will someday be your future husband hurts your feelings by pointing out that the guy you’re dating at the moment is kind of a jerk, listen to him — he’s right.
You’ll get to know that plainspoken man as a friend across a year of game nights and drives on the beach. You won’t think much of him at first because of his quiet manner and country way of speaking. But one night, he’ll catch your eye in the parking lot of a Bowl-a-Rama, and everything will change.
Single self, falling in love is not the lightning strike of romance you imagine. It can be something far more sweet and subtle. Sometimes, you find love when you learn to see a close friend in a new way.
Love this way can be awkward. You won’t always know what to say, and he’ll struggle to sweep you off your feet at first. But when you doubt yourself, rely on the wisdom of trusted friends. Relationships are hard, and fairy tale romance is often more flash than substance.
I wish I could spare you the pain of some of the bad the choices you make. I wish I could tell you to be content and enjoy the present. But life can only be lived one way, one day at a time.
So take heart, single self. Despite your missteps and impatience, love will find you. And four years is not such a long time to wait.
Photography Credit: Flickr/Guian Bolisay