Part three in our installment of How Not to Get Chumped Again is — reconsider arranged marriage. Oh, okay, not really. Seriously, if my mother had picked out my mate, I’d be some broodmare to a Ford Motor Co. executive living within a five-mile radius of all her living relatives in Detroit. In other words — she would’ve chosen a lot better than I did.
Fact is, I had nothing in common with my first two husbands. Zippy. Sure they liked me, I liked them. But in terms of anything a proper yenta would consider marriageable? No, it was not a match. First one never finished college. He was 10 years older than me, his parents were World War II vets (meaning, the same age as my grandparents). He didn’t have a passport. He’d hardly traveled. He didn’t read. He liked a lot of crap I did not like — old cars, junk yards, computers, fast food. And he didn’t talk much. But what the hell, I was in my early twenties and I was an idiot. The fact that he was NOTHING LIKE MY FAMILY seemed like a plus. I still didn’t know who I was, and so I was defining myself against what I knew. He had garbage strewn around the yard and a Buick door on the dining room table? How refreshing! My family were such uptight, house proud, clean freaks my mother told stories about scrubbing stairs every week as a child, and my grandmother would counter — oh that’s nothing, my mother use to wash the WALLS each day. Everyone maniacally gardened. You couldn’t sit comfortably on the upholstered furniture. My grandmother redecorated houses (she had more than one), the way other people buy a new outfit. It was all very intimidating. How so? The first words every toddler in my family hears are — “Mommy’s pretty — DON’T TOUCH!”
So yeah, I married a hoarder.
Second husband? Oh, I thought I was doing better. He traveled. He had three advanced degrees. He claimed he read and liked the music I liked, and the art I liked (hey, he’d say anything turns out). But the things he truly liked were — fucking around, riding motorcycles, and shooting things with guns. His father was a coal miner (which I thought was heroic). His parents didn’t even have middle school educations. And while his family were lovely people (I feel sorry they got saddled with him), they rarely left western Pennsylvania. His mother, each time she met me, would always ask “So, what are your people?” And she never got the answer she wanted (Polish Catholic). Instead I’d give her a confused look and answer “Midwesterners? WASPs? Caucasians?” I was an alien to her. I’d never had a wedding in a fire hall. No one in my family had ever climbed down a mine shaft to earn a living. I didn’t go to Mass. She was a very nice woman (with a dreadful son), but I should’ve taken the clue — You’re not one of us.
So what’s the lesson here?
3. Find someone you have a lot in COMMON with. Someone who’s one of your tribe. Yeah, your mother was right. Now, I’m not saying someone from your background doesn’t have the ability to be a total douchebag. I’m talking not just about the superficial similarities (which I’ve discovered are surprisingly important!), but the shared values. Find someone who is a lot like you. IMO opposites do not attract — similar people attract. Chumps? Find a fellow chump. (And let the cheaters pair off with each other…)
My husband and I have quite surprisingly similar backgrounds. Our parents are very much alike. They’re all from the Midwest. Our fathers are both uber-nerds (his dad is a physicist, my dad was an engineer). Our mothers had health care careers (dietician, nurse). They value education and went to good schools. They have work ethics. They’re house proud. They’re religious. They’ve both been married for decades to their college sweetheart. They raised their kids similarly — very suck up and deal, be independent, don’t whine. Everyone in our families are verbal gerbils — we talk, we emote, we debate.
Sure, there are some differences, but the big picture, background stuff — the family values (sorry, to use a vomit-inducing right wing phrase), are there.
As basic, common sense as this sounds — I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be with someone who likes to do the same sorts of things I like to do — reading, traveling, gardening, listening to roots music. We both suffered in our former marriages with people who thought we were dorks, who didn’t get us, who left us alone to our activities (while they fucked around). It’s a lot easier to go through life with someone who takes an interest, because heck, they already share that interest. It’s not… okay [huff! sigh] I’ll let you drag me off to antique rose show — but you OWE me!
I’m not saying you have to be in lockstep with everything your partner might like (I can’t warm to Willie Nelson, I’m sorry). Just find someone who is not only open to your interests, but shares them. Who is a lot like you. If you’re a dork, find a dork. If you’re an introverted Catholic who enjoys Jesuit retreat centers, find a former nun. If you like sci-fi, apparently there is a Star Trek dating service.
If you’ve survived infidelity, you sure know yourself a lot better than you did before. It’s valuable knowledge. Don’t reject who you are or what your values are — go find someone who gets you, and values those things. They are out there, just waiting for you to say “OMG, you like farming ephemera and polka music too? Where have you been all my life?”