Heard this one? Don’t marry the person you can live with. Marry the person you can’t live without.
Brainyquote.com credits Dr. James C. Dobson as saying that, and honestly, I didn’t know it was him until I looked it up right this second. I can only imagine, given the readers that I actually know about, that about half of you are nodding your heads comfortably at the mention of this man’s name, and the other half are tempted to close out this screen. I’m not going to tell you which half I’m in . . . at least, not today. But I am going to tell you what I think about this quote, whether Dobson originated it or not.
I want to say I first heard it, or something like it, as early as junior high, though I can’t for the life of me remember the context (I picture myself sitting in the junior high science room at the time, but we didn’t have much in the way of sex ed at my little Christian school in the 80’s, and a quote like that might have summed up most of it, so . . . I might just be making this whole thing up. Anyway, I know I heard it when I got to college, because I had a friend who used to like to quote it a lot.
The first time I heard it, whenever that was, I thought it sounded like a good matrix, but by the time my College Friend started repeating it, it had acquired a certain feeling for me of not-quite-right. As it happened, my friend ended up quoting it sort of in desperation at two different times in her life when she was engaged to two different guys, neither of whom was right for her but without whom she felt, respectively, she could not live. Now she’s happily married with children, but not to either of the guys she had been engaged to previously, and also without the attendant drama in the relationship, I believe. Then I myself experienced the feeling.
First of all, I’d like to point out that it’s really not that difficult a feeling to drum up. Any high schooler with hormones and a little bit of insecurity can develop a full-blown crush on another one and feel–to the point of ulcers–that they can’t live without them, and it’s possible to go pretty far into adulthood feeling that way about certain people, too. I certainly did. That kind of desperate feeling that life was going to be devoid of all meaning and happiness unless I could be forever with the one I was obsessed with, was something I had experienced over and over again, but it came to a head in my mid-30’s, of all things, when a man gave me the benefit of the doubt and decided to date me regardless of my insecurities and our differences.
I really did love him, regardless of the codependence, and maybe under other circumstances (and other belief systems) we could have, in fact, forged a real partnership and marriage, but under the ones we had, such an alliance would ultimately probably have been painful and disastrous . . . in part because I felt I couldn’t live without him. I think this was true of my College Friend’s ended-engagements, too. Now whenever I hear that quote, I want to say to the person blissfully quoting it, “There’s a psychological label for that. It’s called ‘codependent.'”
The other day I watched a movie with Girl-Talk Friend, and it displayed all sorts of glaring relational no-nos (kind of like Mama Mia!), but at the end when the estranged young couple are about to make up, the young man predicts that his erstwhile fiancee is going to tell him she can’t live without him. It’s not an unreasonable assumption–she has just spent the entire movie acting very insecure and making really stupid decisions. But:
“No,” she says. “I’ve realised I can live without you. I just don’t want to.”
Maybe it’s just the head-space I’m in these days, but if that head-space means that I’ve got a little more confidence to go through this life without basing my worth on what other people–particularly a “significant other”–think of me, well, I’d rather be here than where I’ve been before. I’d rather know I am complete in Christ and able to go through life with Him and Him alone if I have to. I think I have more to offer that way.
It’s not that I WANT to go through the rest of my life single. You should be able to tell that from all the talk around here lately. But I think if I were *capable* of doing so, I’ll also be a lot more capable of a successful marriage.