I grew up in the Protestant church, so I heard a lot of messages about marriage from an early age. Whether subliminal or direct, my family members, friends, and leaders taught me lots of things about what a healthy marriage should look like and how I should prepare myself to be in one.
I don’t really subscribe to most of the things I was taught about marriage anymore. There are many reasons for this and I won’t get into it all right now. But the main message I want to discuss today is the idea that I should be preparing myself for the person I would marry.
I heard it phrased many different ways. At one faith-based conference, a pastor told me I needed to “become the Queen your King is looking for, or he may pass you by.” A few other times I was told to “become the person who the person you’re looking for is looking for.”
Let’s set aside all the problematic language here for a second (namely the heterocentric word choice happening in that first phrase) and narrow in on what these messages are truly communicating:
- I am supposed to get married.
- I need to “prepare myself,” or “make myself a better person,” or “become a different thing than the person I am now” for the sake of attracting my future partner.
Today I am able to see right through these phrases for the issues inherent in them. But back when I was a little girl hearing them for the first or second time, I really internalized the idea that I needed to become a better version of me for my significant other.
So I did what many young Christian girls do, and what I was told would be a helpful exercise in determining what kind of mate I was interested in seeking: I made a list of attributes I wanted to find in a future spouse.
There were all kinds of things on the list, and to be honest I don’t remember them all now. But what I do remember is envisioning a person who would be so incredibly compassionate to those around him that he would offer up anything for their wellbeing – someone entirely selfless and giving. That was the main thing I wanted in a partner.
A few nights after I made the list, I was laying in bed thinking about what kind of girl I would have to become to attract someone so kind. What sort of attributes should I take on to make him like me? In what ways should I alter my current state of being in order to be with him?
And all of a sudden it hit me like a cool glass of water on the back of my throat: I didn’t even really want a spouse who was compassionate and kind.
I wanted to be compassionate and kind.
I wasn’t particularly interested in any specific qualities in a husband or boyfriend, and I wasn’t too keen on thinking so much about them either. I didn’t want to focus on catching a man, and I certainly didn’t want to focus on how I should change myself to attract him.
I wanted to focus on changing myself for me. I wanted to set my sight on becoming a better version of myself because it’s what I wanted. Not what a significant other would want, but what I would desire to see in myself. (If you’re a Christian or adhere to another religion, you may find it more pertinent to say you want to become a better version for the God you serve, not for a future spouse.)
So I stopped trying to become the person who the person I was looking for was looking for. Instead I started to become a better model of the girl I already was because I wanted to.
So, folks. The message here is this: there’s no need to focus on your future spouse or life partner. There’s no need to alter who you are for anybody else except for you.
At the end of the day, do you want someone to like you because they enjoy the person you’ve molded yourself into in order to attract them? Or do you want to be so entirely content with the person you’ve become and happy at the hard work you put into changing yourself for the better that you’re thrilled with your life regardless of whether you have a romantic partner?
Focus on you. Be the person of your dreams.
What about you? Have you ever suddenly realized that something you’d been taught was wrong? What happened?
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