One of my favorite songwriters is David Wilcox. He’s a great singer/songwriter and an amazing musician, but one of the things I appreciate about him the most is the way he introduces his songs when you see him perform live. Not only do you get the song, but you also get a funny, poignant, and often deep insight into his music. On his best album (in my opinion), Live Songs and Stories, he introduces a song this way:

“Like, for example, bad directions. I’m trying to find my way to some club and someone will have told me, “Oh, well you just drive straight on such and such and you’ll see, you know (something ridiculous) the huge blue poodle – you can’t miss it.” And I’m thinking to myself, “Now, I’ve been driving now and driving and driving . . . I only have one landmark to go by – what if I missed it?” (And they said that I can’t miss it – which is the kiss of death) “So what if I’m driving into oblivion and I’ll just drive for the rest of my life?”

Stuff like that bugs me because it’s just too much like life. Like when you’re a kid and you ask someone, “How do you know when it’s ‘true love?'” What do they always say? “Oh, you’ll know. You’ll know.” Well, that’s like saying, “you can’t miss it” – it’s the kiss of death! You can just imagine, you’re 96 years old sayin, “No, I’m holding out for the big blue poodle – they said it was on the road here . . . I can’t miss it.”

As much as older, married people tell us that we’ll “just know” when we’ve found “the one” – it just doesn’t satisfy our longing for certainty about a “until death do us part” kind of decision. While making this decision isn’t the easiest one in the world, it also doesn’t have to be the most difficult or the most subjective.

The subjectivity of the decision (the reality that there’s no way to actually know if you’re making the right decision) is what makes the decision so difficult. We have come up with lots of ways to make the decision less subjective thinking that the more objective we are the more apparent the decision will become. The more our reasons make sense, the easier the decision. You know what I mean . . .

  • The Pro’s vs. Con’s Reasoning:  All the reasons you think he’s awesome or why he isn’t all that great and see which column wins.
  • The Smokin-Hott Reasoning:  Oh, wait…no one uses this one.
  • The Reality-TV-Dating-Show Reasoning:  When I’m around her I feel amazing! She always makes me feel this way!! I can’t imagine not being with her!!!
  • The As-Good-as-it-Gets Reasoning:  Sure he has his issues, but at my age I think he’s as good as I’m going to get. Why look any further?
  • The Compatibility Reasoning: She and I just have so much in common! We’re the perfect couple because we just click so well!
  • The Jerry Meguire Reasoning: Anyone that makes us feel more “complete” has to be the right one for us, right?
  • The I-Made-A-List-When-I-Was-12-And-You-Meet-Every-Single-Quality Reasoning: The Holy Grail of reasons.

While these methods of reasoning may help us think soberly about the decision in front of us, the reality is that they will never get us to a place of certainty. In fact, each of these lines of reasoning have a good chance of setting someone up for a disappointing marriage or even divorce. Why?

  • Because each of them are based on the performance of the other person.
  • Because each of them are based on the performance of the other person up until now.
  • Because each of them assume that the person’s performance now will be exactly the same 20 years in the future.
  • Because you know that to whatever degree you have met the other person’s qualifications, you cannot guarantee your behavior 20 years from now either.

As I mentioned in chapter 4.1, love is not possible in a dating relationship because each person is in the relationship for themselves. Marriage is where that kind of behavior ends, though. The decision to be married is essentially the decision to let go of all of your wants, desires, expectations and needs. It’s a decision that releases the person you want to marry from meeting all of those wants, desires, expectations, and needs.

What reason is left for marrying someone then?

A promise.

You know someone is “the one” when you are ready to promise to love them for the rest of your life in spite of AND together with their performance in the relationship.

When my wife talks to young women about how they should be thinking about the man they want to marry, she encourages them to write out the vows (promises) they would make to the men they would want to marry. Instead of creating an imaginary guy and trying to go out and find him, the young women have to consider what they need to vow in a marriage & go out and find someone they would be willing to make those vows to.

Now you see why I married her, huh?

You know someone is the one when you are willing to let all of your wants, desires, expectations, needs, and all the things you feel like you deserve, die a horrible death for the benefit of the other person – even when they don’t return the same kind of love to you.

When my wife and I got married, we both decided to put this promise in our wedding vows:  “I will not divorce you.”

What I meant when I made that promise to her was this: “I promise to love you even if I discover you have been unfaithful to me.” I was willing to make that promise to her before the marriage ever began. Why? Not because I had carefully calculated the probabilities and not because I had a gut feeling that she wouldn’t. I made the promise because I wanted to tell her that I will love her not for what she does, but for who she is.

I decided she would be ‘the one’ for me so that she could have the thing that she (and every human being) desires the most:  a love that will not let her go. I promised to give her that . . . even if it costs me everything.

[read on to chapter 4.3]