Ponder that question for a minute.
Sometimes it helps to ask the question in its opposite form to get the mind thinking in different ways: How do you know if you married the wrong person?
Or, to go even deeper, try a similar question: When you’re shopping for a car, how do you know if the car you choose is the right one?
You study it out, consider the options, trade-offs, pros, and cons, and then you make a choice.
With a car, in making that choice to buy it, you have the commitment to take care of it—to put fuel in, check its battery fluid, change the oil regularly, etc. Relationships with people need similar services. When we choose a spouse, do we maintain and take care of our spouse, as was intended in the original decision to marry them?
It Must Be Right
Many years ago, my older brother was helping someone re-shingle a house. As the young men worked on the project, placing shingles on the different corners and angles, there were times when they’d go back and forth, questioning, “Uh, did I do this right?” They’d debate the best way to handle the corners, valleys, and edges. They would come to an agreement, and then they would say, “Okay, let’s do it.” Then they would nail that shingle on. Finally, they’d say, “Well, it must be right, because it’s nailed.” And so, having made the decision and going forward, once they nailed a shingle on the roof, their attitude was, “It must be right, because it’s nailed.”
In a similar, funny way—it’s a strange story, I know—but in a similar way, once we make the decision and commitment to marry someone, then from then on, it’s about having the perspective that it’s the right person, because that’s the person you married and it’s more about the commitment.
Now, it’s easier to say than do. The reality is that we all have doubts after we make commitments. It’s human nature. That’s why stores have so many return policies. We feel like we get pressured into doing something.
True, marriage is a big commitment, preceded with lots of planning and a big ceremony. But after that, all that’s left is the constant commitment to say, “I made my choice, and I’m going to make the choice correct.”
As society goes, there’s one extreme that believes you should stay in that commitment regardless of how bad it is, and there’s another extreme that believes you should be able to change your decision on a whim if you feel like it. So we go from one extreme to the other, but neither of these are really correct.
We want to find the balance. There are times where we need to realize that we may have married the wrong person—and the wrong person is someone who is not staying committed in the relationship. If they’re having an affair or being abusive, those are things to consider.
What about Affairs?
Each partner should be aware that a marriage is conducted by their actions. If they have chosen to leave the marriage, then they have the choice to come back and repair the marriage and make it work. Otherwise, they’ll be cut loose.
Half of the couples that come in to see me have had an affair. Of those who have chosen to let go of that mistake and repair the damage that it caused (which takes time, effort, commitment, and focus), those couples created a better relationship than they even had before the affair. That’s because there’s a lot of poor thinking and behavior that go into allowing that decision to even happen in the first place. By recognizing they’ve done badly and being willing to make those corrections, those couples create a great relationship.
What about Abuse?
In the case of abuse, it can be good to have separation until that abuse can be resolved and worked on. If the abuse is eliminated out of the relationship, then it’s possible to build a healthy relationship and come back together. But with abuse, it’s impossible to have a loving, committed relationship.
The Good and Bad of Social Chemistry
It’s human nature that when we meet someone, we have chemistry with them, and that’s a wonderful thing. My understanding is that God made us that way so that we would get together. Otherwise, a lot of men would be living in the woods as hermits.
Now, the unfortunate thing about this is that when those feelings and those passions are strong, that same chemistry causes us to have a distorted perspective. It takes the strengths that we see and makes them appear greater than they are. And it takes the weaknesses that we observe and makes them appear smaller than they are. The grass seems greener on the other side.
That’s the challenge: to see the person as they really are and to learn to love them as they are, because really we marry a fantasy.
As we get to know who they really are, the quality of the relationship becomes a matter of that commitment of falling in love with them, working to love and serve them over and over again. That’s how you make the choice that you made the right choice.
So how do you know if you married the right person? It’s by knowing that you are being the right person for them. We need to understand the balance of how to give and receive service and support, and fulfilling that balance makes them the right one.
How Relationships Grow
If you want to live with a cactus, give your spouse love only once in a while. Cacti grow very thick skin because they have to retain the little bit of water they do get in order to survive the heat and the scorching desert sun. The longer it has to go without rainfall, the bigger the thorns and spikes get.
But consider flowers. If you water them every day, or every second or third day—or some flowers even just once a week—then you’re going to have a wonderful flower.
If we “water” the relationship on a consistent, persistent, regular basis, then we’re going to have a beautiful, healthy, loving relationship. Take that into account when considering who is the right person in a marriage.
Rodney Limb has always enjoyed listening to people and helping them work out problems and struggles. As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Nationally Licensed Hypnotherapist for over 20 years, he has helped hundreds of couples create a happy and thriving marriage out of disaster. He also provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD, and overcoming various behavioral addictions.
A Deeper Look into Spiritual Truths
“I do not believe in predestined love. … You must do the choosing, rather than to seek for some one-and-only so-called soul mate, chosen for you by someone else.” — Boyd K. Packer
God gives us agency. Marriage would lose some of its magic if there were a one-and-only that we didn’t get to choose. And imagine if you messed up your one shot! Lucky for us, God wants us to choose, we can choose someone we love, and we get to make our choice work.