Getting Married Despite the “What Ifs?”

When I was in high school, I couldn’t buy a pair of shoes until I looked at every single shoe in every single store that sold shoes in the entire mall.

Why?

I was crazed by the thought that I would find a better pair of shoes at another store, or the same pair of shoes at a better price someplace else.

This, of course, made me a terrible shoe shopping partner as I would be horrified if one of my friends walked in a shoe store and bought the first pair of shoes she liked. “Don’t you want to look in any other stores?” I’d demand. She would shake her head and reply “Nope, I’m getting these.” To which I’d ask incredulously “What if you see that shoe somewhere else for cheaper?” She’d casually answer, “I’ll live. Besides, what if I don’t and these shoes are gone?” I would eventually relent and allow her to spend her own money on what ever she wanted, but I would secretly think she was nuts.

Older and wiser, I realize that saving a few bucks is not worth walking around the mall for an entire day, nor driving all over the city trying to find a better deal. I also realize how much this “What if I find something better?” mentality permeates so many other areas in life and keeps too many of us from the love that we want. It almost kept me from the marriage that I desired.

I recently got married and a friend, who is considering marriage himself, told me his biggest reservation against asking his girlfriend to marry him is the question: “What if we don’t work out?”

None of us likes failure. No one likes the idea of setting out to do something, telling the whole world what it is you’re going to do, planning to be doing that thing, and then failing for the whole world to see. It’s embarrassing! And just the thought of suffering that kind of failure and loss can be paralyzing.

Therefore, no one, at least no one who has gotten married in the current “The Divorce Rate is FIFTY PERCENT!” generation, can honestly say that he or she didn’t seriously considered the many, many “what ifs” before taking the plunge. “What if it doesn’t work out?” “What if we grow apart?” “What if he meets someone else?” “What if I meet someone else?” “What if she gets fat?” “What if our relationship stops being fun?” “What if our careers take us in different geographical locations?” “What if we can’t have kids?” “What if one of us gets diagnosed with a terminal illness?” “What if?, What if?, What if?”

I know I did. …and yet I still went through with it. Not because I live in a fantasy world where I think that I am invincible to the destructive things that have befallen so many married couples, but because I know I can’t live like that. I can’t live in a world where the chance of something bad happening keeps me from doing something I really want to do.

Why not?

Because there is always, always the chance that something bad will happen. Heck, every day there is the chance that you will walk out of your front door and be smashed to pieces by a runaway school bus. There is the chance that the “pink slime” you’ve been consuming disguised as McDonalds hamburgers and McNuggets will severely poison you. There is the chance that the kid who just walked into the gas station behind you is going to hold the place hostage. There is the chance that the cruise ship you just got on will sink and you all will be abandoned by the captain. The possibilities of something bad happening are absolutely limitless!

You can diminish the likelihood that something bad will happen, but that chance will never completely go away.

Besides, deciding to marry someone, isn’t deciding there are no “what ifs” anyway. It’s deciding that “if the ‘What If This Happened’ becomes the ‘This Is What Happened’ then I’m not going to bail on the marriage”. That, after all, is what I believe marriage to be. Not just a commitment that I will remain married to this person as long as nothing changes, but a commitment that I will remain married to this person no matter what is different about him or myself.

That’s the hard part, it’s the downright scary part, but it is the extremely necessary part: the commitment to be dedicated to your marriage, day in and day out. The commitment that, no matter what other options present themselves, divorce will not be one of them. Sure, it’s a radical idea and not a commitment you’d make to the average Bozo you meet, but it places you in a state of mind that is beyond the paralyzing “What ifs”.

It answers the question: “What if it doesn’t work out” with a refreshingly confident, “It will.”

One thought on “Getting Married Despite the “What Ifs?”

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