Lessons from Abroad: How to Choose a Spouse
One of the best things about traveling is how much we can learn. One of the very first lessons I learned was how to choose a spouse. After barely arriving in the West Bank to work with Palestinian Christians in a small village, I was asked, “Is it important for you to be in love before you get married?” I admit, I was taken back since it seemed an obvious YES to me. After answering I got thinking, if they were asking that question maybe their answer isn’t what I assumed. It wasn’t. They said no.
You don’t have to be in love?!
I was intrigued. You don’t have to be in love? They explained that the younger generation is moving towards that but it isn’t the top of their list of criteria. Their marriages aren’t arranged – although parents do have a lot of input as it turns out, and may do some suggesting – ultimately each person decides for themselves who they’ll pick to be their lifelong partner.
This is an especially serious undertaking there, since there are virtually no divorces. In fact in the two years I’ve spent there, I never met anyone who was divorced!
Left brain vs right brain
They explained that what is most important to them is the person’s character. Are they a good person? What is their reputation? What is their family like? What do others think of this person? Do they see him/her as a good choice?
Wow, at first that felt very “left brain” decision making to me – the logical, rational side. In fact it seemed almost calculating and cold since in western society we focus on love, love, love. Do we feel passionate about that person? Does our heart flutter when they walk into the room? It’s really all about “right brain” decision making – the side that is more emotional and abstract.
After love then farther down our list are things like their family, their character, etc. but rarely do we ask others what they think of our choice. In fact I’ve had friends where I don’t think they’re making a good decision in a mate but I keep my mouth shut. They haven’t asked, and I can imagine a friendship faltering if I were to diss their man. The first time I was a bridesmaid I felt funny about it because inside, I questioned this guy’s character and didn’t think it would last. Sadly, after a couple of years of marriage and having one child, their marriage ended.
We obviously don’t have this whole choosing a spouse thing down at all. Even after being madly in love and pledging commitment forever, about half of marriages end in divorce. That’s tough, and hurtful, and difficult – especially when there are children involved.
Combining cultures for whole brain decisions
So then I got thinking, how about if we combined both cultures’ ways and made a whole brain decision? We can still feel love and passion and all those other wonderful emotions, but also be more rational about it all. Ask people what they think. Find out your chosen one’s reputation in various circles. Look at their family of origin. Now many have tough upbringings and it doesn’t mean that if they do the person is automatically a bad choice. What it does mean, however, is that you need to find out how that person has dealt with their roots and what they’ve learned. Also one needs to realize and accept that their family comes with the package so determine if you’re ready to embrace that.
It makes sense that with whole brain decision making – using both the logical left brain and emotional right brain – that our decisions will be better. By using our entire brains in making such an important choice of who we’ll spend the rest of our lives with, surely our chance for a “happy ever after” are much higher.
I’d love to hear what you think. How did you choose your mate? Has anyone ever asked what you think of their perspective spouse? Have you ever piped up and told someone if you think they should run the other way? Were they appreciative of your input or were there unintended consequences?