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Can you Excel at love?

April 25th, 2004 · 7 Comments

Joey deVilla posted one woman’s diagram of her hopes for her “future husband” and commented.

However, young “Katie” — assuming she’s the person who wrote this — is doing one thing right: she actually has some kind of game plan for an aspect of her life and she’s written it down. How many of us have done that?

The same day I read Anil Dash’s post Excel Pile where he asked

Have you ever made a spreadsheet for your personal life?

So the obvious question to ask is: has anyone used Excel to organize a “game plan” for finding a mate?

While I haven’t used Excel for this precise purpose, I have used Word. 😉 I think that writing down what kind of husband or wife you hope to find can be helpful. Ted and I each did some of this while we were dating and deciding whether to marry (creating documents in Word). But I also believe it is wise to be cautious when describing – and imagining – one’s future mate.

For example, when I was younger, I had imagined the man I wanted to marry. Still I can see him in my mind, this fantasy mate of mine. I wanted to marry a doctor. I was going to be one, so why not marry one too? And I wanted to marry someone whose parents were also divorced: he would therefore understand my crazy childhood. I think that I wanted to find and fall in love with a physician from a fractured family because I thought that this similiar background and same career choice would guarantee that we would understand each other. I thought that happy-ever-after-cement came from commonalities.

In Katie’s list I see she has the same thoughts: “he had to have the same home life when we were growing up in the ghetto.” She also wants a man who is “smart and older than me by 2 years.”

I don’t think I had an age requirement for my spouse – I’ve heard of women who know they want an older man – but somehow I ended up with a guy who was five years older than I. My husband is neither a doctor nor a child of divorce. Yet I married him anyway. Ted’s not someone I would have chosen for myself but God got me to let go of what I thought I wanted. I could have continued to look for a physician from a messy family. Maybe I would have found one. Maybe I wouldn’t have found him. Certainly I wouldn’t be as happy as I am with Ted.

Making specific requests and requirements for a potential spouse, such as age, childhood or career, can be dangerous. If I had insisted on marrying a surgeon from a broken home, I would have walked past Ted and the life we’ve had together.

Katie though also wants someone who is “caring and loving”. I think that it is wise to consider these kinds of qualities. Do you want someone who makes you laugh? Holds you when you cry? Invites the neighbors over for parties on the weekend or likes to spend Saturday nights snuggling on the sofa? Tells jokes when the car breaks down to pass the time? Or starts tinkering with the engine? Someone who gives dollar bills to bums on the street? Someone who likes adventures and spontaneity or someone who prefers a predictable pace? Someone who likes kids? Or would rather live life without Big Wheels and Big Bird? Polite? Respectful? Gentle? Patient? I can imagine someone making an Excel sheet of these qualities and checking them off…

The other day as we were discussing marriage and its benefits, Ted said a spouse is someone who loves you all the time no matter what. Katie wants this kind of marriage too. In her last sentence she reveals: “I hope he will love me and not cheat on me…” Ultimately, I believe that’s what we all want. Fidelity and faithfulness. Love that will last.

Love is a funny thing. It’s not as if you can get up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll fall in love today.” It happens. Like a flower that one day is blooming in your yard and you didn’t do anything to put it there. It’s spontaneous and unplanned, organic and ordinary in its arrival. It’s a gift of God. Passion can’t be manufactured or sold on a shelf. Love can’t – won’t – be scheduled. When we were dating I would joke with Ted and ask him if I appeared in his five year planner part of his Daytimer. I don’t think either of us were planning to get married in January 1992 or walking around campus looking for someone willing to walk down the aisle. It happened.

But love is also something that takes time and intention. There’s a place for knowing what you want in a spouse. There’s a purpose for making lists of what you like, using Word or Excel or whatever, to clarify your own mind, look at yourself and to examine what you hope for the future. Although it sounds scientific and cold, evaluating potential spouses against ideal descriptions could be wise. It might help you see if you are being blind and infatuated, ignoring traits you wouldn’t want to live with for life, whether you are going down a path you should stop pursuing.

Then again, if you find someone who is willing to love you forever but this person doesn’t meet all the specifications on the list, it might be time to delete the spreadsheet. After all, you can’t write love into a row or describe it in cells. Love can’t fit into a column or even in a computer file. When you find it face to face, whether someone is stinky or “good-smelling”, studying cadavers or computers, so many details don’t matter any more.

If you have to choose between a column on Excel filled with specifics and unconditional love from a man who doesn’t quite meet all the imagined marks, I think I know which one I’d choose. I already made that decision. Perhaps I’d like to think we Excel at Love. And certainly I’m much happier kissing Ted than a column on my computer. :).

P.S. for those seeking further reproduction of their love, the comments of Anil Dash’s Excel Pile contain interesting suggestions for How to Excel at family planning….

Tags: marriage

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Phil // Apr 25, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    > not someone I would have chosen for myself but God
    > got me to let go of what I thought I wanted.
    Ah yes, the unexpected… 🙂

  • 2 Lisa Williams // Apr 25, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    A study I heard of recently (I’d link, but I’m on a low-bandwith connection) found that arranged marriages were just as healthy as marriages in which the partners chose one another. We’re making a big assumption in the West with “love matches”: an assumption that we have even an inkling of what might actually make us happy — without much evidence to support it.

  • 3 Bob V // Apr 25, 2004 at 5:56 pm

    Word for me. Here is my list of must haves:

    1. Must be female.
    2. Must be vegetarian.
    3. Must not smoke.
    4. Must wear seatbelt.
    5. Must be fit.
    6. Must have good credit or a credible, worthwhile excuse for not having good credit.
    7. Must be ambitious about something. She should have a vision she is committed to.
    8. Ethical. She should play by the same rules she expects others to follow.
    9. Must not drink excessively.
    10. Must not abuse drugs.
    11. Must demonstrate the ability to appreciate and adopt a position she previously opposed. (Open to better ideas)
    12. Must be unmarried.

    Pretty dry? Everything there is meant to specify a person who makes good decisions and demonstrates some self-respect. Those items are all minimum criteria.

    I want someone who is committed to learning with me. She should want to realize the true nature of the world, and I want us to be able to help each other do that. The specifics of family, interests, and all that do not matter so much to me. If I find someone willing to step outside of herself to meet me, I’m willing to do the same for her.

  • 4 Julie // Apr 26, 2004 at 8:01 am

    Lisa: I agree with you that our Western “love matches” do not necessarily result in happier marriages: witness the divorce rates!

    However, I think that perhaps in an arranged marriage society, it is the parents, the ones arranging the marriage, who are using the Excel sheet, so to speak.

    In arranged marriage cultures too there is a different expectation for marriage. What we promote in our Western culture is different from how marriage and family life are viewed in the East, for example.

    I do believe that you can learn to love anyone. I believe that the principle of learning, persevering and growing in love (and trusting parents/elders to help find a good match) is a good one.

    However the depth of fulfillment in the relationship would probably vary. The person my parents would have picked for me would have been very different from Ted (a doctor for sure, among other qualities). I don’t know what that life would have been like.

    Can we choose who will make us happy? Good question. I believe also in a spiritual aspect to the decision that perhaps I should have emphasized more in the piece

    Thanks, Lisa…when you have time, I’d be curious to see that study…

  • 5 Julie // Apr 26, 2004 at 8:04 am

    Phil: the unexpected – Yes! 🙂

    Bob V.: that’s quite a list…;-) I like the “committed to learning with me”, I think that’s key.

  • 6 Bob V // Apr 26, 2004 at 3:03 pm

    Perhaps because I am unmarried, I am primarily concerned with which process (love marriage, arranged marriage) leads to the best decisions. I know that my parents have some irrational criteria. I am Indian, and they would not refer me to someone of another caste or of the same gothram even though my parents are scientists who realize that these things have no impact on the success of a relationship. They unnecessarily restrict the pool of candidates. Less choice = bad.

    I think the criteria in my prior comment will serve as the basis for a good decision. I’ve decided that my best strategy is to consider candidates that my parents give me, but make sure I enforce my own criteria too. Even though I find some of my parents criteria offensive, they are better able to find eligible vegetarians than I am. I’ll also try to find people on my own, but that has been a tough going with me surfing the internet all day.

    The big, dramatic problems will come if I find someone who meets my criteria but not my parents’. To make sure we collectively make a good decision, I need to be open to the idea that some of their criteria should be enforced, and they need to be open to the idea that some of their criteria might be irrelevant. That’s a whole lot of openness to expect from them considering the high-stakes issue of who their only child is going to marry. It’s also too much openness to ask of me if I were to fall in love. Does anyone know how to fix this problem?

  • 7 Katherine // Apr 28, 2004 at 10:16 am

    My list was written on lowly paper when I was a teenager…and it had lots of things on it, but I was very interested in common activities like skiing and hiking. I enjoy those so much and they take so much time that it would be a great shame either to give them up or to do them without my spouse. How blessed I am that I got a husband who loves me through anything and everything, is wonderful in many other ways, AND loves skiing and hiking 🙂