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How to Find a Wife: Building a Legacy Worth Joining
The quest to find the "right girl" has long perplexed many American men, sometimes for decades. Want to make sure your son/nephew/friend doesn't fall into that category? Don't know anyone looking for a mate, but just want a peek through the 20/20 vision of backward glances? Read on! This article represents the mentoring I wish I had been offered, and what I plan to present to my own offspring a bit at a time, to encourage a more discerning approach to adulthood.
When we enter the teen years, we suddenly know more than our parents, and are rarely interested in learning from the mistakes of others. That's largely why we make the same predictable mistakes generation after generation. Our collective American ego complicates our lives more than necessary, and the quest for a mate is no exception.
Mergers and Acquisitions
The concept of marriage is intended to link two partners for life -- best friends assuming one legal identity, as they agree to trust and be trusted by the other, to help and be helped by the other, to literally link their lives together for mutual benefit. Oddly enough, our social construct for finding a mate is based entirely on lies.
We date numerous people, many whom we have no desire to know more deeply than a casual acquaintance, and make no effort to introduce our true selves. She spends a week selecting the perfect outfit, listens quietly to his narcissistic monologues, and eats half an appetizer. He shaves, sits through quiet evenings with the Hallmark Channel, and leaves love notes using lyrics from an easy listening station.
Yet, both are surprised when something doesn't click. Odd, right?
Rather than indulge in false advertising and risk becoming another failed marriage statistic, be deliberate in your approach to finding a wife. Consider the world of business: a merger only makes sense for two established companies when each offers mutual benefit. (You are already thinking of the "benefits" of marriage, aren't you? Let's stick to the business analogy for a second.) Look back over the sentence about mergers--what word describes the companies? Established. When we say a company is established, we think of it as having a proven track record. You need one, too. A company that has not yet established itself in the marketplace is considered less trustworthy.
To be successful, a marriage must begin with two established people. Would you expect to be described by the words used to define "established", or by the antonyms (opposite words)? If the antonyms feel a bit too familiar, your first step is answering a complex question: Who are you?
Who are you?
If, on the way to your first date, you could fast forward 7, 12, or 20 years, you may hear yourself asking "Who have I become?", "Who did I marry?", or "How did we get here?". These questions are important, but must be answered before the first date, not after years of marriage. Let's rewind to well before we plan that first date, and craft an answer.
This is not a branding exercise, where one builds a marketing campaign and shapes a public persona. This is an honest effort to take stock of who you are and who you plan to become. Be deliberate in your quest, and brutally honest with yourself. It doesn't matter that you are unsure of your long-term goals; it only matters that you pick a direction and start moving. There are many ways to get started:
Take some time to unplug and take inventory of your internal self. This is a difficult activity with the constant barrage of media on a typical day; find a quiet place where you can turn the electronics off for a few hours and be truly alone. Use physical paper if possible, and list several headings: Strengths, Interests, Passions, and Dreams". Start brain-storming each of these categories, jotting down your thoughts in the appropriate columns.
What are your strengths? Are you inquisitive, athletic, creative, persuasive, nurturing? What are you interests? Do you spend your time planting, hiking, building, investing, painting? What are your passions? Are you energized by a cause, belief, or idea? Do you have aspirations? Dormant dreams you never quite let go?
This page will require a week or more of recurring brain-storming, as you unpack memories, interactions, and connections between entries. You may find a thesaurus useful, as you search for just the right word to describe your thoughts. You may decide to take an objective journey through your social media presence--what do you post, tweet, like, or follow? You will learn from your stored e-mail, too: what do you keep, how do you organize, and how do you choose what to read and what to filter? What does all of this say about you? Try to separate the "real you" from the obligations of work, family, and social pressure.
It is best to take your time with this process, to find what gives you satisfaction, what challenges you, and what holds your interest. You are looking for trends, not individual data points. Once you have looked at your list a few times without the urge to make changes, consider it complete, and move to a harder question: Who do youwant to be?
Who do you Want to be?
Now that your list is pretty solid, look for overlap between columns. Maybe you are a strategic thinker who enjoys the innovation of connecting seemingly unrelated ideas--that could lead you to a career in marketing, writing, or art. Perhaps you are an adrenaline junkie who enjoys building things--you might want to create or improve technology for climbers, surfers, or football players. This is a chance to give shape to a dream, so don't limit yourself based on qualifications. That said, be realistic about the effort you are willing to expend to pursue a dream. We like to tell our kids they can be anything they want, but that is patently false. You can be anything you want badly enough to overcome the obstacles that you already face. Could Bobcat Goldthwait be an opera singer? Could Shaq be a jockey? Could I be an NBA star? No - and it is disingenuous and distracting to suggest otherwise.
We were each created with a very specific set of capabilities, and our brains have tripwires that energize when we stumble across the right idea. Our best future can be found by looking for the places where our strengths, interests, and passions overlap. Find yours, pick the future you find most appealing, and start mapping your route.
Hit the Trail!
Knowing who you are and who you want to be puts you miles ahead of most of the guys on the dating scene. Sadly, a goal without a plan just makes you a dreamer. That girl who caught your eye? She has plans. You already know she won't settle for a dreamer--her drive is one of the things that drew your attention. Oh, you may not have recognized it as drive, but something about her says she has it together--she's going places--she seems older or wiser somehow. Her demure smile might be thinly veiled curiosity about your own goals, or possibly just the memory of when she was as wayward as you. Either way, she is on a path, and needs someone on a path to walk beside her; not someone wandering in the trees to stalk her from afar. She attracts you because she has some place to be, and you can only attract her if you are equally driven. The destination is less important than the progress you've made on your journey.
When you ask for a girl's time and attention, you implicitly offer something worthwhile. If you imply a partnership, she must see evidence of the legacy you are building, and catch a glimpse of the horizon toward which you strive. Would Hobby Lobby consider a merger with Harley Davidson? There is nothing wrong with either brand, but it is difficult to see any chance for mutual benefit. Likewise, if you have neither tangible accomplishments nor clear goals, she will either lose interest or try to shape your future for you. Either scenario should give you pause. You are, after all, a man pursuing your destiny. Your course is yours to chart, and you invite another to share your journey. Logically, you need to understand yourself, have an idea of your path, and have the foundations of a great legacy before asking another to join your tribe.
Before we go farther, let me say that the milestones on your journey are not mine to dictate. Nor does that right belong to any self-help author, parent, authority figure, or mentor. Everything you receive must be taken as a recommendation. To devote yourself to the path of another is to leave yourself behind--the sure path to a future quest, midlife crisis, or other sad reality. Design a path, annotate your accomplishments with the end in mind, and celebrate each milestone. You may need a home of your own, or a degree, or a business. You may need only a manuscript, a dream, and a persuasive moment with a potential investor.
You are solely responsible for each decision, and you must start making them before you can honestly evaluate the potential of a prospective partner. Consider building relationships with older men who can mentor you on marriage, your chosen career path, etc. Set short and long-term goals, and track your progress
Many Americans try to find a partner before trying to define themselves. To continue the business analogy, the good companies will only consider merging with another company with vision, drive, and an established presence in the market. The company who brings nothing but short-term finances to the table often ends up with a failed merger, lost capital, and further erosion of their brand. Start early, doggedly pursue your short- & long-term goals, and find mentors to advise you along the way. Once you have an established track record, start looking at the various possibilities that mysteriously became available while you were busy working on your legacy. It happens every time.