Falling in love is easy. Staying in love? That’s hard.
It’s my fourth wedding anniversary today, meaning it’s an opportunity to reflect on the love story I share with my wife — how we met, how we got here and where we’re going.
However, I’ve learned just as much about love and making a relationship work from my wife as I have from the experiences — fortunate and not so — of my friends. At 31, I’m at the stage of my life where less and less of my friends are getting married. More and more of them are getting divorced.
How did my wife and I get this far while others haven’t? ‘(“This far” barely being good enough to stay out the dance floor through a verse of some hokey love song during the “last couple standing” dance at a wedding.)
A good portion of whether a relationship succeeds or fails long-term (and it can be a success or failure in the short-term, too) is luck. It’s timing. It’s finding the right person — yes, at the right time.
We fall in love with other people at a moment in time, a singular moment in our lives. When we decide to commit to someone else for the rest of our lives, we’re still thinking in the present tense. It’s impossible to imagine how a life selfie will turn out, much less with someone else in the picture.
Our world view, priorities, professional and personal situation all influence what makes another person seem attractive and worthy of our love. Those things change. With those changes, feelings can change, too. Love will wax and wane in any relationship, but it can simply be eclipsed by other desires, never to return.
So here’s the rubric to know if your committed relationship will work: This is a person Past You, Current You and Future You would all love.
You can’t gauge how life will still shape you. It’s futile to guess if Future You will love your Future Partner. However, you know if you love someone now, and you know if you’d love that someone when you were younger. As Meatloaf would say, two out of three ain’t bad.
Rory McIlroy loves Caroline Wozniacki. Present tense. But their lives are on the cusp of diverging drastically. At 25, McIlroy is still a half-decade away from his statistical peak in golf. The Dane Wozniacki, just 23, is closer to the sunset of her tennis career than the start. She’s ready to have kids, plural. McIlroy has majors, plural, and wants more of those now than he does rugrats.
For the next 20 years, McIlroy is going to spend at least 100 days on the road. From tournaments to corporate outings to other appearances, McIlroy’s life will predominantly unfold away from home. That doesn’t jibe with raising a family. When McIlroy alluded to not being ready for what marriage entails, that’s probably a big chunk of what he meant.
The problem isn’t limited to the erstwhile, high-profile Wozzilroy. It’s the problem any tour player — man or woman — faces in a committed relationship. Their priority is to succeed at their job. They have to live on the road to do that. Most people eventually get sick of that. Golfers have to do it or find another line of work. Significant others don’t and can find another person to love.
It’s why pro golfers get divorced. It’s why caddies can make attractive flings. It’s why some players walk away, realizing the grind of tour life isn’t worth living a life deferred.
Some day, McIlroy will be willing to try to juggle being a world-beating golfer and a heat-melting husband. Not yet.
Fortunately, the process of getting married gives each person several checkpoints to recommit to walking down the aisle together. Maybe staring at the wedding invitation for his once-pending nuptials was the jarring moment McIlroy needed to know he wasn’t ready. Maybe he knew a while ago but didn’t want to acknowledge it. Who knows. But McIlroy seems to have made the right decision for Current Rory.
I dated one girl throughout high school. We made this foolish promise to each other that, if we were still dating when I got to college (she was a year older), I’d propose to her and she’d accept. We made it halfway through my senior year. She dumped me for a guy she met in college. I wasn’t right for her at that moment in time, and, looking back, I’m certain she knew the truth I know now.
As my wife stood with my now-father-in-law in the back of the church on our wedding day, I saw her and said to myself, “Wow.”
It wasn’t just how stunning she looked. It wasn’t just that we had gone from a casual date to that moment. It was that, with that one look, I knew I was ready for whatever was next with this woman.
Rory’s going to have that moment someday, and he should settle for nothing less.