I wish I had married the other man.
You know the other man—every good romance has one. He’s the one who vies with the hero for the maiden’s attention. He is good and kind and handsome like the hero, but enough different that you don’t know which one she’ll choose until the very end of the story.
After sixteen years of marriage, I think I chose the wrong one. I should have married the other man.
I stand in my kitchen, sometimes, beating eggs while the man I chose sleeps in, and I think to myself, “The other man would not put wadded up socks in the wash, and he wouldn’t make that face in every single family picture. He would spend less time in his office and not go to Walmart for eggs and come home with Doritos.”
(The other man would understand that I can consume an entire bag of Doritos in my mind and the calories will somehow manifest on my thighs.)
I think about the hard parts of our marriage, where our differences rub each other wrong, and the parts that make me ache, and I wish things were different.
But then I spy a little yellow sticky-note on the coffee maker, and I see my man’s microscopic, scribbly handwriting proclaiming his love for me in pencil. There’s a hand-drawn silly face at the bottom, like always, and it makes me smile, like always.
The other man would probably send me roses and let the sixteen-year-old clerk write the words he dictates over the phone onto a little paper card so I wouldn’t have to strain to make them out.
The man I chose comes out of the bedroom and sees me deciphering his words.
“Hey, Baby,” he grins as he wraps his arms around me. “Let me make you some coffee.”
He might bring home Doritos, but the man makes the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. I don’t even know how he does it because I’ve watched and there is absolutely no magic involved.
The other man would fly me to Paris for espresso in a little café where I would wish the cups were bigger.
“What are you working on today?” my man asks, and he listens as I babble on about this project or that one while the eggs cook. Hesitantly, I tell him that I need to spend a little money to keep up this writing gig I’ve got.
The other man would be independently wealthy, of course, but this one, the one I chose, has to work hard for every penny. I see his uniform draped over the banister, and I know that he’s given up more for me than I have for him.
“Do it,” he says while pouring coffee into my favorite mug. “Spend the money. Your writing is worth it.”
Tears singe my eyes. The other man wouldn’t make me cry.
The kids tumble down the stairs with sleep-ratted hair. “Dad!” they scream because they’ve forgotten it’s Saturday, and he’s home.
He air-punches the boys and hugs the girls. “You know,” he says over the hub, “when your mom’s a famous writer, I can be a stay-at-home dad.”
The kids cheer, and my husband looks at me with a sly grin and says, “I’m secure like that.”
I am not, and I have to swallow a little bit of fear that I might not turn out as great as he thinks I am.
“I’m going to have to write a lot of books before I can afford to keep you home,” I mumble, but even in that moment, I can’t help but soak up the way he loves our kids.
The other man could not have made me a mother. Not their mother.
“You will,” he says, because he married me not only for who I am, but for who he believed I could be. “I know you will.”
The other man would not be so delusional, I think.
He would not have looked at my swollen belly and sleep-deprived eyes and believed I could be a great mother. He would not have waited patiently through sixteen years of marriage for me to grow and change and stop leaving my makeup all over his side of the counter.
He would not be waiting still.
The other man would have whisked me around the world in his corporate jet and let me tag along while he did amazing things.
But the man I chose has made a home with me.
It is not a perfect home, of course, but then, no home is. It is built together by two imperfect people who, if given the chance, can choose to see all the broken bits, all the failings, and all the shortcomings. They can choose to compare the worst in their spouse with the best in another option, and they can think that life would have been better if they had made a different choice.
Or, they can choose to believe that, barring extremes, the very best husband or wife for them is the one they married. They can choose to focus on the blessings–those bits of the hard that rub them more holy and grow them up and make them better than they ever would have been alone.
Because every marriage has its hard, even the other marriage or the next marriage or the marriage you think someone else has that you don’t.
The comfort is that God’s very best for me is the man I said “yes” to all those years ago. Despite the hard days, the imperfections, and the growth that still needs to come in both of us, I could not have had a better life with any other man.
He is the only other man God intended for me.