Originally published 8/1/2013. Edited slightly because I can’t stop myself from fiddling with stuff.
One day not too long ago, my sister arrived at work and told me that she’d gotten into a heated debate with my husband on Facebook. “I should know not to argue with Ray,” she sighed. “I try to convince him that he’s wrong, but all that happens is he ends up tying me in verbal knots, and then I feel like an idiot.”
While she was telling me this, I got a text. It was from Ray: “I just used all my dirty debate tricks to beat down your sister on Facebook. I’m awesome!”
I thought, “I am married to a complete jerk.”
This wasn’t exactly a revelation. We’ve been married for fifteen years now, and, while he’s changed a lot in some ways, his jerkiness has remained pretty constant over the years. On our first date, for instance, I was looking over the dinner menu, and he told me that I should get something cheap because he wasn’t made of money. This last weekend, I was doing a performance up in Vail, and as we were walking through Vail Village, Ray was telling me his plans to firebomb the place and exterminate all the rich snobs who thought they were better than him. When I took a week off last month after running my first competition, Ray (unbeknownst to me) posted a note on Facebook saying that if anyone called or texted me during my week off, he would come over with a crowbar and break their arms and legs. That led to an awkward conversation with my dad which I didn’t understand until I got home and Ray proudly showed me his post.
And then there was the time, before we were actually dating, that we went to a jazz concert together. He was so obnoxious during the evening that I decided to drop him as a friend. But he emailed me the next day and thanked me for a fun evening, and his note was so sweet and thoughtful that I said, “Well, I’ll give him one more chance.”
Seventeen years later, here we are.
I told my sister, after the Facebook argument, that she should just unfriend Ray and ignore him. There was no point in trying to convince him he was wrong; I’d been trying to do that for seventeen years without success. He’s both opinionated and as stubborn as a mule, and he loves arguing. Even if he eventually changes his mind, he’ll sometimes keep arguing just for fun. Also, he sees it as his God-given mission to correct people when they’re wrong, and he definitely believes that his opinions are the right ones. When I point out that opinions aren’t right or wrong, since they’re, you know, opinions, he says that is an example of a wrong opinion. He doesn’t care if he makes people mad or if they dislike him; he has an unassailable self-confidence that both drives me crazy and makes me insanely jealous. I asked him once if he ever worried that I’d stop loving him and find someone else, and he said, “No–why would you? I’m awesome.” You might as well try winning an argument with Mt. Rushmore. He’ll never, ever admit he’s wrong. So I tell people, like I told my sister, that if his Facebook rantings irritate them, they should either hide his feed or unfriend him. It’s just easier that way.
Anyway, on this occasion, the consciousness that my husband had acted like a jerk led me into an also-familiar train of thought: did people, like my family and friends, think less of me because I was married to a jerk? Did they think, “Wow, if she likes that guy, she must be a real loser herself”? Did they feel sorry for me? Did they think I was crazy? And this familiar train of thought led to a new question: what if your soulmate is a total douchebag?
Now, I don’t believe in the concept of “soulmates.” I don’t think that there is one person on Earth that you are destined to be with, the only perfect match out of billions of mistakes. The romantic part of me thinks it’s a lovely idea, but the larger, practical part of me thinks that if you only have a one-in-seven-billion chance of finding your one true soulmate, you’re in deep trouble. If Ray dies before I do, I know that I’ll get married again eventually. Ditto for him.
However, it was fun to mull over the idea. In all the modern fairy tales, the princess is a sweet, good-hearted person, and her One True Love is a good person, too, although sometimes he’s a Diamond in the Rough or a Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold. But what if you’re a princess and your One True Love turns out to be a jerk? What does that say about you? Does that mean that you’re a jerk, too? Do mean people get mean soulmates?
And, even though I don’t believe in soulmates, these questions are valid for real relationships, too. Ray and I haven’t been married for fifteen years because we’re co-dependent or super dysfunctional or masochistic. I really and truly love him. I like being married to him. He’s my best friend, and we get along great. So…if we’re so compatible, does that mean that I’m a jerk, too?
Maybe. I don’t think I’m the best judge of that. I’m definitely sarcastic, judgmental, and opinionated, and, in private, I’m capable of being every bit as profane and argumentative as Ray. I’ve got more social polish; I’m able to be nice to almost everybody, even people I don’t really like. But I’m not sure if that’s a positive or not. One of my teaching assistants told me the other day that, while she doesn’t agree with some of Ray’s opinions, she values him because he’s so honest. You know exactly where you stand with him.
I’m not like that. I’m very private, and I keep most of my opinions to myself. While I know myself very well, I think it’s probably hard for others to get to know me. Ray wears his heart on his sleeve. My heart is hidden deep down.
When we were first dating, I was very protective of my heart. I’d had a bad breakup not too long before, and I didn’t want to make another mistake. Ray (who’d also just had a bad breakup) didn’t seem to feel any such compunctions. On our first date, we went to dinner and a movie, and I kissed him good night. Nothing earthshattering, but I still spent the next morning in bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I decided I would wait a couple days before calling him again; I wanted to take things very slowly. Right after I had decided that, he called me and asked if I was free to go out again that night. “I have to see you,” he said. Who could resist that?
Within two weeks, he told me that he loved me. Within six weeks, he mentioned getting married. I thought he was out of his mind. Not that I didn’t love him back–I did, with a strength that surprised me–but the speed at which things were happening scared me. Ray never seemed to have any doubts. He told me that he just knew, and I guess he was right. We got married a year and a half later, and neither of us has ever had any regrets. I’ve heard that marriage changes some people’s relationships, making it hard to go from dating to marriage, but that never happened to us. Marriage just made everything even better.
In many ways, I feel like I’m the lucky one. Ray loves me with as close to an unconditional love as one human being can feel for another. I know that he will never leave me or be unfaithful to me. He loves me exactly the way I am, and he doesn’t try to change me, not even when I’m dancing down the aisles of the grocery store or making him take silly pictures of me. I am the most important thing in the world to him, and he lets me know it all the time in a hundred different ways. Hardly a day goes by where he doesn’t text or call me to say I love you, even after fifteen years.
I’m more complicated. I don’t think I’m capable of unconditional love, and I try to change Ray all the time. It doesn’t work, but I still try. I’m critical and impatient and sarcastic, and deep inside I worry sometimes that I’m not really worthy of the kind of True Love I stumbled into. Ray doesn’t see it that way. He says that we’re creatures of the same species–T-Rexes, he calls us, since we both have short little arms and short little tempers.
At the end of my musings, I thought about the two long-term boyfriends I had before Ray, one while I was in high school and the other while I was in college. They both got along great with my parents and my friends, had good social manners, and didn’t have more than their fair share of anger management issues. One of them took drugs and the other one cheated on me.
So I went from relationships with guys who seemed great on the outside but didn’t treat me right, to a guy who seems like the World’s Angriest Man but treats me like a fairy-tale princess. I don’t know what other people think of our marriage, but after what I went through before, I know that Ray is the best thing that ever happened to me.
My soulmate is a jerk. And I’m okay with that.