I Choose You

by Joanie Butman


Jackson Brown said, “Choose your life mate wisely because from that one decision will come 90% of your future happiness or misery.”  I’m not sure if I agree with the exact figures, but there is no doubt choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions in life. In fact, the choice of a spouse is the most common answer to our question regarding a life-defining choice.

Keeping true to form in exercising a lack of judgment, I have a few misguided choices in boyfriends. Luckily, I only married one of them, and from that marriage I came away with this piece of wisdom: It is better to be alone than with the wrong person.

Is there anyone who doesn’t look back on their dating history and exclaim, “What was I thinking?!” about at least one or two of them? I wish my choices could have been wiser and involved less pain, but I wonder if I would appreciate how blessed I ultimately was to find the man with whom I now share my life - someone with the patience and confidence to deal with an over-sensitive, quirky, free spirit.

So, how does one woman go from this

to this

in the same lifetime?

Excellent question and one not easily answered. All I can say is that I’ve always been a nonconformist and he was as nonconforming as anything I could dream up at 18. The man in the first photo represented everything people said I shouldn’t or couldn’t do. The allure and adventure were powerful and irresistible to a rebellious teenager. 

The dichotomy of my choices in men might be more extreme than your average person, but I think for most of us the person we would choose at 18 is dramatically different than the one we would choose at 30. Thankfully my nonconforming choice in boyfriends did not become my first husband, and as you can imagine, it wasn’t hard to go up from there. In my parents’ eyes, John was the answer to their fervent prayers. We married at 22 and had some wonderful years, but people change a lot from 21 – 28 as you gather life experience and maturity. You either grow up together or grow apart. We did the latter and got divorced when I was 29.

The attributes I looked for in a potential spouse at 30 couldn’t have been further from my thirst for adventure at 18. In fact, by this time I yearned for the exact opposite: someone trustworthy above all else with stability and security not far behind. A good sense of humor was also a must. I am happy to say my current husband and I have been married almost 22 years so, despite making a few wrong turns along the highway of life, I finally chose a winner. Someone who makes life fun, and who is the most loyal, stable, loving, generous man I’ve ever met. Sometimes I feel like Goldilocks who had to try out every dish until she found the one that was “just right.”

Reflecting back on a failed marriage and a successful one, I suppose Jackson Brown is right after all.

Do you agree with his assessment? Does 90% of your happiness or misery come from your choice of spouse?

What factors do you/did you consider most important when choosing a life mate?