You see a lot of advice about what kind of man to marry. He needs to be strong, or he needs to be a good provider. Some look for financial security, or seek out the chivalrous type. Many women desire a romantic fella who buys flowers, plans picnics at the park, or always opens the door for them. Heck, for many of us it’s all about the chemistry, and I recall that attraction I felt when watching my husband, before he was my husband, strumming a guitar. His long hair and lean build set my young heart aflutter, and when I swooned over his teen, heart-throb serenades I never dreamed what it would really require to make it long-term as husband and wife.
Last week our family was hit by a stomach virus, but not just any stomach virus. It was the mother-load of all tummy bugs, and actually using the sweet word tummy doesn’t even begin to color this episode like it should be illustrated. It deserves words like heinous and horrendous, even tragic would do. In fact, I have not suffered from such a cruel GI upset since I developed food poisoning from seafood back in the 10th grade. It was that awful, and towards the end I could feel the backs of my legs cramping as I shuffled quickly to the bathroom, and my dizziness and lightheaded struggle as I listed across the room to the porcelain receptacle of my sickness.
At one point I recall laying down in the bathroom floor after I had evacuated most of my insides. I was too spent to make it back to bed just yet. I vaguely remember the bathroom door opening, my husband coming inside, and picking up the bucket I had been puking in while I sat on the commode.
“I’m gonna wash this out. You’ll never stop throwing up if you can smell it.” He said. Then he walked off to clean out my puke bucket.
What a guy.
One notable part is that he was sick too. Indeed, our entire family of five had fallen to the illness, yet there he was taking care of me. He was just as nauseated as I was, yet he cleaned up my vomit without a thought. What a mess.
But that’s the thing, you know? Life. It’s messy. It’s messy when five people are projectile vomiting. It’s messy when one of you loses your job. It’s messy when checks bounce, or bills can’t be paid. It’s messy when one of your parents dies, and it’s messy when one of you is screaming and crying through grief and snot that life isn’t fair. Been there.
It’s messy when secrets come out, or when fights occur. It’s messy when someone says something they don’t mean, or when you’re too proud to say you’re sorry. It’s messy when the sewer pipe busts in the front yard, and even messier when it takes weeks to find the time to fix it. It’s messy when the trash is forgotten, or when hair is left in the sink. It’s messy when hormones are out of whack, and especially messy when you say things you absolutely do not mean.
That’s the thing about real life; it’s really messy. Real life involves things like morning breath and dirty dishes left on the bedside table. It’s sick kids, a mortgage payment, and a flat tire on a rainy day. It’s getting fat, getting old, and even those unbelievable things that happen to your body after childbirth. It’s being too exhausted for sex, and realizing the other person is too. It’s about disagreements over raising kids, where to go to eat, and even what to watch on TV. Sometimes it’s forgetting important dates, and forgiving the other person if they do.
So when you’re thinking about the kind of person you want to spend the rest of your life with it may not be so important how much money they have in the bank or if their hairline recedes. It might just be a question as simple as, “would he be willing to clean up my vomit when I’m sick?”
Would he love me despite the mess?
Would he love me no matter how messy it gets?
No matter what?
When you decide to spend every waking moment with another person it changes things. They see you without makeup, with bedhead, and even when you drool in your sleep with your mouth gaped open. They eventually have to come into the bathroom despite the closed door. If you decide to throw kids into the mix you enter a whole new level of mess. Consider it DEFCON 3, Chaos Level Expert kinda situation. Think rock, paper, scissors over poopy diapers and wearing boogers for 3-5 easy.
You want a person who compliments your chaos and manages the mess with you. You want a partner in the process and a mate in the management of all that life throws you. Because it’s a lot. The good genes will come in handy, and the plumbing skills will be nice, but when the crap hits the fan you want a teammate, not just a pretty face with a fat pocketbook. You want a helpmate, that person you could count on even if everyone else cut out. You want the one who sees you clearly and loves you regardless.
You want the guy who will empty out your puke bucket. Trust me.
This article originally appeared at BrieGowen.com.