I have a friend who is also the mother of a special needs son. Her son, Danny, has a more severe form of Autism than Vince, but we've bonded over the years over the many similarities we've faced: the frustration of IEPs, fighting for services, trying (in vain) to get folks to understand the myriad challenges our sons face, etc.
She's a single mom, too, who recently put herself back into the dating pool. She asked me to "share my secret" with her, and I laughed, because my entire MO is "Trust that God'll sort it out."
But we went back and forth a bit, and I said that one of the most important things I learned about myself post-divorce is the incredible importance I place on intelligence in a partner. The longer I'm with Chris, the more this importance manifests for me.
Even as a teen, I was a very picky dater. I had two boyfriends through high school and most of college, and both were very intelligent (both hold post graduate degrees, and one has a cache of scrabble tiles after his name, ha ha). When I got to college, plenty of guys tried to win my affection, but if they couldn't hold genuine conversations with me, they'd remain friend-zoned. I wasn't interested in dating around... I was interested in genuine connection.
This next part is going to sound SUPER arrogant, but stick with me...
My ex-husband, for his part, isn't stupid. He's thoughtless, but he's not stupid. The problem is that I'm smarter. I've always known that, but I didn't think it'd be a huge problem. After all, growing up, I saw how marriage worked between my parents. My mom is smarter than my father. That's not to say my father is stupid; he is not. My mom is just smarter. When I say "smarter," I'm not just talking book smart. I'm talking about her mental processing speed, her breadth of knowledge, and her ability to juggle and organize complex problems effectively. Her ability to critically analyze a wide variety of situations, people and problems is something that my father, while skilled in other areas, could not do.
I take after my mother in this regard.
Being married to John was incredibly frustrating for reasons that eluded me until I found myself in a relationship with Chris. I had always brushed off my frustration with John as frustration with his thoughtlessness, but as I've come to learn, I was (and continue to be) frustrated that he's not smarter than me. I needed a husband who was smarter than me.
Why? Because I'm a traditionalist when it comes to marriage.
I want a strong, capable man who is able to recognize, plan for, and handle problems. That takes a certain level of intelligence. John didn't really plan for problems, nor did he handle them when they arose. He normally couldn't recognize them as they slapped him in the face, either. I'd have to spell everything out for him, or coax him into having difficult conversations, or simply handle organization and planning on my own. Rather than viewing him as competent and capable, I began to view him as a frustrating liability. I lost respect for him; I could not trust him nor rely on him for even basic things.
Chris' brain, on the other hand, outpaces mine by lightyears. His breadth and depth of knowledge never cease to amaze me, and his constant quest for more drives me to keep up! He has shown time and again a willingness to dive into difficult subjects and critically analyze them so as to effectively fix them or better plan to circumnavigate them in the future. There is no need to coax him into planning, communicating or organizing. Quite the contrary, in fact, he tends to be the one suggesting it's time to go over the budget, discuss a problem, or get ahead of something. I TRUST him because his intelligence outpaces my own and I happily recognize that. I don't feel as though the burden of leading is on me because I am finally with a man who is capable and confident enough to do the leading.
A strong, intelligent woman needs a stronger, more intelligent man. That's really the long and short of it, and I have no qualms about recognizing that my husband is stronger and smarter than I.
This isn't to say I don't challenge Chris or blindly follow where he goes. We've gotten into our fair share of heated debates over a plethora of things - some of which I've even swayed his perspective on. He respects my intelligence and input just as much as I respect and appreciate his. But when it comes to executive decisions that must be made for our family, I've learned that I can trust him to make the best choice. And even if I don't agree or understand that choice 100%, I trust him enough to sort out the details so that, in the end, everything works out for the best.
There is peace in that. We've discussed our relationship dynamic in detail, and we always seem to come back to the Captain/First Mate analogy. Our family is the ship, and his job is to navigate us safely to where we need to be. My job is to offer feedback and help keep the rest of the shipmates (kids) doing their part. We support one another (I might spot a storm on the horizon he missed and he may need to reprimand a kid or two), but at the end of the day, we know our roles and recognize how they support one another. Together, we keep the ship sailing and there is peace.
That peace is only possible because I am able to rely on and trust Chris' intelligence and capabilities. As a very strong, capable and intelligent woman, my husband *must,* at the very least, match me in these areas to garner my respect. John was no match, and I naively believed this wouldn't be a problem since my mother seemed to manage well enough with my father.
Alas, for all the intelligence and strength I inherited from my mother, I did not inherit her patience. Instead, I inherited my grandmother's fiery impatience and pointed, no-BS communication style.
So, ya know... there's that. Ha ha.
Luckily, Chris inherited his father's insane ability to remain Zen in the midst of utter chaos. I swear, it's unsettling how patient he is, but clearly God knew what He was doing when He sent the Holy Spirit our way.
As I always say, God is good. In all things, God is incredibly good.
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