My wife and I attended the same school in Miami, Florida, but that’s not how we met. In school, we really didn’t know each other.
We attended a pretty large school which had about 500 in our graduating class. I knew of her and she knew of me, but that was about it. And, what we knew, we really didn’t like.
She was one of the smart kids. She was an honor student and part of the drama club. There were times when she would come to school dressed in strange costumes. In my mind, she was a little weird and not someone to whom I would be attracted.
I was not an honor student and hung out with the other crowd. I had long hair, played in a band, and was comfortably numb most of the time. I was not someone she would be attracted to—and her mom probably didn’t want me coming around anyway. Later she confessed to me, “in the talent show when your band played, I used that time to use the restroom.”
Our first meeting after high school was moving and monumental for me, but somewhat anticlimactic for her. I was attending a Bible study at a friend’s house and someone had invited her.
When she arrived, I happened to answer the door and was immediately struck. I vividly remember seeing her big, beautiful brown eyes and delightful smile. She was the most beautiful woman in the room. I knew immediately that she was the one.
Although most of high school was a blur for me, I recognized her. Being the romantic and excellent conversationalist that I am, I said, “I know you, you’re Barbara!” She chuckled, “No, Wayne, I’m Kim.” “Dang,” I thought, “Blew that one.”
Thankfully, fate was on my side. She later confessed to a friend, “That’s Wayne Geiger. He cut his hair, has a tie on, and I can see his eyes!” I was beginning to wear on her already. To make a long story short, we became friends and our friendship blossomed into romance and eventually marriage.
Attraction is a strange thing, isn’t it? In my interpersonal communication courses, I remind students that we are attracted to others in four ways: by appearance, proximity, similarity, and complementarity. Appearance is pretty straight forward. We look. We like. Proximity is less romantic, but equally powerful.
The longer we’re around someone, the more we get to know them (think Beauty and the Beast). We look past the external, skin deep, appearance and look deeper into the person and are attracted to them.
Sometimes, we’re attracted by similarity. We like people who are like us. This validates our belief and behavior. Finally, we are attracted by complementarity. This basically means, opposites attract. We’re attracted to a quality or trait that we don’t have--but admire in someone else. My wife and I were in this last category—total opposites.
As a minister, I have performed more than 50 marriages over the years. One of the things that I try to get across to couples is that love and commitment are two different things. During a marriage ceremony, I will generally utter the traditional vows and say, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to death do us part.” All they hear is “blah, blah, blah.” They are incredibly nervous and didn’t come for a sermon. They just want to get married.
Sometimes, my mind wanders and I think about couples that have experienced the “worse” and “sickness” in the vows. Naturally, I don’t want to be “Debbie Downer” and ask them, “are you prepared to stick it out if one of you gets a dreaded disease and ends up in a long-term care facility? There is a time and a place for everything, and the wedding ceremony is certainly not the place for that. What’s worse, they might not let me have cake at the reception.
Generally, when couples meet, there is an initial interest or spark accompanied by butterflies in the stomach, a dry mouth, shallow breathing, and a rapid heart rate. Entering those symptoms into WebMD might cause you to rush to the emergency room.
For most couples, those initial, bubbly feelings will wane in the coming months and years. “The wedding ceremony is an event, but the marriage is a process,” I remind them, “marriage is hard work.” Attraction creates the spark, but it takes work to keep the fire going.
As the years go by, the cute little traits that gave you goose bumps when you were dating now produce irritation and frustration. Or, they have mannerisms or behaviors that you find disrespectful or annoying. We spend most of our time trying to correct and retrain our mate to mold and form them into the person that we want, and initially expected them, to be (they just didn’t know it).
This can be a long, tiring, and perhaps fruitless endeavor. For more than three decades my wife has been trying to remind me to use a coaster under my glass. She is making some progress. Last year, I showed a 3% increase in productivity. We’re on track this year for a 3.8% increase barring any unforeseen setbacks.
The problem with attraction is simple. We are all egocentric and utterly selfish. I remind couples that attraction and love are two totally different things. Attraction does not take into consideration the value and needs of the other person. Attraction merely says, “You make me happy.”
This means we may like the way the other person looks or acts, etc. We have a euphoric feeling when they’re around. We’re attracted, or want to be around that person, because we find joy or happiness in what they have to offer us. So, in the end, it’s about us. Thus, the other person becomes an “object” of our potential happiness. They become a tool to be used.
True love, on the other hand, is unselfish and sacrificial. True love puts the other person’s needs above you own and makes a covenant to do so, “till death do us part.” In the Bible, it says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). I often ask couples to replace the term “love” in the passage with their own name and say, “Mary is patient and kind” or “Steve does not envy or boast.”
It was a spark that attracted me to my wife and commitment that has kept us together through better or worse. In our relationship, my wife and I try to keep God central and remember that we need to love, respect, and serve one another. We’ve also said through the years, “divorce is not an option, but murder is a possibility.”
After three decades of marriage, we’re still working out the kinks and bugs—on both ends. We’re far from perfect. I’m trying to remember to use a coaster and put my clothes in the hamper and not on the hamper. She’s working on properly closing the glass door and leaving the thermostat alone.
At that first glance, I was attracted to Barbara—a woman that I just met. However, I married Kim and we’re in it for the long haul. She is still the most beautiful woman in the room.
Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer. He sends out an email Bible devotion at Waynegeiger.com.