Jenny Block figures it out

I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve spent much of my life pondering this question and recently the answer revealed itself to me. It’s the question that many, if not most, humans contemplate: How do we know what the right relationship is for us — the one that will fulfill us, the one that will make us our best selves, the one that will last?

The answer is found in an integral part of the most common wedding vows

I take you to be my lawfully wedded spouse to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Those are more than the vows we give to the person we marry; those are the promises we make, explicitly or not, to the person we commit our lives to, even if the legal act of marriage is not involved.

The problem is that we fail to focus on the most important words. It’s easy to commit “for better.” It’s easy to commit “for richer.” It’s easy to commit “in health.” But what about for worse, for poorer, and in sickness?

The person you want to marry is the one who has no fear of those.

Unfortunately, we don’t always know if the person we’re committing to gets that … unless we ask. The part of the relationship that many people find the least sexy is the most important, making it, to my mind, the sexiest thing of all: communication.

When you first meet someone, you most likely experience them at their best while you, too, are at your best. That makes everything a little too easy. It isn’t until the shit hits the fan that you see a person’s true colors. But what if the wedding or the moving in or the commitment happens before any calamity?

There’s only one thing to do — ask the hard questions and be ready for whatever the answers might be. What if I lose my job? Are you in for the lean times? What if I fall ill? Will you care for me? Will you resent having to do it? What if I gain a zillion pounds or lose a leg? What if all of my hair falls out? What if the worse me is the only me there is to have? Will you have me?

They’re hard questions to ask another person and almost as difficult to ask ourselves. The answers may land even harder. But if we don’t ask, we won’t know, and if we don’t know, we are walking blindly into one of the biggest decisions of our lives.

This has been on my mind for good reason. Lately, I’m seeing a lot of couples around me breaking up, marriages and other long-term commitments unraveling and tumbling down. All of them appear to have the same thing in common. No one asked the hard stuff, and when the hard stuff reared its ugly head, it was ignored or denied or otherwise cast aside, hidden or forgotten until it couldn’t be ignored any more.

Here’s the thing. No one wants to find out that their partner was only around for the money. No one wants to find out that their partner can only love them when they’re “on.” No one wants to find out that their partner has no desire to care for them when sickness darkens the doorstep. But I know one thing for sure: Finding all of that out before the commitment is significantly better than finding out after.

Let’s say you didn’t find out. Let’s say you’re like these couples around me who didn’t ask or didn’t know or didn’t see. When you do discover it, there’s only one thing to do — leave. There’s no coming back from being wanted only for the perfect version of you. That isn’t the real version. And what you deserve, what we all deserve, is someone who doesn’t just tolerate the real us but who truly adores the real us, bad moods, empty pockets, stuffed up noses, and all.

I knew my fiancée was “the one” when I landed in the hospital with a finger so swollen and black and infected that I wasn’t sure it would be mine for much longer. But she didn’t flinch. I knew my fiancée was the one when I moped around the house and cried for days when my daughter left for college. I knew she was the one when I lost my job and then one project and then another and all she said is, “I just want you to do something you love. Whatever that may be. No need to grab it until you feel it.”

I knew my fiancée was the one when she said she loved me for all that I am, not in spite of it.

I have a dog I am too attached to; a daughter who has left the nest; a family that needs me; a plethora of health issues. I like terrible movies, and I’m obsessed with crime TV. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am an empath to the nth degree, wearing the worry of the planet and everyone living on it on my shoulders. I love beautiful clothes and shoes, even if I have nowhere to wear them. I have an art collection that thrills me. And, most importantly, I have to be by the water and in the sun. To me, I’m a clichéd mess. To her, I’m just right even where I’m wrong.

Commit only to someone for whom you are just right. Not good. Not good enough. Not tolerated. But just right, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.

Have a question about sex, relationships or life you want Jenny to address? Email it to [email protected].