Josh was already sitting at a table when I came into the restaurant late Saturday afternoon. He had finished eating and was drinking a beer as he watched a basketball game.
I wanted to watch the same game, so I ended up at the table next to him. We chatted off and on about the game as it went along. He was friendly and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. At halftime, though, something came up about marriage — and he mentioned that he just left his wife today. He wasn’t wearing a ring.
I cautiously responded that he didn’t seem to be very upset about it.
“Yeah, it’s not really a big deal,” he said. “We’ve been married for four years and it turns out she can’t have a baby. Just found out for sure this week. I want to have kids to carry on the family name, so I told her I have to cut it off with her and find another wife. I hate it, because I loved her.”
He said everything so calmly that I couldn’t be sure he was serious. But the more he talked, the more he seemed like a monster.
“She can’t put a bun in that oven, but the oven sure is getting bigger,” he said. “Know what I mean? She was skinny and hot when we first hooked up, but she’s getting pretty chunky — and I really don’t want to be with someone who looks like that anyway. So it’s for the best, you know?”
I felt sick.
And I had no idea what to say to this smiling narcissist who thinks the world revolves around him. His selfishness quickly left me thinking the woman he’s leaving is the lucky one. Maybe she never realized what a terrible person she had married. He doesn’t want children in order to love and nurture them. He wants children because of how they reflect on him — as though they’re extensions of himself in the world. (This is a classical sign of malignant narcissism.)
I wanted to lecture Josh. I wanted to tell him he was completely confused about what love and marriage are about. But that felt out of place for me to say. So I stayed quiet and left as soon as I could finish eating. I listened to the rest of the game on the radio in my car.
I haven’t been able to get this guy off my mind in the four or five hours since then. I’ve alternated between feeling sick and feeling angry.
If anybody understands the strong desire to have children, it’s me. I’ve spoken of this many times, so if you know me, you know how much I want children.
But love shouldn’t be disposable. Not if it’s real.
There are good reasons for a marriage to end — and I think a lot of people stay in miserable marriages for the wrong reasons — but the lack of ability to have children isn’t one of those reasons.
If I met a woman and knew she couldn’t have children, I would avoid falling in love with her — and I would certainly never promise her a future together. But if I fell in love with a woman and had committed myself to her — whether we were married yet or not — I would be willing to sacrifice my desire for kids in exchange for the connection of love and understanding with her.
Isn’t that what love is supposed to be?
I was also astonished by the callous way that Josh — not his real name, by the way — casually rejected his wife’s body because of some apparent weight gain. In a perfect world, we would all have perfect bodies and be perfect in every other way, but in the real world, imperfections come along with pretty much everybody. (I’m probably more sensitive about this issue since I’ve struggled with weight over the years.)
And if you claim to love a woman, you accept her and value her and give her love and security — whether she gains some weight or can’t have the children you want.
There are a lot of things I want in life. Children are high on my list. But as much as I want kids, I would be willing to cheerfully give up that desire to live a life of love and understanding with the woman I love.
If you truly fall in love with someone — and commit yourself to that person — you’re willing to sacrifice for the sake of the relationship. For Josh, the world was all about himself. For someone who is in love, the world is all about what’s best for the two of you together.
If love is real, sacrifice is natural — and if love is real, the sacrifice will be worth it.