A Minute to Myself (100)
A Minute to Myself (101)

My Ex-Husband Never Became President, Neither Did I

The other night, watching Michelle and Barack Obama on the stage in Grant Park I couldn’t help but (yes, think of myself) think of how we choose the man we will marry (and I am assuming in these days of SAHF, the woman we will marry). I am not talking about being a gold digger, but about the selection, both sub-consciously and consciously, that we ponder as we date, especially when we are too young to have a resume to present. Don’t we pick people who we think will succeed? Don’t we go with the guy who we think will go to the White House of his chosen profession?

I think that we are able, to a certain extent, to decide who we will fall in love with. All of the things that you find wrong with a guy in the first five minutes of meeting him, isn’t that just your way of telling yourself that he doesn’t meet your expectations for a husband? Granted some of the rejects are on their way (my first and only set-up blind date seemed to be on his way to being a bigwig in whatever field he was in, but all I could talk about was how I was moving to Israel in a couple of weeks, and he had to go back to the office to finish some things after less than an hour), but we do have to be somewhat selective. And even those who go for the deadbeats, don’t they usually talk about how they think they will turn him around? I worked with a woman who kept referring to the fact that her husband was a diamond in the rough when they first met, and after a few years he had built a successful company.

But going back to the Obamas, I’m sure that they were taken with each other’s physical, intellectual, and emotional compatibility as well as the potential that the other has in making her/his way in the world. I mean do you really want to hitch yourself to someone who has no ambition? Obviously we want success for ourselves, but don’t we also want to be with someone who has stars in his eyes—especially at the beginning of the journey?

When I started dating mr ex he had just become an officer in the Israeli army and he had plans to either be a spy (HA!), lawyer, or businessman, and perhaps politician down the line; and I was determined to be a writer of the intellectual bestseller by the age of 24 type (no comments). But beyond his career goals, this was a man who was at the center of a few groups of people, and they all listened to what he said (which was good, since I couldn’t always figure out what he was saying since my Hebrew was pretty basic, but it set the stage for me, or rather his stage). Not only was he the nuclei of different groups of friends and colleagues, but also of his family—he was the older son who everyone listened to. One of the interesting things about being in the military (this seems to be pretty universal) is that there is an intense selection process that tracks people, and you can really see how someone is valued and judged by the track he is put on. And boy, was he on an impressive track.

It all seemed good. He had been vetted. But the vetting process only works well if who you see is who you get, and the who does not transform in unknown and unexpected ways.

My point here is not that most of us fail to meet our own expectations, never mind how our significant other fails, but we at least begin with a heightened estimation of that person. I believed he could do all of those things (so much so that I even petitioned against the whole spy business) and I think he thought I would be a bestselling author (even though he didn’t “appreciate” what I wrote).

Maybe it’s harder to correctly analyze this when you are young (I was 22 when we started dating and he was 20) and don’t have much to go on. But there’s always something. What did the person do in high school? What college did the person attend? What was his SAT? What did he do during his summers? What did he do when he got out of college? Sure, it’s not quite on a track, but there’s a general direction.

Which leads me to an awfully obvious question: Am I jealous of Michelle Obama? You betch’ya. Even, God help me, Laura Bush. I made my choice, and I thought it was a good one. For goodness sakes, I thought that I had hit the bonanza with him, that we were on our way to tête-à-têtes in important circles with important people. In my own defense I do want to note that both of these women met their men in their 30’s, after the adult formative years and when there was more to see and assess—you know, more to fall in love with (or not).

Reconciling yourself to your own inadequacies and failure to launch are hard, but it’s hard, too, to reconcile yourself to the fact that your spouse didn’t live up to his own expectations—or yours. And it really doesn’t matter if it is because the world is against him or if he just didn’t have it in him.

Or maybe more tellingly, because other people saw in him a flaw that it took me so long to recognize. 



Oh Laura, our parents obviously were the best recruitment agents.
Your mother knew he was a taker.
I vividly remember my father taking me for a walk and gently attempting a 'talk her out of her marriage' talk.
He was gentle and of course concerned as he could see I wasn't making a good choice.
However I was 21 and could handle everything, even a lost soul.
Even mother Theresa might not have taken him on, but I did.

Hm, I still bet on parents rather than my own discernment.
I can see it with one of my daughters and can I do something?


Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Wilma, my parents didn't do the talk or even attempt it, and I know that I wouldn't have listened to them. I should have just watched how he treated my parents, certainly not with the respect they deserved and not with the respect he gave to--and expected me to give to--his parents. Oh, the guidepost book is a thick one.

Daughters, luckily I have (I think) a few more years to face that. But talk you must, even if she discards what you say. Don't you owe it to her and yourself to at least delicately skirt around the issue?


If only people would listen (your friends, sisters) when you think their boyfriend/potential husband is a loser. No one wants to hear it though. (But, like you say, if you feel strongly that one of your daughters is about to make a mistake, you owe it to her to speak your mind). We do marry because we see potential in our mates. That's got to be universal. It seems that sometimes people do change after the marriage ceremony, or at least they let the person see them for who they really are. It happens.


It's usually easier for those that aren't so up close and personal to see things that we can't see because we are too close to see. Our veiw is often distorted because the filter with which we see through gets tinted with pain and trying to focus on what we want to see. Sometimes, I think many of us marry, when we know deep down inside that something is not right or we see a flaw that we think we can live with...many times people settle for less...many times there are things we did not see because we couldn't or didn't want to. Many times there are flaws that are deal breakers but we think it's too late. Sometimes, people are not who they appear to be and once your married to them, the truth comes out. I married two times for wrong reasons. Both times, I knew it was wrong and so did others but only one person ever spoke of this to me. When two people go into a marriage and neither are being their authentic selves, then they go into the marriage with false ideals and very likely will be unhappy. I know it's easy for me to say, but try not to be hard on yourself as you go through this time of healing. It sounds like your getting to know yourself which is a good thing!

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

JC, indeed. Afterall, Beauty only went with the Beast when he showed her that he was a Beauty; here, first we see the Beauty and then the Beast.

Lori, wise words, thanks. And I'll work on being a calm partner on my own journey.

I think, too, that saying "opposites attract" is one that should be discarded from all romance books and advice columns. It's just a disaster in the making. How long can someone live with someone whose thought processes and priorities and values differ from yours? The fun fades after the umpteenth fight that cannot be won, because it's just too personality-based and not issue-based.

Jessica Bern

What I couldn't stand about my ex when I met him were the same things I couldn't stand when I left him. Nuff said. Love the post. I know exactly how you feel.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Jessica, I was especially attracted to him because of the qualities that I did not have. That assertiveness and self-confidence drew me in, until they repelled me. So I flip-flopped.

Midlife Slices

With my ex there were definite "red flags" but he would convince me I'd heard him wrong or he didn't say it or everything was my fault and so I kept giving him the benefit of the doubt. Finally after being married for several years and realizing he was always going to make me the crazy one or the wrong one or the stupid one, I said "enough". We all do it and I think even in marriages that appear perfect, there are issues we don't see so I've stopped thinking someone has the perfect marriage because they usually prove me wrong.


Everyone thought my pick was wonderful, except the back of my mind when I married him. Somewhere in there I knew we weren't good together, although I never thought he would turn into what he has. But it was my own insecurities that led me to marry him anyway. All the lost opportunities -

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

MS, there is no green grass, so true, I think. Your points are so familiar: we are always the crazies and they are always right, and/or maligned. Beware of toxic talkers.

BettteJo, "the back of the mind," what a place to ignore at one's risk. Insecurities, oh how those did haunt my choice--and dictated my choice.

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