As I waited for my pizza slice and gyro, to go, I casually flipped through the pages of a local newspaper that was laying on the bar. When I reached the last couple of pages, I scanned the want ads, always on the look out for that perfect job. That’s when I noticed the personal ad:
“Older white male, married but lonely, seeks attractive female companion, any age, race or marital status.”
My first thought was, “Ewww. That’s kinda yucky.” That thought was quickly followed by a series of questions: How old is he? What’s his definition of attractive? If he’s married, why is he lonely? Does his wife know about this? If the attractive female is married, why would she respond?
I took my slice and my gyro and walked to the coffee shop around the corner, and as I walked, I pondered those questions further and imagined the people involved in that story. As I did so, I realized that although the situation is definitely yucky, it’s probably more common than I’d like to think. In fact, the people behind those words could be people I know. Lots of people are lonely and, as pitiful as it may sound in a seedy ad in a second-rate paper, lots of lonely people are married.
Renee and I have married friends whose relationships with their spouses are not healthy. I admire their tenacity and commitment, especially in an environment that breeds dissension and divorce as easily as pizza slices. But I regret the tragedy of the fruitless relationships. Every situation is different, and it’s difficult to understand the depth of the circumstances that lead to such a condition, but I think I’d choose the battle over surrendering to mutual isolation. Maybe that’s idealistic but it satisfies my imagination.
In any case, as I reflect on my own marriage, in light of a random personal ad, I’m grateful. Renee has been my best friend for over 20 years. I’d rather spend my time with her than anyone or anything else. We’ve always wondered if we’ll ever run out of things to talk about. It hasn’t happened yet. Having a bunch of kids helps with that. We have bad days but never lonely days, and I always have the confidence that if the world falls in on me tomorrow, as long as I can breathe, I can go home and find comfort and companionship.
For people who have that, I pray they’ll realize the value of it and be grateful. For people who are married and lonely, I pray they’ll choose to fight to make what they have all it can be, rather than giving up on it silently or looking for it elsewhere. For people who aren’t married, but long to be, I pray they’ll hold high expectations, and that their longings will be satisfied with love even more abundant and even more true than those high expectations.