He laughed at the caveat, but I was dead serious about it. Yesterday I received an email notifying me that our bass class scheduled for tomorrow had been changed to tonight. In case that sentence threw you for a loop, Tuesday I received an email notifying me that Thursday's class had been changed to Wednesday evening. I wrote back that due to a previous commitment, I would be unable to attend.
Today as I passed the bass professor's room on my way to band rehearsal, prof. Kieran and Blake (president of the bass society) were standing outside the door talking. We greeted one another and I asked Blake if he had received my reply. He had not, so I told him of my previous commitment, to which Kieran joked, "Well, we know where his priorities lie!"
"My mother used to tell me," I replied, "that if you make a commitment, you stick to it, even if something better comes along." Kieran and Blake thought for a moment, and said they thought that was a good word for the day. But as I was setting up for band, the caveat occurred to me. Fortunately, Kieran was still in his office as I walked the hallway after rehearsal. I leaned in the door.
"There is one exception to my quip," I said. "If you're dating, take the better one that comes along. But once the date turns into a spouse, the original holds." Kieran just shook his head.
It's true. The whole purpose of dating ought to be to learn about the other person and about yourself. We talk about compatibility, but that's not the point. Dating is a journey in self-discovery, and often the person who seems incompatible is exactly the one who helps you discover the real you. Of course, there must be plenty of areas of agreement, especially in core values, but when couples who were struggling would tell me they weren't compatible, I had all I could do to stifle a belly laugh.
"Of course you're incompatible!" I would say. "One of you is male, and the other is female! You can't get much more incompatible than that!" Linda and I are different in almost any way imaginable, but we choose to make those differences work for us instead of against us. Before we were married, we had the opportunity to date, and if either of us thought someone better had come along, we were free to make that choice. Actually, Linda did at one point, but soon realized the error of her ways (She's going to hit me when she reads this!). But once we made the choice to marry, the old rule ruled.
To be honest, I don't know if anyone better has come along. I never considered the possibility. That door was closed nearly 47 years ago, bolted, locked, and the key thrown away. Mom's advice has made life a whole lot easier. I keep my commitments, no matter what, except for those times I just plain forget. I didn't have to manufacture excuses for not fulfilling my original commitment tonight, and I don't have to endure the uncertainties of a relationship that has no deeper foundations than our immediate feelings. That original commitment has proven to be the right one for me, and mom's advice if heeded, would save a lot of people a lot of grief.