Years ago, I heard the expression, “The fish you catch is determined by where you cast your line and the bait you use.” That made sense to me. You might use shrimp to catch a redfish or trout, but if you were going after a sailfish or a shark, you might want to choose a different kind of bait. Similarly, if you’re fishing in a lake, the fish you catch there will be radically different from the one you catch in the ocean. That’s equally understandable.
Now you might say, “What does this have to do with choosing a spouse? I’m not the slightest bit interested in fishing, or what bait to use.” My answer is, everything, because the fish I’m talking about and the place I’m referring to has to do with where you found the man or woman you eventually chose to be your partner, and the bait is you.
If you look at this expression in that framework, it shouldn’t be surprising if the individual you met at a bar, who you later made your spouse, has a drinking problem. Similarly, if you were to go to a church, synagogue or mosque and try to meet someone there, it’s likely that the person will have a decided interest in religion. So, where you “fish” for a partner will generally determine what type of individual you’ll wind up with and whether or not you can rightly complain about who they are. Thus, after years of marriage, you might not be able to legitimately criticize the spouse you found in a bar about his drinking. Similarly, it’s difficult to find fault with a spouse regarding their religious involvement if you initially met them at church. The analogy can, of course, apply to many different venues. I can’t begin to count how many wives I’ve seen in therapy who have bitterly complained about their husband’s (who they met at a football game) almost addictive involvement with the University of Texas football team, and how the game schedule dictates where he will be on any given weekend from September through December. It’s the same for a woman who met her future husband at a wild game dinner and then finds fault with the fact that he isn’t available during hunting season; or the man that met his spouse at the opera ball and later criticizes her partner for insisting they purchase season tickets. So, where you choose to go fishing will definitely determine the kind of fish you catch.
Now, let’s talk about bait. One of my cardinal rules about the person you’ll eventually wind up with is that you always get who you are. Believe it or not, healthy people marry healthy people, dysfunctional people marry dysfunctional people, strong people marry strong people, weak people marry weak people, insecure people marry insecure people, and so on down the line. This is almost a cardinal fact. Some of you will say, “How do you account for the notion that so many times you find a very strong woman who runs the show, who is married to a spineless male? Or the opposite, a domineering, controlling, dictatorial male who permits his wife no choices concerning what takes place in the family, and insists she subjugate her own desires, thoughts and feelings to whatever he dictates.” My answer is simply that anyone who needs so badly to control or demean another individual is a person who has little sense of self-adequacy. He or she is an individual who needs to control, in order to compensate for their own fear of being controlled. They may seem to be strong in form, but in actuality, they are weak in substance. Needless to say, a partner who accepts that behavior is equally lacking in confidence. That’s what they have in common.
At this moment, I’d have you stop for a moment and ask yourself, “How am I emotionally the same as my spouse or partner?” Let me try to help by saying, look inside, because on the outside, you’re likely to be 180º the opposite. Please take some time to think about this question and when you feel that you honestly, introspectively know the answer, ask yourself one final question; “Do I want to be married to someone like myself?”
It’s a powerful question, which will enable you, with very little error, to clearly see the kind of person your spouse is, or will become. If your answer is “no”, then look to change you; i.e., become the type of person you want your spouse to be.
Let me go on record, however, as saying that few people ever change their stripes. Tigers don’t become pussycats. Nor does a pussycat ever become a tiger. You are truly who you are. But, what you are able to do is change the way you react and interact with others. You can learn to behave in spite of what you feel or see yourself as being on the inside. The key is that you be able to look in the mirror, see you for the person you are, and value that person. The problem is that too many of you truly can’t face, let alone accept, who you are, or own the actions you demonstrate. Because of that, you choose to hide from your truths, to obscure any thoughts you deem negative or depreciatory, and to distort the picture of self you carry with you. All your energy is directed toward making you more acceptable in your own eyes. But deep inside, you know you’re living a lie.
You might ask, “What’s wrong with that if you’re comfortable with it?” What’s wrong with it is that to live an emotionally healthy life, you need to see you, recognize and own you, accept you, forgive your shortcomings, and laugh at and love you, not hide from you. Hiding disallows you to live transparently or be vulnerable. As a result, years later, when you choose a spouse, you choose someone who is exactly the same as you. Then you spend the rest of your married life punishing the person you chose for the things you unconsciously see in them that you can’t accept in yourself.
I hope you will give serious thought to what I’ve tried to suggest in this article. I suggest you share it with your sons, daughters or anyone who may be actively looking for a spouse. Hopefully, they and/or you, will come to see the merit of the statement that the fish you catch depends on the bait you use and the place you cast your line.