One thing I’ve learned in my life is that any time I say I’m “never” gonna do something, I inevitably do exactly that thing. Seriously! I may not do the thing for years or decades, but rest assured that if I say I’m “never” gonna do it, it’s coming down the pike sooner or later.
Some examples? I was never gonna move to the Pacific Northwest when my former husband started talking about it 24 years ago. Guess what! I moved there 7 months later and am still here. I was never gonna have children. Guess what! I have two amazing kids I wouldn’t trade for the world.
And my latest example? I was never gonna get married again after what I went through with my kids’ dad. Who in their right mind would want to after all that shit? You’d be nuts. And so after my (second) marriage ended, I proclaimed to myself – and to anyone who would listen – that I would NEVER do THAT again!
As I look back now, though, part of my healing from the trauma of the demise of my marriage was getting really clear with myself about what I wanted from the second part of my life. One of those things was to grow old with someone who wanted to grow old with me. I never (see that word there?) matched that up in my head with marriage though.
For those of you who may just now be joining us here, I had already been married (and divorced) twice. And while many people say my first marriage (to my high school boyfriend that lasted two years) doesn’t really count, that’s just not the case. It counted. And of course, my 20-year marriage to the father of my children counted too. Marriage counts. And if you’ve been married and divorced more than once, you’re probably a little sensitive about the number. I know I am.
Here’s the thing. We see divorce as a failure. If kids were involved, we call it a broken home. If it’s happened more than once in your life, who’s the common denominator? I’m telling you, it is SO easy to blame yourself and wonder what your own problem is – even if you’ve been the victim of an in-your-face midlife (crisis) affair. It’s easy to think you’re just not cut out for marriage. Sometimes it’s the person you were married to who isn’t.
So anyway. I wanna grow old with someone, but I’m never getting married.
I was just dipping my toe back into the dating pool after divorce #2 when we met. I was honestly only looking to hang out and have fun with someone. As we got to know each other, I told him numerous times I was never getting married again. He would just smile, shrug, and say, “That’s fine. I’m not going anywhere.”
Within our first month of dating, he asked me to be exclusive, and I said yes. He was very clear from the outset that he wasn’t messing around and wasn’t interested in being one of many. And to be honest, I felt so comfortable and at peace with him right from the start that I just wanted to be around him as much as possible. (Plus, you should see those dimples when he smiles!)
Fast forward 4 years. It’s 2020. We’re in the thick of the pandemic. We’ve been living together for 2 years. We’re watching a TV show where a woman is terminally ill and hospitalized, and her lover can’t get in to see her because he’s “not on the list.” And besides that, in reality people are getting sick and dying from this stupid virus. Uncertain times bring clarity to what’s really important.
So we started talking about marriage – not as a romantic gesture but as a practical necessity. J., who is the most romantic person I’ve ever known, has the most practical outlook on marriage I’ve ever heard. This was rather jarring to me as I’ve always been TOO romantic about marriage. This is one area where we are exact opposites, so many discussions were in store!
Over the course of a year, we talked and talked and talked about getting married. We talked about why we should and why we didn’t need to. We talked about being scared to get married again and what it would mean to both of us. In the back of my mind was always, “Why am I even entertaining this idea? Am I crazy?! I said I was never gonna do this again!”
Why, why, why would I ever give someone else the power to destroy my heart again?
Eventually, I realized that no one would be able to do that again. You know why? Because I learned to find peace alone. I learned that I was my own best friend. I learned how to trust myself. I learned how to love myself. I learned all this from being broken. It was a hard, excruciating lesson, and it was also a beautiful, enlightening lesson. I was and would always be whole just as I was, married or not.
Marriage itself was never the problem. Imperfect people making shitty decisions within my previous marriages were what ended them.
And here were two more imperfect people, J. and I. But at our age, we both had hurt others and been hurt by others. We both had spent time alone, healing and growing, and got to a point where we liked it there. And then, because we decided to be brave, we both gave love another shot.
We got married last month.
It was a beautiful day filled with the kind of contentment and peace that you find when you’re middle-aged and have a lot of life experience – and heartache – behind you. It was a day filled with sunshine and laughter, music and love.
It was a day in which I never could have imagined myself 7 years ago. It was a day celebrating a commitment I never thought I would make again with the most incredible person I thought I would never find.
But I did find him, and he found me. And together, we’ve chosen to believe in “always.”