Do you ever sit on the beach or at an all you can eat buffet and people watch and think “Man, Americans take lousy care of themselves….”? (You don’t refer to yourself as Man? I thought everyone did?) Slowly you point the lens of criticism back at yourself and you feel like an asshole for being so silently snarky and judgemental. I look at my very not flat stomach or my plate piled high and think “who am I to judge?”
In the last few days I have spent more than a little bit of time on the telephone with several of my girlfriends. They are all past the boohoo stage of a failing marriage and on to the nuts and bolts of where do I go from here. They all have a different story, different backgrounds. They picture their future quite differently from one another. Divorce, affairs, silent resignation. But they have one thing in common. At one time they looked at a man and thought “I will spend my life with you.”
As I hang up the phone each time I get quiet for a while. And I turn that same lens that sees my imperfect body, my dinner plate filled too high with carbs and not enough salad at myself and my marriage … and I close my eyes and I do something that is as close to praying as I get.
I just think. I think and I focus everything in my heart on that moment, the moment I said to myself “I will spend my life with this man” and I try to picture what is different about my moment than the moments that belong to my friends’ and their husbands.
There are very few upsides to divorce. But there is one. The second time, when you think “This could never happen to me, to my marriage” you know better. I try really hard not to ever compare. And on the slim chance that I do, I really think twice before writing about it. And it isn’t just because both my husband and my ex-husband have been known to read what I write here (ummm, hi, guys.) It’s because saying out loud and writing “Wow, I learned a lot and now I’ve got this all figured out” is just too scary. It’s not the kind of thing I want to risk jinxing.
But this weekend as I hung up the phone after speaking with a friend I melted against my husband. He hugged me, silently hoping that holding me close would be enough to eliminate the need for Conversation. I don’t recall exactly how it happened but he had me laughing in no time. Moments later we were laughing about something else entirely. And mere moments after that we were laughing again.
I went back to cleaning my kitchen. I sighed as I shuffled one of his piles from the kitchen table to a chair. It drives me nuts, the piles. But he reads all of the time. And when he reads he makes notes on notecards and cross references things in still another book. He sticky notes and underlines and reads some more. And then he stops reading and underlining and thinking and he picks up the baby because he can’t stand to let her cry, either, and sometimes Life gets busy and his books stay right where he set them down.
And it drives me crazy. The piles. But even the things that drive me crazy are things that I adore. I like it. He reads. And he makes me laugh. I like him.
Hesitantly I tried to explain to MQD what was on my mind. He asked me then “Do you need to think of how to say it?” and I answered “Yes, I really do.” It’s a feeling I don’t know if I have words for.
The benefit of being married twice is that I do have something to compare it to. And part of what made it so incredibly hard to get divorced is what makes it easier to be and stay married. I love my ex-husband. I love him enough that my nose started to tingle and I started to cry as I wrote that ugly word “ex-husband.” I loved him very, very much and I still do. To that end it is perhaps easier for me to know in my heart that marriage takes more than Love. And I know that. And I work hard to remember that.
I have never liked anyone, not a friend, not a boyfriend, not a lover as much as I like being around MQD. I just like him. It’s pretty simple. He likes me, too.
And when I was younger and in the middle of a passionate and fiery argument with my ex-husband I never stopped to think “Well, that’s not very nice, is it?” I never bit my tongue. I relied on Love to keep us both forgiving. But I forgot that forgiveness does not mean someone likes you. Just because our Love did not erode it didn’t mean our friendship didn’t.
And now years later I have another chance to do it right. And I won’t sit back and expect our Love to carry us through. Because Love isn’t enough. My girlfriends that are struggling in their marriages are not questioning if they still have Love. They are sad because they don’t like each other anymore.
I don’t feel smug. Not for one second. But I am confident. I think if we work hard to try and be the kind of person that the other would like to be around we have a pretty good chance.
So, here’s my man. I look at him and I think “Man, I am gonna spend my life with him. Because I like him. I like him so much.”
It truly pisses me off that love isn’t enough, and it makes me sad too. I had a rush of the “what might have beens” after my ex and I took our son trick-or-treating this year. He has gone on to marry–twice now–and I am still alone. I don’t miss him, I miss my family. How lucky you and your husband are to have found each other. :)
I had almost given up. xo
What a great post… And it is so true. Love is just not enough, is it ?
I too have learnt this the painful way… What I am still not so sure about is how to work through the moments when you stop liking the person by your side as Karen describes.
But like you, I guess knowing that if you’re careless you could lose the relationship may be enough to be more careful, to stop and be more considerate… Let’s hope I get it right when the second time comes :)
Once again she makes me ponder and wonder how much wisdom can come from one person! Kelly, you are so insightful because you know where I have been, I am on marriage #2 as well, and there are days that are hard, but at the end of the day what keeps me from walking out the door, I genuinely like him, not everything he does or says but him. Thank you for all that you say and are brave enough to put out there, it truly helps!
;) thanks, lady.
Oh man, did this resonate particularly because it happened to be posted the day after my 12th wedding anniversary. And there was a time about 7 or 8 years ago when Z and I actively disliked each other. Like hated each other. Sometimes I still can’t believe we worked through it and learned how to like each other again.
I woke up thinking about your post and wanting to comment because I had a recurring nightmare in which Z and I split up and I find myself with my early college ex. And it is horrible to be with the wrong person when you know the right one is out there.
I think the fear of losing it all can keep us on our toes. That and an awesome couples therapist….Glad you found MQD. Seems like there is a lot to like.
I think a healthy dose of fear is what keeps my mouth in check quite often. Big congrats to you two. :)
Thanks, but honestly I think dumb fucking luck has more to do with it than anything else. I mean, hard work also, but I have too many awesome friends who have worked really hard on their marriages (often with equally awesome spouses) and have gone through divorce for me to think we’ve done anything special…dumb luck. Dumb. Luck.
Dumb luck goes a long way.
Good for you for figuring out that its liking him that matters. Only your children can you love but not like and be okay with that…you’re supposed to not like what your kids are sometimes — that’s the master plan. But you’re not supposed to not like your husband. And if you find yourself feeling that way, you realize that you don’t have at that moment what you signed up for. Lucky you Kelly. Lucky you!
:) So far so good.
Oh man (and yes I refer to myself as man all the time), do I feel you. Liking my husband is sometimes so much harder than loving him. But it’s that like that you can take to the bank.
I sure hope so!
True – oh so true …. I’m divorced too so I can totally relate to what you’re saying. I’ve been dating the same guy for 5 years now and I’m still not ready to get married again. Good for you for taking another chance and making it work :)
Thanks! It was a risk I suddenly knew I was ready to take.