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.