Like many women who divorce, I took my time finding a second husband. For much of the 13 years between marriages, I doubted I would ever remarry. It wasn't the falling-in-love part that scared me--it was the staying-in-love part that seemed daunting. But life has a way of surprising us, and after a series of long-term, short-term, heavenly and toxic relationships--I met Larry.
I gasped. I took a breath. And I remarried.
When we were contemplating marriage, I jokingly told my new husband-to-be, "First husband, divorce, second husband, murder." This was my shorthand for, "I plan to make this marriage work, because getting divorced was a wrenching experience, far more difficult than I could ever explain to you, or could have imagined. Please don't get into this with me unless you are planning on staying for a lifetime."
Larry and I are together for almost 15 years now. If truth be told, that number scares me, since it was exactly at year 15 that my first marriage crumbled. Sometimes on sleepless nights, I find myself filled with dread: Perhaps tomorrow Larry will suddenly find a younger woman (even though he swears this will never happen); Perhaps he will be diagnosed with a terminal illness--I'm not sure which fate would be more devastating. But the truth is, that maybe I'm mellowing as I age, or maybe just dumbing down. Because more days than ever before, I wake up smiling, feeling happy to feel his arms around me, happy I am married to Larry, it almost rhymes.
People ask how I've gotten here. Perhaps Larry and I have grown more alike. Living together can do that. Perhaps we simply accept each other's idiosyncrasies. Or we have poor memories and don't remember or dwell on our differences. Maybe it's the fact that at 68, I go to more funerals and fewer weddings each year and Larry sits next to me at both, holding my hand. Is it appreciating what I have that makes my heart sing? People can keep falling deeper in love with each other, even with all the pimples and warts and imperfections all marriages endure.
But there's more. Not only is my second marriage thriving, so is my first marriage. It's a relationship that's been revamped, renegotiated and renewed. Years of joint custody, parent-teacher conferences, sitting together on the bleachers cheering on our children's little league teams, swim and gymnastic meets....graduations, weddings and now grandchildren--all that did something to us. Thawed the ice. Created new neural pathways. Created something that could override the agony of the break up.
Now, both of us (me and my ex-) are remarried. Arnie, my ex-, fondly calls Larry "bro." In the summer, when the kids visit and stay with me, my ex-husband's wife, Irene, comes to my house with her yellow rubber gloves, pitching in washing dishes at our endless extended family meals, which include her children from her first marriage often there with mine, and all the grandchildren too.
Freud once said, "Man never willingly abandons a libidinal position." Translated into plain English, this means, "The heart is profoundly reluctant to give up a loving bond." Or to be more pithy, "Once attached, always attached." Perhaps it's the way we are wired. Perhaps it's God's way. Perhaps we will never understand why. But to me it makes perfect sense that my ex- husband is an old friend plus - plus, plus, plus. We are old friends and more. We traversed the rapids together as we grew up in our twenties and thirties, and fortunately, even after the divorce, all of us--parents, children and new spouses wound up in the boat, and although it wasn't seamless, no one fell overboard for too long.
Follow Judith Ruskay Rabinor Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@DrJudyRabinor