I recently met a fellow divorcee and runner over breakfast in a hotel lobby. We bonded over talk about our respective divorces and our motivations to run the race that we had both completed the previous morning. Eventually, she asked the inevitable question: "Do you want to get remarried?"
I bristled. Not at the question. Nor at the thought of marriage. I reacted negatively to the word -- "remarried." To me, the prefix "re" means to do again in the same way. I don't want a repeat of my first marriage, simply following the well-worn grooves of my initial journey into matrimony. It implies a backwards motion: revert, retrace, revise. I have no desire to move backwards, to redo my first marriage and subsequent divorce.
For one, even though I thought my marriage was a wonderful ten years, it turned out to be a sham -- a mere façade of a marriage. If I venture into wedlock again, I want it to be solid and fully formed beneath the surface. I do not want to rebuild; I want a new, sturdy foundation for a new relationship.
Furthermore, I am no longer the same woman I was when I said my vows all those years ago. When I approached my first marriage, I was not naïve -- as I had experienced hardship -- but I did put too much responsibility for happiness on my husband. Now, I take ownership for my well-being and I know how to find happiness in the smallest of corners. I realize that happiness is a choice and I can always control how I respond.
I allowed fear to be a driving force in my marriage. I was afraid of losing him, the only man I had ever loved. I could not imagine a life without his presence and just thinking about it would turn me into a trembling mess. It's strange; you would think that the devastation from divorce would make me more hesitant to marry again. In fact, I am less frightened now than I was before. I am more accepting of impermanence in life and I am better able to live in the moment rather than in an imagined future. I am now bilingual; I speak the languages of love and loss.
I never was one to believe in the fairy tale of marriage. I wasn't into wedding planning and white dresses. I never saw a marriage as a panacea for a relationship. What I did believe in was my husband. I believed in him to a fault, as I failed to recognize him as a fallible human being who was tormented by his own demons. But, just like I don't hold everyone with an XY chromosome responsible for the decisions made by my ex, I do not hold the concept of marriage culpable for my divorce.
I did not share any of these thoughts with my new friend across the breakfast table. Instead, I simply answered in the affirmative that, yes, I would like to get married again. In fact, mere days after my husband abruptly left, I made a statement to this effect. I knew I loved being married and I wanted it again. I just wasn't sure how I was going to get there.
I have, in fact, found love once more. It hasn't been easy to be vulnerable again or to learn how to trust after my faith had been betrayed. It took me many months to open up again and I still find myself erecting a shield at times. My biggest challenge was not giving into to the fear of being abandoned again. This became clear about four months into my new relationship when I saw my boyfriend's car pull up to the curb outside the airport where he was picking me up after a trip.
Relieved to see him, I reached up to give him a hug, "It's great to see you."
Hugging me back, "I missed you," he replied.
Once inside the car, I admitted, "I halfway expected you not to show."
He looked shocked, hurt. "Why would you think that?" he said, a hard edge sliding into his voice. "I told you I'd come get you."
"I know," I replied softly, feeling ashamed. "It's just that last year..." I trailed off.
"I'm not him."
Of course, I knew that on a rational level; I never consciously compared them. It was a matter of memories coursing through my bloodstream, igniting stress hormones that, in turn, sent false signals of impending doom. I also knew that this was dangerous territory; if I expected others to behave like my ex, eventually they would.
I have now been with that man who showed up at the airport for over two years. Part of the challenge is recognizing that, although it is familiar, it is still new. It may be easier to simply trace the imprint left behind from the old marriage, but that will simply create a carbon copy of what was and we all know how that one turned out. So, instead, I am taking what I learned from my first marriage and starting with a clean sheet. I am more willing to be vulnerable yet I also am more aware of my surroundings. I take care of my own happiness yet I am also more willing to admit when I need help. It has been a partnership born of mutual patience and understanding as we both healed from past hurts. We are growing and learning together, bringing different views and experiences towards a common goal.
I am not a fool. I know that marriage is largely a societal construct. I am aware that committed relationships can exist without a license from the state and filing jointly with the IRS. I realize that a ring does not contain any magic powers that exert a force field around the wedded couple. But I also know that there is value in a public vow and that ritual exists for a reason. I don't want fear to hold me back; if I am going to be partnered, I want to be all in. I'm still not into the wedding planning and white dresses, but nonetheless, I believe in the meaning behind the pageantry and papers.
I do want to be married again. And, when that day comes, I will happily say, "I do" not, "I redo."
Follow Lisa Arends on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stilllearning2b