I had it all. I had the American dream. I lived in a beautiful loft in the heart of SoHo (okay, I know some of you want the house and the picket fence, I wanted a loft in New York City).
And I had the baby, the most wonderful daughter. And two dogs. I had everything I'd ever dreamed of and I was deeply, deeply grateful.
I had the wedding, with a beautiful dress from Paris with lace, made in the 1920's -- very much my style. I had a honeymoon at a lovely resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
We moved to New York City a few months after we got married to pursue our dreams. I was 34, not that young, but old enough to know what I was looking for. It had taken hundreds of dates, blind dates, fix-ups -- there was no internet dating in those days. I'd lived with other men. It had taken hard work, but I was determined to find the love of my life and have it all. My career was in television writing and I was about to break into films. I could hear the biological clock ticking and I desperately wanted to have a baby. I had dated men in my business and I finally found someone who was an artist -- intelligent, talented, articulate -- and he made a living. He was a bit lonely and depressed, but I was going to rescue him and make him happy with a family and a home and everything that would answer all of his prayers -- and mine -- and we would live happily ever after.
And we did, for a time. It was great.
It lasted until about a week after the wedding. And then, subtly, I sensed a shift. He had been attentive and available before, and within a few months after the wedding, I felt the door close. It wasn't obvious, but in the first year of our marriage I wrote an essay that was never published called "The Myths of Marriage." And the funny part was, I had taken a course years before about dating and marriage and one of the main points was that we present ourselves one way when we are trying to "get" someone and then once we "have" them; we let our guard down and we show who we really are.
I knew that and yet, I acted like I really enjoyed cooking though I hated cooking. And he acted like he really enjoyed spending weekends with me, when he really wanted to work seven days a week. But we made a commitment and we worked at it and we became a family.
There are few things in life more rewarding than finding someone you love, who loves you, who knows you and over the years, through all the difficult life experiences, is your ally and your friend and your sounding board and your lover. Those kind of relationships are hard to find.
But after 23 years of marriage, we got divorced. I deserved more and he deserved to be who he was (turns out he didn't really want to be rescued). And my beautiful lace dress from Paris? I had rented it from a costume house in Hollywood. Maybe even then I knew that you can't hold on to some things forever, no matter how beautiful they seem at one time in your life.
Here is my suggestion: Be you. Don't try to be anyone else.
Also, live your life with pleasure and do what you love and what is important to you. Work hard, play hard, don't be waiting for someone to complete you. Complete yourself.
A great marriage is really a dream for most. It takes honesty -- knowing and presenting who you really are. It isn't for everyone; it takes effort and a great deal of compromise and patience. It is not the Nobel Prize of life. It is no longer even the American dream, or any dream. Perhaps you saw Eric Klinenberg's piece in The New York Times about living alone in which he reports, "More people live alone now than at any other time in history... In Manhattan and in Washington, nearly one in two households are occupied by a single person... In Paris, the city of lovers, more than half of all households contain single people." Even in Paris -- my beloved city of lights -- even they had a light bulb moment: living alone, or at least unmarried, need not be stigmatized or pathetic or necessarily lonely.
I don't know if I will ever get married again. Divorce was one of the worst experiences of my life, which led me to one of the best and most productive periods of my life. I am not waiting to meet the next man to love; I am busy, working hard, grateful for my life, dating, dancing, enjoying my daughter, my friends and a rent-stabilized loft in SoHo, which I share with a good friend. Not a man. With men, I dance. And right now, that's working really well for me.
Dreams are for when you are asleep. Life is what happens when you are awake. It's never what you expect. Enjoy it.
Follow Robin Amos Kahn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rakahn