I wasn't expecting a phone call from Sean, my 28-year-old son, on a Saturday night three weeks before Christmas. We chat on the phone plenty but just not on Saturday nights. Coincidentally, I was celebrating the launch of my website with a small group of female friends when he caught me off guard saying, "I proposed to her on a street car in New Orleans and she said yes." Lucia and Sean had been dating for about two years, and Sean had recently shared with me that he felt sure he had met his match. This was the beginning of a year filled with joy and anticipation.
To say my son is romantic and sentimental is putting it mildly. Every birthday since he reached adulthood, I've been the lucky recipient of a bouquet of my favorite flowers in a real vase. But what I realized recently is we've spent a lot of time chatting about love. While I was launching a website and writing a book about restoring faith in love post-divorce, my insightful firstborn was soaking it all in -- even reading some of my blogs and posting them on his Facebook page.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to witness my son and his new bride exchange vows at a scenic overlook by the Hudson River. Sean and Lucia were both raised in divorced homes. As they stood in front of their family and friends and read their personally written vows, promising to love and cherish one another forever, I was overcome with emotion. I felt so proud that I had a raised a man who was so willing to put his heart on the line and pledge to love this woman forever.
What was most striking about the ceremony is that despite being raised in fractured homes, Sean and his new wife radiated hope and confidence. As I greeted family and friends at the cocktail hour, it occurred to me that nearly every person in attendance at the wedding had been affected by divorce somehow. They had either been divorced themselves, grown up in a divorced home, or been impacted by divorce in some other personal way. And yet they were all here, imparting words of wisdom, toasting the bride and groom, and projecting optimism for the new life these two were just about to start.
My son is an incredibly confident person. He has been since birth. He's always had a lot of friends, done well academically, and most importantly, he's been comfortable taking risks with his life. Moving across the country for his career and proposing to Lucia are prime examples. He's also had the advantage of having two parents who strived to keep his best interests at heart. Although he lived between his dad's house and mine, it did not deter him from feeling loved unconditionally.
Sean's been fortunate enough to have kept most of his friends since elementary school. I've been lucky enough to see them grow up and watch the kind of adults they've become. One of his friends, who also grew up in a divorced home, cornered me outside of the ladies' room during the reception, looking for advice about moving in with her boyfriend. All around me were young people taking a chance on love, determined to keep a positive outlook on the future.
Even though children of divorce learn the hard way that marriage isn't a sure thing, they might also learn to take their time to pick a partner and acquire a healthy respect for commitment. Rather than taking on a pessimistic view of marriage, they might embrace the silver lining inherent in experiencing their parents' breakup. They use it as an opportunity to make good decisions in picking a romantic partner and are better prepared to make a permanent commitment.
I've asked myself why my son has faith in marriage, and there's no easy answer to this question. The truth about any relationship is that there are no guarantees, but you make a choice day in and day out to see things through. Growing up in a divorced home, I know that my son witnessed the breakup of my marriage, but he is sure enough in himself to believe that my fate does not need to be his fate. He has made a choice to live a life of intention and purpose, and has decided that he doesn't need to be defined by his past.
Follow Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MovePastDivorce