When I got married last year, the most profound piece of marriage advice I received was from my father, who has been happily married to my mom for almost thirty years. He said, "Work on your relationship every single day. If you let one day slide, you'll be on the road to divorce." And just like that, he said the one word no one else had dared to say to a giddy newlywed: divorce. Reading "The First Husband" by Laura Dave, I realized just how quickly and quietly divorce can strike if you're not mindful of your relationship.
When we first meet Annie Adams, the central character in Dave's novel, she has a steady job as a travel writer, lives in Los Angeles and has a boyfriend of five years whom she lives with and loves, Nick. Her future seems definite and her relationship rock solid until, at the suggestion of his therapist, Nick abruptly leaves her. In what feels like an instant, the relationship Annie thought was "meant to be" suddenly ceases to exist. Although they weren't married, Annie and Nick experience all the hallmarks of an actual divorce as they disentangle their lives, even hammering out a custody arrangement for their dog Mila.
From a newlywed's perspective, the scariest thing about the sudden implosion of Annie's relationship was that nothing in their relationship was obviously wrong: there was no fighting, no major personality or lifestyle clashes, no overt warning signs. In fact, shortly before the break up, Nick even tells Annie she is "priceless." But once Annie has time to process, she realizes there was a subtle sign she had failed to account for: Nick and Annie's relationship was defined by complacency instead of evolution. It just was. Which as I've learned in my first year of marriage, is simply not enough.
When Annie meets a charming chef named Griffin only two weeks after her breakup with Nick, she gets into a relationship that is defined by its momentum. Within three months, Annie and Griffin are married and living across the country in Griffin's hometown in rural Massachusetts. Despite their passionate commitment to a new life together, Annie and Griffin encounter challenges. When they get to Griffin's house in Massachusetts, they realize Griffin's brother has moved in with his twin, prepubescent boys (hardly the welcome these newlyweds expected). Annie faces off with Griffin's ex, who is none to pleased by Griffin's quickie bride. Annie is even put in a position where her career and relationship seem completely irreconcilable. Life pushes their relationship to the brink - and yet, instead of pulling apart, they pull together. Instead of just being, Griffin and Annie evolve, both as individuals and as a couple.
For Annie, her seeming rebound relationship with Griffin was really a rebirth. She not only survived the demise of her prior relationship, she flourished in her new one. By working on their relationship and overcoming obstacles as a team, Annie and Griffin seem well on their way to long-term, domestic bliss. To avoid a potential relationship implosion, I think of Annie and take my father's advice to heart. With a little luck, I'll follow in my parents' footsteps and celebrate thirty years with my own first (and last) husband.