Three years ago, at the age of 45, I stuffed wedding invitations and began the first draft of my wedding vows. Twenty-three years ago I did the same thing. I was married for 10 years to an awesome man, father and one of the most compassionate and kind souls I've ever known. I've remained very close to my ex-husband since our divorce almost 16 years ago. I consider him one of my best friends, a confidant and partner in life, and I know that we will walk a journey together till death do us part. So, why did we divorce? Sounds like I lived up to my vows from 23 years before, doesn't it? The details of my divorce are quite private, but I will go so far to say that however compassionate, kind and awesome that man was, I didn't feel like he was mine. I was 25 when we married and we were so different in so many ways... ways I didn't see until I got a bit older. I felt that he belonged to someone else... someone he hadn't met yet, but needed to. And he did. And he is happy.
Since then, I never fathomed getting married again. I could not reconcile vowing to feel a certain way for the rest of my life. I couldn't understand how anyone could intimately promise anything to anybody beyond the immediate present moment. People change, people grow, feelings morph and alter, and priorities and visions constantly shift. The constant and pounding waves of life are relentless and what our truth is for the present moment can look very different come the next day or 15 years out.
Lastly, I could not see a good enough reason to get married. I had my beautiful son, I could make my way financially, and I saw no purpose to a piece of paper from the government tying myself to another being forever. The whole institution seemed ridiculous and hypocritical to me for a myriad of reasons.
I found myself cringing at other people's weddings when they looked into each others eyes and vowed to love each other with their entire being, every moment of every day for the rest of their lives. I wanted to scream out, "Oh hell no you won't'! There will be days you want to pull his hair out, toss his clothes into the street (for no other reason than that you are bored out of your mind), and run as fast as you can to the nearest bar so you don't have to look at him for a few hours!" I apologize to the newly engaged out there -- don't mean to burst your love bubble, but there WILL be days like that.
Fast forward to March, 2012. As he was on one knee with the shining diamond glaring at me, and with that all-important question in the air, I found myself wanting to throw up. I don't remember much of what happened that early evening on the beach, but I do recall waving my hands in the air, backing up from him and saying no, no, no over and over again until my eyes teared up and a very sure, very calming, very confident YES slipped from my lips. As the ring glided onto my finger, the realization that I was getting married for real hit me like one of the endless waves pounding the boulders beside me, on the sand, at Cardiff Beach. Holy crap!
What changed in me that I was able to allow myself to re-enter the marriage institution? It's not that my views have changed regarding marriage. I continue to believe that vowing to feel a certain feeling and be a certain person for the rest of my life is still bunk. I continue to believe that I don't need a piece of paper to keep a man around, and I still believe that people grow, change, morph and that the saying as time moves on, feelings grow and become stronger is not necessarily the case.
What changed in me was the realization that I was committing to a process of being with another person. There is a difference. I came to peace with the fact that I was not committing to being the same person for the rest of my life; that person he initially fell in love with. I am too old to believe that. I have been 10 different people over the course of my life, given my experiences and my changing values (thank god!). I have come to understand that I would commit to include him on my individual walk of life, and he will be including me on his. We may want to walk in different directions at times, and that is okay! I committed to always finding him when that happens and walk a few miles with him on his path, until the trail bends and he walks a few miles with me on mine. Finally, I have come to peace with the phrase, till death do you part. My life is more than half over. I want to spend the second half with THIS man.
So, maybe I've come to terms with marriage for all the reasons I've stated. Or, perhaps, since he was an interrogator in the army, and he did some secret-army-interrogation-magic-mind-meld-thingy that he learned in the military to get me to change my ideas about marriage. Wouldn't surprise me if he did.
We celebrate two years this September. I have been four different people since then. He's still here.
Michelle Rose Gilman would love to connect with you.
Find her at Michelle@wellheeledwarrior.com