I'm not sure how the fairy tale goes now. Or if there even is one. Maybe we've outgrown them.
Over Thanksgiving, Robin and I stayed up watching Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts wanted the fairy tale. In that case, it was: hooker meets emotionally damaged billionaire, buys clothes, makes him emotionally whole, he punches Jason Alexander, and they ride off in a limo together. We're not sure about the happily ever after part; there hasn't been a sequel.
This story ran in The New York Times wedding section this past Sunday. It's caused a ruckus of sorts. Typical story: boy meets girl, they get married and have kids, hang with a couple like them with kids, boy and girl from the disparate marriages dig each other, fall in love, tell their spouses, move out, get divorced, get re-married to each other. Much bigger family. Brady style.
They did it for love. There has to be something for following your heart, right? You only live once and the kids will get over it. Half of their friends will have something like that happen, so they'll fit in anyway.
Maybe one marriage and/or kids isn't what people want, or should expect out of life, out of a relationship anymore. We trade cars in, we move from house to house, town to city, job to job. Change and transition is the new foundation.
For the past several years we've watched a number of friends, with or without kids, split up. It's rough. People whose weddings you attended, that you remember, that you thought were rock solid.
I'm not judging, just riffing. We live our lives trying to make what we think are the best decisions. The ones that will bring us the most happiness. Life isn't simple, or even linear. If you are "meant" to be with someone, maybe it's not the person you married and had kids with. It happens. Repeatedly. People change. Or they don't.
Maybe marriage as a bond, as a vow, isn't relevant. But it makes you worried to be married.
I write this having been married 11+ years and having been with my wife for 15+ years, each of which include my best and happiest days and experiences. Not all of these experiences--say finishing my first marathon as a touchstone--have happened with Robin, but all have happened because of, or in connection with, or with us being together as the foundation, condition, backdrop to whatever experience.
What we have together, including our girls, makes us happier than not being together. There are rough days or stretches, which we have worked through. Our intentions are to be happy, stay together, raise the girls, surprise each other, deepen our relationship and our friendships, find new ways to make ourselves and each other happy. Love, explore, live, together.
We want that to work. I hope it will. I like to think we both have a say in that being the case.
Funny, looking at different things that happened to bring us together: me failing out of college, Robin looking for a teaching job and having a friend from Penn State who was teaching in Tilghman Island, our circles of friends connecting via Tom and Nan and that we live in a small town, the fact that I had seen Blue Miracle in Raleigh and dug them and that all involved decided to go see them at the Avalon, meeting each other, being intrigued by Robin, different dates, staying up all night talking, moving beyond talking (but still talking).
We were Christmas shopping this past Saturday, without the kids. It was December 18 and it was a chaotic vortex of holiday shopping in Annapolis. Amidst the chaos and Christmas spirit, Robin remembered one of the first nights we spent together, as a new couple, looking for any and all time we could spend together, be together, get together (cue 70s-80s porn soundtrack music ;), then she asked, "Did you ever think it would lead to this?"
We laughed. I thought back to that time, those early days, the thoughts I had in my head about us, about myself, about being together. Did you ever think it would lead to this? "This" being us making each other laugh, together but better than then, still wanting her and looking forward to our time spent, our girls and watching them do their things--sports, playing with dolls, building forts, spilling drinks, asking questions, giving hugs--Did you ever think it would lead to this?
"Yeah," I said. "Actually, I kind of did. Or at least I hoped."
[I was going to end there (you can stop reading if you prefer that as a stopping point). But I realize that our case is just our case. It's probably not the norm. It's not everyone's story. It's just ours. It's a work in progress. But it's my frame of reference. And that's what you get on a blog that I write :). Add your thoughts to the mix if you are of the mind.]
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