Tomorrow hubby and I will attend the wedding of two friends.
The bride is someone we’ve known only a couple of years, a bright young woman who works as a school teacher, owns a powder-puff pooch, likes (strike that: LOVES) the color pink (and ice cream), and has more going for her than her soon-to-be-inlaws seem to think. (We all have faults. Cut the girl some slack.) The groom has been part of our family since 2002, when he came to us as a newbie Coast Guard cadet — eighteen and uncertain, but determined to do well. He’s now a Lieutenant and one of my favorite people in the whole world, a gentleman I consider an adopted son, a man of honor and integrity who sometimes (often) puts up with more shit than he ought because he thinks he should. He’s good people and we love, admire, and respect him. Tomorrow will be a celebration of their separate lives as well as the life they plan on forging together. It’ll be a reunion of sorts as well, as many of our former Coastie family are coming into town for the nuptials. I anticipate belly aching laughter and an out-pouring of love.
On the other arm of the balance is the news I received yesterday that two friends are ending their 20-year marriage. Sad news, heart-numbing, although not entirely unexpected. (One had only to see them in each other’s company to know that something was amiss even before the male partner confided to me their troubles.) I’ve been divorced. So has my hubby, both of my sisters, my parents (from prior spouses, not from each other), a niece, two of my bestest friends…well, it’s not like it’s uncommon. Sometimes ending a marriage is the best road to take. Sometimes (as in the case of one sister and her alcoholic husband) it’s the only road to take and still remain safe and sane. But it’s never easy — or it shouldn’t be. Marriages weren’t meant to be “throw-away” affairs. You don’t toss aside a marriage over a minor disagreement or annoyance (or you shouldn’t). You end it when there’s no other choice. You end it when to stay in it means the death of something important inside of you. And sometimes you end it when you still very much love the person you’re married to.
It’s a mess.
My friend Andrew, who is getting married tomorrow, once asked me, “How do you know for certain that someone is the Right One? How do you know it will last?”
You don’t. There are no guarantees. If you’re wise, you and your beloved will enter marriage with the very best of intentions and with your eyes wide open to each other’s strengths as well as weaknesses. (Hopefully you’ve already worked out that you can live with the petty annoyances we all bring to a relationship, and you’ve come to terms with the reality that you’re not going to always have everything your own way.) You do the best you can. Some days that best is awesome. Other days, it’ll suck swamp water. But there is no certainty that any marriage will survive. Too many things can crop up to challenge it — minor stuff, sure, but major stuff like infidelities, the death of a child, and illness. (One friend, whose husband broke his back 20 years ago and has been in a wheelchair ever since, is still asked, every now and then, why she has remained with him all these years, why she didn’t cut and run, why she chose to “tie” herself to a “cripple.” Her response is never the crack over the head the questioner deserves. Instead, she calmly states that she loves him and believes in her marriage vows. Is their life together perfect? Far from it. But they make it work.)
I equate the decision to marry (or divorce, for that matter) like the “leap from the lion’s mouth” taken by Indiana Jones in the movie “The Last Crusade.” Indy stands at the brink of a chasm. He cannot go backward or his father will die. But if he goes forward (as he must), he will die. Or will he? It’s a moment of profound faith, trusting that no matter how things look, if you take that step, something will catch you.