“Maybe the difference between first marriage and second marriage is that the second time at least you know you are gambling.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert (from Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage)
And here I am, one woman loved by one man, so sweetly and so beautifully and so deeply that in this world I can hardly believe sometimes that this type of happiness has wrapped itself around me, around us, so completely.
This is my second marriage, and this time, I’m fourteen years older than I was the first time I promised myself to another – and centuries wiser it feels. But yet I’m still full of butterflies, as time dwindles to our big day, thinking about our future, and, more quietly, the past.
As I told him last night, this time around I’m more contemplative, with thoughts about what I’ve learned in the ten years since I filed for divorce from my first husband, and who I want to be as a partner in this new chapter. Who have I become in this time? What have I experienced? How do I handle the good – and the bad – events that have shaped my today? What are my expectations of marriage – and what are his?
There are many things that are different from that first time around. When I married at twenty-six, I’d known the man I was engaged to since I was a girl of sixteen. When we were dating in the early years, and later when we were married, I tolerated behavior that when I look back, makes me cringe. But worst of all, I believed his actions were a reflection on me. When he said I was fat, and talked of how skinny I was when we first met, or when he refused to be intimate with me for the majority of our marriage, he found a way to blame me. And I believed him. When I realized his mother was a more central influence in his life than I was, or when he blew through his money in a way that disrespected our future, or when he lied to my face over and over and over about his growing reliance on alcohol, I blamed myself. I refused to think I could be manipulated. Or marry a drunk. I was stronger than that, I was smarter than that…right? If it was true, maybe it meant I had really screwed up in deciding to marry him. If it was true, maybe it said something about me.
That was my thinking back then.
There were a few key events that occurred in the seven years between the “I Do” back then and the real, true, final end to that relationship that extended two years after our divorce. As this post is not about him, the details are not important, but what IS important? I learned. I grew. I saw the truth about him, and began to see the beauty in myself. And I evolved into a woman with a growing confidence, self-reliance, and love for myself that had been missing for decades.
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Three years ago, I saw the possibility of love come in the form of a serious face with black frames and a voice that felt like home, even when it was a seemingly zillion miles away – a real, unbreakable, gorgeous kind of love, in the the man I am marrying this May. And when that story materializes into something more intense, more emotional, more life-changing than I ever could have imagined? It has brought me to my core self, and soothed my heart in ways I never anticipated. With him, I am seen.
“I have determined that despite my fear, I must truly trust in my partner’s feelings for me—and trust myself. I need to accept that we would never grow if we never took risks, that we, as humans, are life-long learners, that many great things are unrehearsed.” (source)
So with that, I think about the vows I’ll write when we meet under the canopy of trees, with waves crashing to the shore and my hands in his. I think about the words I have written, the words others have inspired me with (his included), and what I could possibly say to tell the man I love that he has awoken me in a way I never thought could happen. After all the pain, all the lessons, all the days sitting quiet out on my front porch, wondering if I’d ever know the deep, soul-bending, life-affirming love that I craved, it would be found in a best friend 8,500 miles away, on a continent I’d discover time and again. And vice versa, he visiting me, falling in love with Stumptown and fitting in like he was born here. I’ll think of the movies at the Astor we loved, like the very first one we shared, part of a Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers double feature one Sunday afternoon way back when…
I think of how we share the same values, philosophies, and how we’ve picked ourselves up time and again after some crazy experiences, going down in the depths then dusting ourselves off and putting past mistakes behind us to create something worth keeping – us. I remember the first time he took my hand in a crowded airport and I think about how I fall asleep much easier now that he’s by my side, rubbing my back til I fall asleep and I envision how we as a family might look in a year or two.
And I think about this upcoming day we’ve pieced together in our own special way. Where we’ll celebrate with friends over dinner the night before. Our favorite place in the whole world where we’ll exchange our vows. The videographer who coincidentally got married at the same beach who therefore “gets” why we love it. The stellar yet nontraditional photographer whose ability to capture the truest moments of love in her work (and also has shot at the same location) will help us document this day. The people who will make our dinner and the wonderful cafe who will host it AND bake our desserts. The pub we’ll raise our glasses at with friends afterwards and the hotel who will host our night-after-the-night after (because on the actual evening, we’ll just wander down the street, hand in hand, back home). The place we’ll spend our honeymoon in the autumn and the rainforest we’ll wander through on our way there… it’s how we are commemorating the latest chapter in our story.
Our simple, beautiful, unique story. (That just happens to be green!)
“In the modern industrialized Western world, where I come from, the person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality. Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back to the world. There is no choice more intensely personal after all, than whom you choose to marry; that choice tells us, to a large extent, who you are.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert