My best friend here got divorced today. When I first met her three years ago, she was so full of life and vibrant and literally exuding passion, and I couldn't imagine how she had ended up in the marriage she was in. Her husband was a nice man (IS a nice man), kind, stable, and loving. But --it was painfully obvious to me that this was a one-sided relationship with one person moving and evolving into a new stage in her life and the other running in place. I melted into their family life and into the lives of her three children, and watched everything crumble before my eyes as I played (and continue to play) the supportive friend role through it all.
This is not the first marriage where, through blurred lines, I became involved in the inner workings. My parents' second marriages were fraught for many years with a tension and palpable sadness that every other week, my family life was difficult in a different way. The fighting and accusations were about us, against us, in front of us and with us. The experience of this has left me a bit frozen in place in regards to relationships - I am extraordinarily bad at them, with trust & commitment issues, and above all there is a sense of foreboding in my mind that comes with marriage.
When all you've known up close and personally were the bad things, it is impossible to know the good exists.
Luckily, as I've gotten older, I've grown much more aware of the fact that marriage IS in fact something that can work. It can grow sweeter with time, it doesn't have to mean the eventual loss of yourself. I've seen friends in relationships where they have blossomed, and met people who have been married for dozens and dozens of years and are still excited to answer the phone when their spouse is calling.
These things give me hope.
But as that terrible country song says, life ain't always beautiful, and I've gotten to see more of the bad things too. My best friend began an affair a couple of years ago, and I'm the only one who knows. This is difficult on me, even "just" as a bystander--being the shoulder to cry on, delving into the frequent depressive and downward-spiral conversations, all with the burden of my own heartache intermixed within was turning out to be too much for me to take.
I didn't realize the emotional toll this was taking on me (given my background) until a few months ago. We were out to dinner and she was talking about it, and was emotional over everything and I sat there clutching my beer bottle and was repeating the same words of support and comfort I'd been speaking for months when something inside me snapped. I was in the middle of saying something and then out of nowhere, I just buried my face in my hands and said "This is all just scaring the hell out of me." Then I started to cry and I'll never forget the look on her face. She grabbed my arm with an urgency and said that no one could ever cheat on me - but how on earth could she know this for sure? She was so surprised at that moment, I think she would have told me she'd give me one of her kids if I would calm down.
Listen -that is SO fundamentally out of character for me that it scared us both, frankly.
But it DOES scare me. It all scares me on so many levels, and paralyzes me into inaction in my own personal life. This is something I know, I acknowledge, and I'm working on.
Her marriage ended today, and the strange thing is, I keep reading stories today about lasting marriage. Ms Moon just welcomed a grandson, and is mentioning many times how much stronger her marriage has become as a result, and how she's seeing the result of their love now carrying on through the generations. I read this story about a woman who, because she was in a same-sex relationship, was denied access to her wife as she passed away in a hospital. She is still fighting the legal battles, and her story provides a testament for marriage of all shapes and forms. And then the extraordinary Maggie May wrote a stunning piece about marriage, shaping words into lyrics as only she can.
I don't know almost anything for sure right now. I don't even know where I'll be living by Christmas. But I know this -love can exist. It may even endure.
And it may - one day - even happen to me.