On getting married a second time

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A fair number of readers, since learning about my recent marriage, my second, have asked me to write about getting married a second time. I haven’t because… well… I am not sure what to write about.

I could get all schmaltzy about the woman I love. That’s easy for me. There is so much I like and admire and love about her that it’s a little embarrassing. I am in constant danger of coming across as a love-struck teenager.

I could talk about the match. We’re both, for any and all the good stuff, flawed people. We have places where we are strong and places where we are weak. We have vulnerabilities and quirks and have spent enough time with each other that we know what we are getting into. It’s not perfection. But the thing is, we compliment each other. We make each other better and we deal with the strangeness of each other just fine.  We are gentle with each other.

I could talk about how we love. Everyone has things that make them feel loved, love languages, and we seem to speak each other’s language well. I am a big believer in 1st Corinthians 13 love:  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Of course, this is my second time. I am not a young man with illusions that love can’t fail. I know it can. I know it does. I spent 25 years in a marriage. Most of it wonderful. But it ended. Love failed. Or at least, our love failed.

I know the cost of a failed love. The pain of it. How it can devastate. How it hurts. What it does to the people around you, who hurt as well. the ripples, people call it. I call it tsunamis. I’ve written of it often here.

I could not have gotten to this place without time. Some people can go from one marriage to another in short order. They learn the lessons of failed love well and early. Their faith perhaps, is stronger than mine. No, it has taken me time, a decade and more.  Time to heal. Time to let the lessons sink in. Time to learn where you failed before, and to internalize those lessons. Time to learn what you can survive and what you can’t. Time to reclaim your faith in love, to relearn that truly, love never fails.  People do. Love doesn’t.

There’s a part of me that wishes I had that twenty-something-year-old innocence. But there is a part of me that is glad I have survived and have the experience of love lost and all the pain that comes with that. The recovery has made me more aware, more conscious of what I need to do differently, better. Of my own strengths and weaknesses and needs and what I have and don’t have to offer.

But it is still an act of faith. Unlike 35 years ago, I know there is always a possibility of love failing. I know the cost. I enter into this marriage more aware, more mindfully, than I did the first. I pray more over this one than I did the last.

I believe there’s reason for faith. I have seen the woman I love live through tough times and good ones. We’ve had some struggles, as any relationship does, and I know how she works through them, and how that process works for us. One of my favorite books on marriage is Intimate Allies by Dan Allender.

Allender writes eloquently and wisely about how couples can grow closer together, even, and maybe particularly, through their struggles. I didn’t read his book until my own marriage failed, but on reading it, it became my model of how couples should work together, and that is how she does it.

I believe there is reason for faith. I have seen her growth, and mine, since we came together. We are very, very different people than the first time we met over a cup of coffee almost three years ago. We’ve been through a lot. Loss. Growth. Change. Struggle. Joy. Laughter (lots of laughter). We are not the same, but somehow, we have changed together, and the essence we saw in each other early on, is still there. She’s magnificent. Not perfect, but wonderful. Not perfect, but a perfect match.

Yes, there are reasons for faith. But it is till faith. As in, “a leap of.”.

I think we often come to a place where we have to choose between possibility and fear. It isn’t just true in love, it’s true in everything.  Don’t let them tell you otherwise. Failure is always a possibility. In anything. And failure is painful.

Failure is painful, and it’s easier and far safer to avoid even the possibility of it. We humans are very very good at avoiding it, even though avoiding it has its own set of costs.

Part of my journey back has been to come back to a place where I am willing and able to reach for the possibilities again, even knowing failure is possible and incredibly painful. To believe in her possibility, and mine, and what can come of us together, strongly enough to marry again.

It took time. It took healing. It took the right person. It took faith.  Enough of all four to overcome the fear and grow into a place where I can say “Damn the torpedoes and pass the ammunition.”

Ok, maybe that’s not the best marriage quote you’ll ever read, but that’s how I feel. A lot has come together in her and I. We have an adventure ahead of us, she and I. And there’s no one I’d rather make the journey with. A little over a month into it, I am still joyful. I get a silly smile on my face when I talk about her, and us.

Life’s problems don’t go away. Marriage is not some miraculous fix-all. I still fight depression. (Though I have yet another reason to battle, not just struggle). There are still issues in her life and mine that are hard and marriage is no magic wand. It doesn’t miraculously complete anyone. At 61, I know that, probably in a way I didn’t when I was young.

But life is better with her in it.

There is a different kind of determination the second time around. You know the pain of ending, and so you are both more careful going in, and more determined to make it work once you are in it. You have (or at least I hope I have.) more skills and a tad more wisdom to work with. You pay more attention.

Or at least I do. I missed stuff in my first wedding. After my marriage dissolved, I spent some time going around to friends and asking them what they saw in my marriage. Good or bad, I wanted to know how they saw us, and me, and her. The answers were consistent, and the answers surprised me. I had missed a lot.

Would it have made a difference if I had seen things more clearly. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t spent a ton of time dealing with “what if’s”.  But that lesson helped me to realize one of my flaws, and awareness is the first step towards working at it, moving past it.

Being better.

Here’s the other thing. The thing I will leave you with. Having been married, and having had it come undone, with all the pain and loss that entails, and having had more than a decade to live alone with my lessons, I am perhaps even more aware of the miracle that is love than I was as a young man. I am in awe of its ability to rise again, to give us second, third and more chances. In awe of the grace involved, and the sheer joy in it. I thank God every day, literally every day, for this second chance at living an intimate life with someone at my side.

Maya Angelou often wrote of love, and the courage to love again. It does take courage the second time around. More courage than the first.  I don’t think of myself as a courageous person. I’m more of a plodder. But this once, I am glad I rose to it. Cue happy dance.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

3 thoughts on “On getting married a second time

  1. Oh, the wonderful words you weave and how I can relate. I married the second time and lost the wonderful man last October…but oh, the lovely memories I have once I got the courage to take the step those 41 years ago. Thank you, Tom!

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