Harry: You ever miss being married? I bet you were great at it.
Erica: Sometimes. At night. But not that much anymore.
That’s a scene from the lovable Something’s Gotta Give. If you’ve never seen the movie, put down your phone or step away from the computer and do yourself a favor: go watch it. Right. Now. If you’ve already seen it, then you know that the question Harry poses to Erica is one that nearly all divorced people ponder at one time or another: you ever miss being married?
Yes, I do miss it. And yes, I thought I was pretty great at it.
First of all, let me make it perfectly clear that I do not miss being married to my ex. Secondly, I am in a loving and fulfilling relationship with my partner. Living together as a “we” certainly satisfies the things I craved when it was just “me.” We truly enjoy one another, even if we’re doing yard work or pushing a cart through the supermarket, and it’s wonderful to have someone who just gets when you need a hand, a hug or a back scratch. Life is good and I am grateful for every moment.
But we are not married.
One day, God willing, we will be and I get excited just thinking about calling this man my husband. Although we are monogamous and have merged our lives, I’m looking forward to the day we will make our commitment permanent. So how can I be sure that my second marriage will be any different than the first? A lot of it has to do with how much I’ve changed and learned and grown.
I’m older and wiser.
Humorist Helen Rowland once quipped, “A bride at her second marriage doesn’t wear a veil because she wants to see what she’s getting.” Ain’t that the truth! Remarriage is not a decision to be taken lightly, especially considering that I already took a huge leap of faith once and fell flat. But back then, I was young and foolish – I barely knew who I was, let alone who I was marrying. I am now 26 years older and I’ve been through that stage. The next time I make vows, I know it will be in the voice of the person I am, not the person I want to become someday.
I realize that romance doesn’t come automatically.
Here’s a major difference between my love partner and my ex-husband. In the wake of the divorce, my parents helped to redecorate my house to celebrate my new life. Part of that included stringing beautiful blue twinkle lights around the outside deck and pergola. When my ex spotted them, he immediately questioned why the “silly” lights were there since it wasn’t Christmas (that was the last time he stepped foot in my house, btw). Yet, when my partner saw them, he loved how romantic they looked and to this day, we switch them on nearly every evening to bask in their glow.
Like roses, romance will die unless you tend to it regularly. I thank my lucky stars that my partner is a romantic like me because not only does he put in the effort, he recognizes when I do the same. No, every day is not Valentine’s Day around here, but we do make a point of doing tender things for one another: text messages, date nights, holding hands, taking turns bringing coffee to bed and looking forward to just being together at the end of the day. We work at keeping a spark because we know how cold life can be without it.
I can recognize and respond to my emotional triggers.
We all have baggage that we bring to relationships. The late, great Nora Ephron, bless her heart, had a brilliant perspective on it. “One good thing I’d like to say about divorce,” she wrote, “is that it sometimes makes it possible for you to be a much better wife to your next husband because you have a place for your anger; it’s not directed at the person you are currently with.”
I am the first to admit that there are times I let residual issues affect me emotionally. Early in my current relationship, I put our future in serious jeopardy by aiming my ire and insecurities at the wrong person. Since then I have learned to identify my negative triggers and know when it’s time to grab them by the horns and drop kick them to the curb. They don’t have a place here and certainly aren’t a genuine reflection of how I feel about my partner or even how I feel about myself.
I view time as a precious commodity.
This summer, my partner and I joined his family in celebrating his aunt and uncle’s 50th anniversary. It was a joyous occasion in every regard but one: I realized that he and I will never reach the same milestone. When you get married at 20 as I did, your whole life is ahead of you. You walk down the aisle into this big, blissful unknown with much to look forward to. While there are no guarantees in life, for most young newlyweds, ‘til death do us part is still a long way away.
When you find love later in life, things are different. You both come into it with the realization that it’s important to cherish the number of years you get together, whether it’s three or thirty. That eliminates the carelessness that comes from taking time for granted.
I’m in a much better place.
Without a doubt, this is my most deep, meaningful and honest relationship. Know what else is great? After 40, life looks and feels different; there is a new mindfulness and maturity present. We both know we’ve grown into the people we want to be and know we have chosen the mate we want to enjoy life alongside. With that comes mutual respect, along with acceptance, appreciation, affection and kindness. We both feel blessed. I’ve never been so sure that a high-level marriage isn’t about a gold band or a piece of paper, it’s in the way you treat each other every day. We’ve already got a head start.
In the year after my divorce, I was sure I’d never want to get married again. Like Erica in Something’s Gotta Give, there wasn’t much about it that I missed and I enjoyed most things about my new life as an independent, single woman. Much of that bravado was likely my ego talking, a defense mechanism to protect myself from getting hurt again.
Soon after I met my partner, I knew I had been wrong. Like Harry says in When Harry Met Sally, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
While divorce may break you, it also makes you stronger in the places that were broken. That includes your heart and your capacity to give someone your all.
Having been married before, I’m certain that I want to do it again. I know that I deserve real love, lasting happiness, and another chance to get things right.