Listening to social media (dangerous for its utter lack of filter or categorization) I would have to count myself one of the lucky ones as far as relationships go. I’m happily married. I haven’t been damaged, now or in the past. That’s saying something.
Just now, an acquaintance from my kids’ former elementary school jogged by. She’s a nice, soft-spoken woman I’ve chatted with a few times. (Let’s call her Z.) Though I am ever-curious, I haven’t pried into Z’s colorful past. She has three kids–and a husband or ex-husband who lives with his partner in Seattle.
I don’t know if their marriage is/was an arrangement, or if this was a sea-change development during groggy days of diapering and bottles. “Oh, by the way…”
In case of the former, what does it say about Z that she thought it was an agreeable compromise for her life as a woman? Romance tossed aside? Motherhood re-defined? (There’s no written law, of course, which says a woman has to have children.) In the case of the latter, how does she feel about herself now? “My husband/wife chose to play for the other team,” is a line that’s been trotted out in many stand-up routines–usually to good laughs. And yet, how often do we think about the person who’s experienced this?
If our present mindset is a constant reconciling of our history, current status and foreseeable future, what does that in your past do? I have no doubt: If Luanne one day told me she preferred the ‘company’ of another woman to me, my self-esteem would resemble that highway in the above picture. Whether from change of mind or heart (these revelations, I’ve read, often happen independent or other people’s behavior) might seem irrelevant. That would be the emotional equivalent to the line, “It’s just business.”
Rocker/poet Dave Matthews says a rolling stone (a woman the speaker pines for) will “leave a trail of busted stuff.” He knows it’s going to happen, he’s not going to be blindsided. In some cases, we’re talking really busted stuff.
Gillian Flynn provides a bizarre twist to the idea of a psycho relationship in Gone Girl. Even if the brilliant story could be reduced to a cautionary tale–This is the marriage you don’t have!–it closes with lines both startling and persistent. “What have we done to each other? What will we do?”
It’s not likely to send many people headlong to the altar.
Here and there, I’ve wondered about the wreckage left behind from the whole Mary Kay Letourneau saga (two broken marriages, six children). Even if Mary Kay and Steve L. emotionally and psychologically trashed each other (fodder for People and “Entertainment Tonight”) before the appearance of Vili Fualaau, what becomes of the kids? Imagine that conversation at Christmas dinner. “Your mother did what?”
I have a good friend who admits to being a home-wrecker. She’s not proud of it, and she married the man in question (this was no casual fling). Still, I wonder (I haven’t asked) if she wakes every day feeling utterly hated by another person (the first spouse).
Way back when, a college friend of mine carried on a long affair with an older, married man. She was ‘la otra,’ as an Ecuadorean colleague once put it. What are the odds that his wife didn’t find out? How did she feel?
Hurray for boring normal
Being tied to someone for all time isn’t easy. In Independence Day, Ford’s hero Frank Bascombe still defines himself by his (prior) marriage to a woman he loved–pieces picked up and swept, priorities reorganized, hopes gone to seed. Who could blame him?
“No marriage is perfect,” the saying goes. (In Gone Girl the ‘ideal’ marriage of the Elliotts is what gave rise to their ‘victim’ daughter Amy’s monstrous behavior.)
Every day, I look around and find myself grateful for the normal relationship I have. That my fingers are neither groping nor bleeding.