I read an article yesterday in the Oprah online magazine. It was about marriages that work. It said that people go into marriages for different reasons and expect different things. It said that some people want security and family life and general contentment. They have no visions of everlasting love or continuing romance. They just want to be comfortable and generally happy with a spouse that they can love.
That has never been me. I understand that the fairy tale vision of eternal bliss is just that: a fairy tale. But a great love of a lifetime – yes, I believe in that. I have seen it.
My parents had been married for 34 years when my father passed away. They had had their ups and downs. There was a time when I was 12 years old that my mother came to me and said she was leaving my dad. She asked me to stay with him to take care of him. She was taking my little brother. Our older siblings were all grown and on their own. My dad had been disabled a few years before that and had become a bitter, unhappy man. The only one who escaped his wrath was me. I was his darling with the tear-drop eyes who could make him smile through the pain. I didn’t cry. I didn’t plead. I knew my mom loved my dad, but just couldn’t take any more. I just accepted it. She was only gone for a few days. My dad apologized and she came back, and they worked hard to rebuild their marriage.
My dad looked for answers and found them in the Bible. He became a Christian, and going home when I was in college was like going to a Bible retreat. It took a number of years for the rest of us to follow him, especially my mom. My dad often said that he wanted to go to heaven, but only if my mom were going to be there, too. He did all he could to convince her. He ended up convincing me first. He died before she accepted Christ, but she did, a few years later. I helped her get ready for her baptism.
Through all their struggles, love was never the issue. They loved each other passionately until the end. Two days before my mom passed away, her Alzheimer’s disease lifted long enough for her to tell me her last wishes. It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon. She gave me all of her instructions for her funeral and burial, and then she said that Daddy had waited for her long enough. She said she had missed him terribly for 25 years, and needed to be with him again. She said he was waiting. I told her I wasn’t ready. She said that I had my husband and that I needed to focus on him now. And then she disappeared into herself again, and on Tuesday morning she never woke from her sleep. The doctor said it was an aneurysm.
I fully expected my marriage to have that same kind of love. We were attracted to each other from the first time we met. He said he first saw me at school registration. I was with my friends, laughing and carrying on as teenagers do. Back then, he said I looked like an angel. He said he thought my face was actually glowing with a special light. Today he downplays all that and says that I was cute and had a radiant smile. But anyway, we used to think we had a special love. We made it through attacks from our families about religion, we made it through separation when he graduated and moved home, we made it through cultural clashes, financial clashes, you name it – we made it through it all. And my heart still skipped a beat whenever he walked into a room… all the way up until D-day. Now it’s in a million pieces, shattered all over the floor. I actually picture this as I write it, glass shards all over my living room floor, where I was as I read all those emails for the first time.
My mom passed away almost one year into his affair, when he was in the throes of newly rediscovered love. He paid little attention to me at all. He came home for the funeral, and then I didn’t see him again for a month. That was when he went on his first business trip to her city, but spent most of the time with her. I had been so busy that year with my new job, taking care of my mom, and participating in two teenagers’ lives that I hardly noticed that he was drifting away from me. But I noticed when I was grieving and he was not there. We started fighting then, and the fighting justified in his mind that his affair was the right thing to do because he was in love with the perfect person, and that I was a b#*^h that he had never really loved.
Maybe what he told her was true. He never really loved me. And I still believe that he’s not IN love with me, though he loves me as the mother of his children and the one who fulfills his biological needs. But I want a love like my parents had, a love that transcends time and hardship.
So there are two things holding me back: first is this love issue. Second is the hurt that he would give himself so completely to someone else, and leave me with a shell of a marriage. And now I’m supposed to believe that he’s totally in love with me again and not in love with her – after all his proclamations of undying love for her? I’m supposed to believe that he will not abandon me – after he told her that he hurt all the time, thinking of how much he wanted to start a life with her? I’m supposed to believe that he will be faithful and true – after he pursued a relationship with her and kept it up for six years? I’m supposed to believe that he will not trample on my heart again – when he had no trouble doing it before? It’s still in pieces. It can’t take another blow. There will be nothing left to put back together.