A week after Paul and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary, newlyweds Silas and Mari moved next door to us. As couples, we became fast friends and remained so even after my husband and I moved twenty miles north into a bigger home in a different school zone.
As our children grew up, our families were so intertwined, we even began vacationing together. There were date nights in which our kids hung out and noshed pizza while the adults went out for drinks and dinner. We even hosted Silas’s family most holidays.
It was a groovy scenario. And then it was over.
After twenty years of marriage, Mari wanted independence. Silas didn’t.
Now, mind you, this is no ordinary split. This is a double-secret probation-type split that’s been going on for two years.
Silas and Mari are still living together in a bit of a Standoff at the Not-Okay Corral, and they swear the kids don’t know anything about their split.
(I say they are underestimating the perceptiveness of their teens. We don’t give teens nearly the credit they deserve.)
Furthermore, this is a split that we, the couple’s BFF’s, aren’t even supposed to know anything about.
Hey, when Ben Franklin famously said this, he was talking about Silas:
Anyway, the split looks like this from the outside looking in:
Mari is pulling away for some mystery man while Silas is plastering duct tape over fissures and sticking his fingers in every blown dike in sight.
(Sounds dirty, but just an allusion to the Hans Brinker – Silver Skates story by Hans Christian Andersen.)
As a couple, they are going to counseling that, from where I sit, appears to be doing nothing but lining the pockets of the counselors and frustrating the shit out of true-of-heart Silas. But that’s another story.
As for me and my husband? We are Camp Silas. Without question. Because we believe in marriage.
That doesn’t mean I’m not empathetic to the mania of a midlife crisis, which is what I believe is at the root of this pending divorce.
There’s a reason the midlife crisis is a cliché. They happen. And not just to men.
At a certain age, a woman realizes she will never experience the giddiness of new love again. She feels old and used up.
Frankly, it’s not really exciting to launder a man’s tighty-whities (or brownie-wownies, as the case may be) week after week.
Routines can become deadly. The stress of raising kids can make a woman question her own sanity–what the hell was she thinking when she said yes to the dress and maybe to the baby?
Or perhaps the spouse is taking her for granted. Or isn’t exactly lighting her barn on fire these days.
Anyone who is standing on my side of middle age can attest to the absolute blur that time becomes when one is busy about the business of life and work and family.
As a young woman, you get used to men taking an appreciative second look when you walk by. It’s kind of empowering. You own it. You expect it.
And then suddenly, you’re an invisible pregnant blimp.
One day the baby is puking formula on your shoulder, and the next he’s out in the front bushes Ralphing up his first experience with little red Solo cups.
And then pretty soon, you’re an old bag hauling a giant canvas bag onto the beach. You set up your canopy and umbrella and cooler. And as you bend over looking for sunscreen, you realize your ass probably resembles one of those plywood garden silhouettes of an old woman bent over in the garden. Ugh.
And then you plunk down to begin reading a juicy romance novel. But your attention rambles.
You find yourself looking twice at Joe College-Lifeguard flirting with nubile young women on the beach, and you remember that summer oh so long ago when you and your friends were those girls. You were invited to that late-night wild lifeguard party three blocks from this spot. And you were golden. Immortal. Tan. Golden.
So you rub your shoulder where the bursitis is giving you pain, and wonder where your life went.
So yeah, I get it. Really I do. But hold on, Mari–and anyone reading this who is feeling the need for speed.
That giddy feeling of new love? Those sweaty palms and fireworks? There’s an ugly flip-side to those things. It’s called insecurity. You can’t be sure this new thing you’re going for is going to last.
It’s a rush. Like a roller-coaster ride. One where you can find yourself riding alone halfway through the thing–with the object of your infatuation bailing out like a paratrooper choosing a war-zone over your crazy-ass shit.
That man who chose to stand up before God, family, and friends and vow his forever to you? He knows your crazy-ass shit. Has seen it up close and personal.
And guess what? He loves you all the more.
You really want to give that up?
Think about it…God knew what He was doing with marriage. You find your soul mate, you grow old together, and around the time your body goes to hell, your eyesight is right behind it.
So as a married couple, you have skinny-skinny sex; fat-skinny sex; skinny-fat sex; fat-fat sex–someone is always going up on down on the scale, right? But that’s okay. You don’t see the love handles or the belly or the thunder thighs. You don’t see scars or veinous road maps or the sagging and bagging of gravity.
Instead, your heart grows fonder.
There’s no more giddiness or sweaty palms, per se, but there is the excitement of another anniversary and plans for retirement. Maybe grandchildren some day. There are date nights and vacations and the reassurance of just sitting next to each other in church holding hands.
And when problems come to call–AND THEY WILL–be they financial problems, or cancer, or the deaths of loved ones, or teenagers who are making you six shades of nuts, there is your rock:
He’s sitting across the kitchen table from you, belching his admiration for your casserole surprise.
He’s farting and snoring in the bed you’ve shared since forever.
He leaves the toilet seat up at three in the morning, but then goes out to scrape the ice off your windshield at zero-dark-thirty so you can stay warm and finish the coffee he made for you.
Sometimes true romance is found in small gestures. And yes, it’s worth fighting for.
I pray that Mari comes to her senses because I can guarantee a man like Silas will not be single for long.
And when the flavor-of-Mari’s-day begins to sour on her tongue, good-old Silas may not be so willing to take her back.
In closing, I remember the advice my mother gave me and Paul on our wedding day. It was the same advice her father gave her the day she married my dad.
“Never let the sun set on your anger.”
It’s been advice that has served us well. And here’s another bit of wisdom:
Dr. Phil has said that every morning he asks himself, “What can I do to make my wife’s life better today?”
What a selfless way to honor your spouse.
Still, realistically, sometimes marriage is rough.
It takes work and commitment to weather the bad seasons.
Work and commitment that you not only owe your marriage, but your children.
Too many human beings are seriously damaged because their parents were too selfish to work things out between themselves.*
In fact, I have a theory. If the children were court-ordered to remain in the family home and the parents had to rotate in and out and back and forth, maybe more people would be willing to work at their marriages.
Only time will tell how Mari’s midlife insanity plays out. If she’s not careful, it could be too late to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Maybe Silas will find someone tomorrow who deserves his pure heart. Someone who makes him say, Mari who? Someone for whom saying “I do” means “I will. I really will” until one of them is carried out in a horizontal box.
I pray Silas will find his person–Mari or otherwise. He deserves the same level of love and loyalty he so willingly gives.
Finally, the best marriage advice comes from the Bible:
Always put God first in your marriage. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (ECCLESIASTES 4:12)
Thanks for reading! XOXO
Susan J. Anderson,
Foxy Writer Chick
**(I am not referencing people who have abusive spouses here. If you are abused, you need to leave the relationship now.)