Postcards from Paradise (Reprise of 2009 Post)
I've been carrying on an on-and-off conversation
with an acquaintance of the male variety
who is going through a divorce and is dealing
with the sense of dislocation that results from losing
that familiar structure.
He's trying to figure out how to be single again
and doesn't feel as if he's very good at it.
Thinks he never was.
I told him I thought that one of the underrated things
about marriage is that in a marriage partner,
you have a witness to your life.
Someone is there to appreciate the moments, big or small.
Someone celebrates your accomplishments
and helps pick you up when you fall.
Someone sees the cloud passing across your face
and wonders if you'd like a back rub or cup of tea.
Someone listens to your dreams and woes,
validates your perceptions
or perhaps reorients the way you see things.
There are little love pats exchanged in passing,
for no reason other than physically reinforce all the spoken
"I love you"s.
Even when there's a marital rough patch, I said,
you have a sense that you're not alone in the world,
that your presence, your essence, really matters to someone.
At least that was my experience when times were good.
When a marriage ends, I told him, that foundation is gone.
You're adrift without the anchor
that everyday interaction brings.
It's really quite an adjustment,
one that's much more difficult
than you'd imagine because no one talks about
how everything just changes overnight.
He said he assumed I knew I was a romantic,
that his marriage wasn't like what I described in any respect,
though they'd had good years with some common goals
and birthed a wonderful child and parented him well together.
He thinks they just had divergent expectations
and were never right for each other.
He said he views love more pragmatically than I do
and the kind of pie-in-the-sky relationship
I described just isn't something he's shooting for.
God knows I don't think marriage is easy
or that great relationships just happen
without conscious intent.
But now I'm wondering:
am I intending something extraordinary?
Are my desires outlandish?
Should pragmatism trump what I believe is possible?
Should I lower my expectations and settle for a relationship
in which I basically get along with someone, enjoy his company,
and share a few common interests?
Or should I hold out for "the real thing,"
that spark of passion and sense of
having known each other from a long time ago,
a sense of inevitability that of course we'll be together,
creating a pact to encourage each other's growth,
even if it never comes around again?
Is the real thing just an illusion?
Am I just a hopeless romantic?
(My answer right now is that I'm both an optimist
and a pragmatist. . . it was clear he wasn't
"The One" or even one of the possibles,
so the friendship dwindled away quite naturally.
I choose to invest myself in friendships
that feel enriching, not limiting.)