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.)


larkspur said…
A hopeless romantic? I hope so. Hold out? Hell, yes, Meri. Hold out for the real deal. Every day can be filled with passion if you make it happen with someone you love.
Are you assuming there is only one person out there with whom you could have the "real deal"? There are probably many. The good news is you just have to find one!!
Meri said…
Bonnie - Precisely! I just have to hold out for one out of the many who might fill the bill.

Larkspur (Garden Mother) - That's my take on things. But it's interesting to hear the take of a pragmatist and then reassess to make sure you're on the right path.
will said…
The Venus - Mars thing has some truth in it. I cannot speak of what women want and I approximately know what my wife wants - but I do believe men, in general, look at relationships in ways different than women.

I also believe men, in general, are emotionally cyclic concerning marriage, wife and family.

For example, a young man new to marriage is probably interested in physical sex more than he will be at a later time and his desire for a family will wax and wane with the years.

I've wondered if older men are more comfortable living by themselves - more so than they did when younger. Nearing the conclusion of life, I think men tend to want heritage and their name passing into the future - more than at any other time in their life.

Older men might want more comfort and companionship from their years of what they see as combat with the world. They might want a person to talk with as opposed to someone to play with.

Age is critical in all of this. Males change more than women understand - or men themselves understand.

There's some scientific evidence male personalities shifts due to bio-chemistry changes thus aging men are often seen as harsher, grumpier or more detached.

Generally, romance is cute, a "woman thing" but still a good start point. Older men tend to simply go along with the notion of romance - except they too have idealized romance as something they generally are unwilling to talk about.

I'd say, male poets are rare and male pragmatics are common.
A.Smith said…
As in "falling in love with a firecracker but marrying a candle"? I certainly hope not! You could tell him that us incurable romantics rather kiss plenty of frogs searching for the prince than to settle in suburbia. His pragmatism may serve him well but apparently it has robbed him of the most wonderful thing in life: that of being "in love".
kamana said…
i'm a hopeless romantic myself, so i do believe that you shouldnt just settle for someone you can "get along" with.
beth said…
I don't know meri...I guess my only real theory is that you should be with your best friend !

and what you described is my best friend, so I'm not sure what other kind of relationship I would/could possibly have if we weren't together...

but like soul mates, I believe you can have more than one best friend and they might be as different as night and day and you will love those differences enough to see that not one person can be or has everything the other person wants or needs...
Delwyn said…
Hi Meri

you may be a romantic but I wouldn't deduce that from what you said to your friend. All that you said I see as a normal part of a supportive two way relationship where there is giving and taking and closeness. I don't know what it was he experienced...

keep you ideals - they are very real to me...

happy days
Tracy said…
Shoot for the pie in the sky, Meri! We only get this one trip, at this particular time... So continue to seek your ideal while still enjoying life. You might have to go through some pits until you find the peach ;o) One who can be your best friend and romantic partner is a wonderful match. I feel this way about my husband and myself, and feel very lucky. I hope sparks fly for you, and that you also find the sweet contentment and joy a partnership can bring. :o)
Reya Mellicker said…
This is so sad, beautiful, though.

My ex husband never made me a cup of tea when I was sad - but - he was the world's biggest narcissist so what did I expect.

And though Jake could never give me a backrub, he was all those things you describe in the post. Maybe it's more about partnership that marriage that you're writing about?
Bee said…
I couldn't read this without inserting my marriage into it -- almost in a checklist kind of way. Do we share this? Are we missing that?

I think that whether a person wants to hold out for more or settle for less has a lot to do with their comfort-level with being alone, in addition to other pragmatic considerations. (As a separate, but related, question: Do you feel more or less afraid as you grow older?)
Deirdra Doan said…
Hold on to the the dream that is as real! You are seeing the unseen real..and sometimes those in the now have lost their know the way and will apprehend it when you see it.

My marriage is so wonderful and real...but it took holding on for both of us to come to such a beautiful place as we are in now...
poefusion said…
Hopeless romantic... but, that's a good thing I think. Settling? Blah. I say search for your adventure and see where it takes you. Have a great night.
Relyn Lawson said…
It's real. The only illusion is that it's easy.

There's nothing hopeless about being a romantic.

And. Pragmatism should never be the trump card. Ever.
julochka said…
i don't think the real thing is an illusion, but it also doesn't come along every day. i know that i stopped believing in it and settled when i married my starter husband, tho' i knew we had friendship but not great love. when the real thing comes along, the Great Love, you'll know it's worth waiting for and you'll recognize it almost instantly.

i feel a little sorry for your friend, both because of his divorce and because he doesn't believe. we owe ourselves more than that in life.


p.s. i'm finally catching up after a long summer of not doing my blog rounds. sorry if you'd given up on me! :-)
Unknown said…
This post took my breath away, G had a rough night last night...most of it spent in the ER. Just seeing that pic of us made my cry.

I do think there is someone out there that is just waiting to be caught up in your incredible bright light Meri.
It is hard for me to respond, Meri. I have been alone for some time and never married. I have lived with men. I love your description of a marriage relationship and what it means to you. I don't think that it is necessarily a good idea to go into a relationship with a list of expectations to be filled, however. It is daunting to the other person and usually ends in sadness for both parties. Better to take it as it comes and see what each person has to offer the other in the way of enhancing the other's life and growth. That is my take on it from my experience with romance.
rebecca said…
love you meri,
i believe.
in you.
and love.

thank you for touching my heart so deeply with this collection of couples in love. how honored am i am to be included with my husband who cares for me without measure.

i want this for you too.

What's hopeless about being a romantic? :-)
Dawn Elliott said…
I held out until I was 47 and finally found my wonderful mate. There are lots and lots of good times, and some rough spots, but you're right...we have each others' backs and are in it for the long haul.

I don't find your dreams to be outlandish at all. It can just take a good long while to find it!
beth said…
thank you for reminding me to love what i have and to be thankful for every moment with the one i love...even the moments that aren't fun or perfect !!

and i'm with bonnie...i truly think there is more than just one person for all of us, even if they hard to find.

hugs to you !!!
beth said…
i just realized i practically wrote the same thing the last time you published that's kind of funny....especially since i missed the fact that this was a re-post until a few moments after my comment....
gma said…
The important thing is you are complete exactly as you are! You do not need any other person to make you whole.
Many people settle and are miserable.
You deserve the mate of your dreams. Nothing less.
Love to you...
Harry Kent said…
The definition of marriage you proffer isn't the fruit of fevered romanticism. Seems to me it is an insightful thumb-nail sketch of psycho-social place we grow to with the right person over the years. In our marriage of 40 plus years, your description is the norm.

I suspect your friend labelled your views with the pejorative epithet of 'romantic' simply as a way of lamenting how far out of reach the grapes seemed to him right at that time. It's easier to believe grapes are sour. I feel for him.
Eryl said…
I suspect that being in the throes of divorce one isn't at one's most competent, let alone insightful. I wonder what he means by pragmatic in relation to marriage; is he looking merely for someone who can help pay the mortgage and take out the trash?

I love your thoughts here: a witness to your life seems to me to be exactly what a spouse is. Amongst other things, of course!

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