These pictures were taken just a few weeks before Adam and I married. When we met, I lived in Utah, and he in California. We knew we loved each other; we needed to make sure the kids could at least stand each other. So, we arranged to "meet in the middle" in St. George, UT at the home of my best friend for a weekend of "future family", to see how it all gelled.
The kids instantly loved one another. Their ages melded seamlessly. Lyndsay had always wanted a sister, and here was a ready-made one, only two years younger. Sean wiggled in right between my two boys, and everyone seemed right at home. It felt too good to be true.
It was. It always is, isn't it?
Boy, I look back at these pictures and think of the fantasy that all would continue to flow so smoothly. I thought the hardest part of a second marriage would be blending the kids together, and that seemed to go without a hitch. Besides the fact that we were moving to a new state and needed more income, I thought we were headed for Easy Street, and I believed that after the heartache that both Adam and I had endured, it was well-deserved. Now, almost three years into the adventure, I'm not sure what is the hardest thing about a second marriage. I'm not even sure what's easy, if anything, about a second marriage. But, we definitely missed Easy Street somewhere along the way. How come I can never find Easy Street?
Every facet of this new beginning has been difficult. Adam and I knew each other only a few months before getting married, and because we lived in different states, we had even shorter time actually together. Love conquers all, huh? Let me tell ya, love doesn't even begin to conquer all. Love, I'm finding, which we have plenty of, is not nearly enough. The movies lied.
I remember a close friend and mentor confiding in me once that she and her husband had come close to divorcing, though they had six children together. They decided to stick it out, and don't regret it for one minute. Her words to me: "Commitment is a much stronger glue than love ever will be." Boy, was she right.
One of the findings of Judith Wallerstein's intense study of marriage and divorce, which she published in her book, The Good Marriage, was that couples who described their marriage as "unhappy" or even "very unhappy", five years later, if they remained together, described their unions as "happy" or "very happy". Interesting. Must have been that commitment. You gotta ride the wave. In other words, life can't suck forever, right? One of the other findings in her study was that successful, happy marriages needed to go through at least one very trying, stressful make-it-or-break-it time. That's how you test the commitment, and that's how you beef it up to the next notch. The happiest marriages all had experienced really difficult losses, betrayals, or heartache, and had come out on top. In this, I'm no lightweight.
Marriage is hard, though I hate to admit it. I am an idealist and in my mind marriage should not be hard. It should be hard work, but not hard. There is a difference to me, and I'm always willing to work. I just didn't know the work would be so emotionally and spiritually wrenching and exhausting. Second marriage is harder. Even happier, it's still harder, because of the other relationships involved (ex-spouses, ex-spouses' new spouses, etc.) hanging on by tentacles, threatening to strangle at any moment. Throw in children from first marriages and the fragile relationships of step-parenting. Add all the wounds that come from the break-up of the first marriages and then toss in the differences in discipline, parenting philosophies, and financial habits. It's one serious project. Being under the microscope doesn't help much either. Kids getting grilled at the other parent's house about "how things are going", and exes making comparisons, taking notes with which to indict you, when you're only trying your best to play the hand you were dealt.
I guess since that first trip to St. George, we've had to "meet in the middle" many, many times. And on some things we're still in heated standoffs. But that's okay, right? We don't have to have it all figured out yet, right?
I'm in it for the long haul. I'm dying to see where this train goes, where this wild ride leads. I have to let go of the ideal, which I'm not sure even exists, except for in one marriage that I've seen in my life. The Golden Standard. (she knows who she is) The rest of us will just have to settle for imperfection and heated standoffs, mixed up with passion, love, laughter, and phenomenal make-up sex. It keeps it interesting, and interesting is real.