“What does marriage mean to
you?” she asked. Savoring our plate of gourmet cheeses and a bottle of red wine
on a lovely spring evening, three women pondered the question inspired by
approaching June weddings.
Each of us had enjoyed long-term
relationships with men we loved. One had been committed to her sweetheart for
decades. Another wed young and now delighted in the details of her son’s
I was the third. Married
over 25 years and a divorce lawyer even longer. The author of Divorce in Nebraska, divorced and now
widowed, I allowed an uncharacteristic pause before I spoke.
Sitting at the outdoor café with
small linen covered tablecloths where my late husband and I shared countless
cherished evenings, my heart was full. Our abiding love for one another. Our
(eventually sweetly) blended family. Those precious weeks spent in Italy before
his cancer led to hospice. So many memories in the course of 20 years.
It would have been easy to
say something romantic and heartfelt about the meaning of marriage. I paused. I
knew marriage was far more complex.
From the perspective of the
decades, I voiced my belief that in the presence of abuse or addiction
everything you thought you knew about marriage changes. I claimed, too, that people
grow and change and that sometimes what was once a viable partnership is no
more. A divorce lawyer is painfully aware of how many married couples sleep in
As always, I had plenty of
But when it came to my
marriages, I could choose the story I would tell. Would I dwell on the tears
shed in marriage counseling? On the betrayals? On the heartbreaking
I could. And the stories
would be true. Retelling those stories would also leave me sad and prone to
judging myself and those men who once declared they wanted to grow old together
with me. They certainly would not inspire anyone about the upcoming June
Instead I choose to remember
that I fell in love with two good men. That they loved me and I loved them.
That we believed we would be together for a lifetime. That we never intended to
hurt or disappoint one another even though we did. That we did the best that we
could with what we knew then.
I declared my opinion of
marriage to be a favorable one. I cautioned that it should neither be entered
into lightly nor abandoned with haste. I warned that anyone entering into it
must assume responsibility for their own happiness. Each should be willing to
sacrifice for the love of the other, but never be willing to give up who they
are. In sum, I concluded it was a challenging path, not meant for everyone, and
that sometimes one would come to the end of the road traveled.
All will be well, married or
not, I concluded, certain that gratitude for the journey can endure even when
the marriage does not.
What story will you tell of your marriage?