I’ve been married for seventeen years. When I met my husband, he had just turned 24. Somehow he’d made his way from a small town in the Pennsylvania coal region down to Louisiana for grad school. Soon after the culture shock set in, he ran into the likes of me, a single 22-year-old Southern belle with a 3-month old baby on my knee. We both had big dreams, his fashioned after Norman Rockwell and mine looking more like a Picasso. When he told a wise-ass friend he’d give him a nice punch in exchange for the next crack about me having a baby, I knew he was my match. Like a knight in shining armor, he led me away from the painful places I’d roamed and showed me a world where I could harness my spirited soul and mold it into something productive.
It seems to me that a lot of married folks forget the part about sticking it out when hit with the for worse. For Better is easy. Heck, it’s great! I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of considering a towel toss when things got tough. Marriage is complex, each one as unique as the united individuals. I won’t judge anyone’s decisions because I know how sweet and how tough it can be, and how those emotions can coil so tightly that we’re safe and warm one day, one year, one decade, and then unable to breath the next. If we’re lucky, we find a way to loosen and tighten those coils as needed. For some, it just doesn’t work. I won’t pretend to know why nor will I ask whether they tried hard enough. There are no guarantees in life, or marriage, for me or anyone.
Is it just me, or does society seem to push an extremely mixed message about marriage these days? When I was growing up in the South, divorce was considered sinful, and the kids who lived through it seemed to either walk around in shame, or constantly act out for attention. By the time I became a teenager in the late 70’s, it seemed a bit more acceptable. When my parents divorced in 1985, I hardly batted an eyelash, thankful to be done with it. But subconsciously, I felt as if the little life I had was being sucked away. I was floating in a vacuum, searching for something to hang on to. At nineteen, I could have been the poster child for the directive, “Get a life!”
Where had my life gone and what had it been about in the first place? Where do our lives go when divorce comes in like a tidal wave wiping out everything we had or thought we had? These days it seems that while we know it’s damaging to our children, divorce seems to be a decent fix for discontent and poor choices. The truth is that sometimes people do marry for the wrong reasons. Are they supposed to keep hanging on because of a piece of paper, or money and time invested? Or should they move on, salvaging what’s left of their lives to find a better situation?
Mac, one of the characters in Aberrations is an adulterer. Why does he stay in a marriage he shouldn’t have entered in the first place, and why would someone want to date a married guy? Well, he doesn’t want to face his mistake: marrying for the wrong reason. He doesn’t want to be the kind of person that would make that mistake. He struggles to understand how he feels, what he should do, and what that means about him. His dilemma exposes the question of whether one should always do what society says is the right thing versus what is right for the individual. When they don’t mesh, society can be unforgiving. In this case, loneliness causes Angel to do things others may not consider, such as getting involved with a married man–an unsafe situation. But for her, Mac is safe because he understands her condition, a major issue for her. They are uniquely drawn to each other, as many of us are, in ways that float above and beyond the realm of right versus wrong, black and white, logic, or rules.
Someone told me recently that the bond between husband and wife can be similar to that of parent and child. Now there’s a bond that forms well beyond the realm. If you come across a cuter, smarter, or more well-behaved kid, you wouldn’t consider trading yours in, now would you? Perhaps the real test of marriage is whether or not that type of unbreakable bond took. If not, is it too late? Is there a law of nature that says the bond must form in the first sixty days, or the first ten years? I don’t think so. Who wrote the rules of marriage anyway? Was it Dr. Phil, Oprah, your pastor, priest or rabbi? Frankly, the rules seem simple, and fairly nebulous. Norman and I prefer to create our own. We won’t expect you to live by ours so please don’t expect us to live by yours. As for Mac, I think he makes the right decision in Aberrations.
As for me, I think I’ll stick with my Rockwell for as long as he can stand to wake up each day with a Picasso hanging over his head.