I stepped onto the dance floor and closed my eyes. It was my wedding day. Around me I heard the band playing. Voices laughing. The clinking of champagne glasses and silverware as our family and friends indulged on the menu we lovingly chose for them. I could feel the delicate lace on my wedding gown as my slender fingers gently traced the intricate pattern that flowed with carefree abandon across my front. Eagerly I waited for my groom to take my hand, joining me in our first dance as husband and wife.
I stood there for a moment, listening. The minutes passed but the footsteps never came. Neither did the warm embrace. Nor the hand to quiet the trembling of my own. Slowly the noise faded. The crowd disappeared. Until the once vibrant ballroom was again silent.
My eyes opened. I was alone, the room mine for only my mind to fill. The soft touch of my gown replaced by the severity of my black cocktail dress, the one I wore to a party being held in another room of the same hall as was my wedding years earlier. Gone were my white satin shoes, in their place fire engine red heels. Vanished the innocent young bride, and in her stead a contemplative divorced woman.
Eighteen years stood between us, yet we were one and the same, that girl and I. The error of my ways weighed heavily on me that evening. I had placed so much faith in that single day, my wedding day. It was to symbolize the perfect beginning to a perfect life. Of course, things don't always go as planned. So when my husband of only two hours opened the door of my bridal room to find me ill, the first of many marital disappointments to come was marked.
Though today I miss so much about being married, from comfortable nights spent on the couch watching TV with my husband to early morning ramblings in our master bath while we both dressed for the day, there are aspects of married life I do not. Looking back, I believe many of the common trappings which once made me feel so complacent are actually some of the same creature comforts that led to my marriage's hasty end. Here are the five things I miss most about marriage but never want again.
1. Security. Sustaining a healthy relationship is an ongoing process. As the years pass, oftentimes we take our spouse for granted, as if that marriage certificate we signed is anything more than what it is -- a piece of paper. With the U.S. divorce rate approaching 50 percent, for many "Till death do us part" has become synonymous with "When the going gets tough, I'm outta here." In other words, marriage itself can evoke a false sense of security. That wedding ring we wear doesn't magically transform us into a Green Lantern, and in no way makes us immune to external pressures or, more importantly, the demons that haunt us, the ones that dictate how we react to our circumstances. Believing marriage will be a cure-all for anything is a hallmark of naiveté. True security comes from within.
2. Familiarity. Being able to kick back and relax is a luxury of the married. Having to be on guard with someone we don't know well and with whom we are not yet comfortable can feel exhausting. With that said, there are simply certain acts that should remain private -- always -- in order to keep at least some of the "mystery" alive, and to not destroy any last shred of attraction we have for our partner. The scene in This Is 40 in which the wife, Debbie, walks into the master bedroom to find her husband spread out on the bed angling a mirror to see what he believes is a hemorrhoid perfectly illustrates how sometimes we may over share. At first, I laughed my ass off (pun intended) because though I didn't have that exact experience with my own husband, we shared ones similar. Big mistake.
My spouse is the same person I'm supposed to want to get sexy with an hour later and who's supposed to want to get sexy with me. The images we have of one another dealing with bodily functions (picking our noses, using the bathroom, passing gas, or changing a tampon) are matters that don't add value to a relationship if shared. In fact, I argue they detract. Yes, we all get sick, have accidents, have our gross moments. And those are the ones we can laugh off. However, when those moments become part of our day-to-day, I know the only thing I want is a day off.
3. Companionship. I recently revamped my online dating profile. I never felt as though I got it quite "right" and that it reflected the true me. In it, one of the questions asks what I like to do for fun. The activities I enjoy are probably similar to those of many women my age and because of that likely bore the guys who read these descriptions over and over again. Yes, I like to go out to dinner, to the theater, and to the beach. I also love to travel and go for long walks. But, the truth is, with the right partner a simple trip to the supermarket can take my breath away. So that's what I wrote. I'm not looking for a companion. I can enjoy my favorite pastimes with friends, or even by myself. Instead, I'm looking for a mate with whom I love doing the things I don't love doing. Now that is domestic bliss.
4. Unconditional love. I believe the existence of unconditional love between a husband and wife is a fallacy. He or she should love me just the way I am. I'm the same person I always was on the inside. Looks don't matter. You know what? If you are the same person on the inside as you were when you first met your spouse but are now out of shape or unkempt, you most certainly are not the same person you were. People who value themselves take care of themselves. So if you have deliberately let yourself go, something has most definitely changed on the inside to make you no longer care what you look like on the outside. And that's what makes people fall out of love. Love is not unconditional; it is conditioned on the fact that in order for someone else to love us, we must first love ourselves.
5. Predictability. One of the things I probably miss most now that I'm single is married life's predictability. I always believed my husband would come home after work and get into bed with me at night, that I would have someone to eat dinner with at least a few times during the week, and that I had someone with whom to spend my weekends. It was our routine. But it was boring. That's because as time went on we only went through the motions together, doing what we were expected to do.
However, that was my life and I accepted it, for better or for worse. When my husband left, my days of settling ended. And that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because what I discovered was "I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special." (Shelby, Steel Magnolias, 1989)
Now I have hope for that, and more.