The Second Time Around

December 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

I get asked this question every now and again. From married friends. Divorced friends. Single friends. “Is being married different the second time around?” I think most people — including myself — expect a resounding yes. Of course one hopes that whatever mistakes you make the first time around, you’ve wizened up enough not to make them the second time around. But I think it’s more like whatever mistakes you made the first time around are just that more obvious the second time around, as in, “Wow! I can’t believe I didn’t learn that from my first marriage! Good one, Ruth!”

Like, did you know that when you’re married — no matter who you’re married to or whatever number of spouse you’re on — you do things differently? It’s true. For example: I save plastic grocery bags. I’m sure you do too. I think this is a value born out of the Great Depression and hasn’t left our system yet. I simply stash all of my plastic grocery bags in a larger bag under the sink. That seems completely acceptable and normal. Ben, however, ties them in a knot. I remember the day I learned this tidbit. He said, “Hey Ruthie, I like to tie knots in the bag before putting them away because they take up less space that way!” I nodded, “That’s neat, dear husband of mine.” I mean, how did he not know I’ve been doing it my way for so long?

Also, no matter who you’re married to, you probably make decisions differently. I actually learned a lot about how Ben makes decision just after one date. Our first date was Halloween (on a Saturday night), and I flew out to Birmingham the following day for work. We talked on the phone for hours — me on my fluffy hotel comforter and he in his dorm room. If my life were a movie, I’d make sure in this scene that the director include a rotary phone so that my (Scarlett Johansson’s?) fingers could curl around the cord, like you do when you’re talking to a boy. Anyway. I learned that he had been interested in me for about two months, but gave it a lot of thoughtful consideration before officially asking me out on a date. Me? Let’s just say that, in college, when an acquaintance asked me if I wanted to live in North Carolina for a summer, I said yes, and quit my job the next day. In a word, I’m rash. For better or for worse.

But also: it is different. Sam wasn’t the guy for me — or at least not the life-long partner guy for me. I had a college professor say to me (to our class, really) that there are friends you’ll have your whole life long. And then there are friends — even really good friends — who will be in your life for a chapter or two. He said this to our class of 36 students, living in Ecuador, who had become pretty much a family during that time. And I think he said it to us because a) it’s true, and b) so that we wouldn’t fall apart if we all didn’t stay friends forever. I think that’s some of the best wisdom or advice I’ve ever received. And when I reflect on being married twice, I don’t regret saying yes to Sam. He helped make me the person I am today. Sam was my post-college-I’m-23-and-an-adult-now-and-hey-let’s-get-married guy. And Ben is my I-love-you-and-hey-I-could-actually-live-with-you-life-long partner guy.

In some ways, I think marriage is marriage is marriage. It’s good, and it’s hard. No matter who you are.

I mean, on one hand, we’re constantly negotiating for power cords, travel mugs, and whether we should watch Parks & Rec or The Office.

On the other hand, when I asked the other day: “So, how are you?” He said, “In love with you.”

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