I don’t go around telling people that I’m married to husband #3, but I also don’t make a secret out of it and I certainly don’t feel bad about it when the topic comes up.
Marriage means many things to many different people, and my understanding of it has definitely changed over the years.
I have never considered marriage something sacred, because I have seen way too many people, who were married for many years, treat each other disrespectfully and not in a sacred way at all. So when I had the chance to leave Germany at the young age of 19 and get married to an American guy I barely knew, I didn’t think twice. Embarking on an adventure to the unknown seemed like a good idea at the time, and while it was an adventure, it sure didn’t last long. I really had no concept of marriage and what commitment even means.
Except for the occasional time I stalk him on Facebook to see if it triggers any memories, I can’t really say that I think a whole lot about my first husband or even remember much about him. I know that he was quite a few years older than me, but when I saw on Facebook the other day that he had a hip replacement, I did start wondering how old he actually is… I also wondered if he has any concept of Facebook privacy settings, but that might be his advanced age… It seems to be in the nature of adventures that we remember more about them than about the people we went with.
I have good memories of the time I spent living in Colorado and while husband #1 is not really part of those memories, husband #2 – whom I met there – actually is. That’s probably because we had a really good time together while I was between marriages… He followed me back to Germany and once again, marrying seemed like a good idea at the time – especially because we wanted children. I got pregnant shortly after we were married and I blame the failure of this – very short – marriage on temporary insanity on my part during pregnancy. Or maybe I was just a bitch and still really immature. By the time I was four months pregnant we were separated and he moved back to the US while I stayed in Germany.
Rebelling against conventions and temporarily succumbing to traditions anyway – that’s the only way I can explain my first two marriages.
Marriage #3 has surprised me. My husband and I (I am wife #3) have been married for 14 years. When we met I was a single mother of an almost 2-year-old daughter and he was fresh out of his second marriage. Maybe our expectations were low enough to give it a try – after all, what’s another divorce? Or maybe, just maybe we were meant to be together.
I wrote earlier that my understanding of marriage has changed over the years, and of course I want to share it with you. I still don’t believe that marriage is sacred. I believe that “marriage” is really just a legal status on a piece of paper, but being married is a chance for two people to build something extraordinary together.
So why does our marriage work? As it turns out, low expectations have nothing to do with it. But it has everything to do with respect and kindness, with being willing – and able – to sit through the pain and sleep over it, to lift each other up and meet in the middle, to bring out the best and the worst in each other, to accept and to challenge, to stand your ground and to compromise.
I’m not saying that husband #1 and #2 were not willing or able to do all that, because maybe I wasn’t at the time; what I am saying is that sometimes we get a third chance and it’s a charm.