I did not grow up around any marriages that worked. My parents’ marriage was a disaster. My grandparents, both sets, though they remained married til the bitter end were truly working the bitter part of that end. I was pretty jaded about the prospects of a decent partnership by the time I was old enough to seriously consider it. Actually, I was jaded from the start.
I had no romantic notions about living with someone, and maybe that’s saved me some trouble in the long run, but I used to despair of even seeing friendliness in relationships.
When I worked for the ministry and the church, I did so during a rash of high profile divorces. Still single, I was horrified. If those particular people couldn’t keep it together, who could? I spent a lot of time howling at Irene about it. Then, something magical happened. Irene invited me to visit Spongeorama, a lure I could not resist, and I hopped a flight to Florida. Not only did I get to visit the most grotesquely, insanely beautiful monument to sponge diving in. the. world. I also got to meet Thom a/k/a Irene’s husband (and Liv, their brilliant daughter, who was about five at the time, and who woke me up one morning by crouching on her haunches, very still, and very close to my face like a lovely, blue-eyed cat, staring until I lurched to wakefulness.) I spent three days with a family that worked.
I loved how Thom treated Irene. I loved the easy way they moved around each other. I loved that he didn’t seem to mind that Irene and two friends were giggling like 3rd graders at a slumber party. And I loved that Irene never seemed to feel self-conscious around him at all.
Around the same time, Jamie looked me up. She had been married a couple of years, and though I had met Wes briefly when they were just dating, I didn’t know much about him. It didn’t take long to figure out I was watching another couple who functioned like Irene and Thom. They welcomed me into their home and hosted me through the next few years of job hopping and silliness, and never held against me that I subjected them to Armor of Light through their children–click the link and skip to 3:35 for my big scene. (Wes has been threatening to post this for years, I may as well do it on my own terms! And yes, I was directed to that cadence and delivery. Forgive me!)
I got really lucky with Jamie and Wes, and Irene and Thom. I saw those two marriages and it hit me: THAT is what I want. It was two couples made up of imperfect people, who just really liked one another, and who were willing to work hard. They were clearly in it together, and clearly in it for the long haul. There wasn’t ego. No one was competing. They were just good people. They were the only couples I ever admired or envied. They are still the only couples I truly admire.
When I was dating, I was looking for a man who would treat me like Wes treated Jamie, and like Thom treated Irene, and I used Jamie and Irene as examples of good wives. Forget Proverbs 31. An excellent woman was one who didn’t mind game night and treated her in-laws well, no matter how they treated her. I had great examples.
With those two couples as a pattern, I decided I had been looking for all the wrong things, and I changed up my criteria in a dating relationship/future partnership to one thing: I wanted a person with whom I could be 100% myself in total comfort, and vice versa. That decision changed something in me, and I like to think it allowed me to become a better human being.
Since I told you about B yesterday, I thought I should tell you about the people who made B possible for me today.