I've been settling into married life with my husband and kids now for a few months. Transition is always tough for us but we are in a groove again and I couldn't be happier. I still pinch myself when I think of the evolution of my life from a few years ago til now. Things are all falling into place one after the other, even things like careers, that I never could have imagined possible.
I was thinking today about what I would tell my kids in just a few short years, when they themselves begin to look for a life long partner. I don't really know what the past few years has done to them or what sort of impression they took away from everything. Like every mother, I do not want them to make the same mistakes I did and have to go through all the "learning experiences", the hard way.
When we divorced, we were both very careful not to let the kids in on the details. We explained that we had grown-up problems that we just couldn't work out, and reassured them that it had nothing to do with them. So thinking of how to talk to them about what mistakes I made and how they could avoid them is overwhelming...how to do so without disclosing that their father couldn't stay faithful.
But I think that I will be able to tell them what love is, and what it isn't. I've now had two very different experiences in marriage, the second of which I never would have known existed had I not found it. My parents certainly didn't have it, I thought it was a fairy tale. I made excuse after excuse for my first marriage, even before the cheating. My sister-in-law recently reminded me of a very sad conversation we had once during my first marriage, where I told her I was just basically resigned to being unhappy....not in a crisis kind of way, but more of a low hum that I could try and ignore. For the rest of my life.
It turns out that there IS a greater love out there, and it's not what I envisioned either. It challenges you, it puts a mirror to your face that you don't always like, it takes gritty hard work, it isn't perfect. But every second of it is so worth it.
The true partner will bring out the best in you. They will never ask you to do what will hurt the ones you love. They will never ask you to lie or cheat, and they won't either; not just to you, but to everyone. They will be proud of you and want the best for you. They may not always know exactly what that is, but when you ask for it, they will give it or at least try to. They will be honest with their feelings no matter how scared they are. They will be open to discussion and dialogue. They will persist that you open up when you try to shut down and push them away. They will show you that they are trustworthy over and over again, not with words, but with actions. They will make mistakes, but they will own them and apologize when they've hurt you. They will disagree with you, but respect your opinion. They will never push you into doing what you aren't comfortable with. They will never find happiness at the expense of you, or of others. They will be excited about the things you are excited about, and want you next to them when they experience their own success. They will be willing to work through problems even when it's uncomfortable. They will call you on your shit. They will ask about your feelings and opinions and thoughts and experiences. They will trust you. They will have fun with you. They will make you feel like you are the most amazing person on the planet and they could never imagine life without you. They will beg you to take care of yourself so that they never lose you. When you are with the right person, you will like who you are when you are with them.
I hope that my kids can watch my current marriage and see the twinkle in our eyes, the loving exchanges, the compliments, the teamwork, the respect, the intensity, the laughter, even the fact that we will forever go to monthly couples therapy to keep the fire going. I hope that I'll never even have to have a conversation with them about what love should be, because I hope that they will have enough time with The Real Thing as their own model. And I hope that I can tell and show them what to look for without ever having to tell them what NOT to look for.
Only time will tell.