I am 33, and I’ve been married and divorced three times. Yeah, I said it. I’ve survived two crappy wedding dinners, three Knottie profiles, six hideous bridesmaids dresses and eight drunken wedding toasts.
Whoever said three times was a charm was high or delusional. It took me three times to realize that love doesn’t always equal a successful marriage
The first time I walked down the aisle, it was to a man. He was my former boss, to be more specific. I had just moved to Philadelphia for my first job after college. He was kind, sensitive, and a feminist. We talked about deconstructing gender roles and race consciousness. He made me happy. I loved him at his very core. But, there was just this one little problem. I didn’t just want to talk to the hot woman sitting next to me at the coffee shop every Tuesday morning; I wanted to put my hand up her skirt.
So three months after a perfect June wedding, I confessed all my dirty thoughts to him. Leave it to me to marry the best man on the planet and then leave him because I am a lesbian. Classic. He loved me enough to let me go. At 24, and still in graduate school, I moved out, found a part-time job, and met the woman I would later fall in love with.
So begins the story of marriage number two. She was a woman 15 years older than me. My first real woman love. She was soft and nurturing. Three years into our relationship, we followed the rest of the Subarus and drove to Provincetown. After a 24-hour waiting period, and a stay at a quaint B&B, we were married on the beach.
Life was good for a while. But at 30 and 44, our marriage began to tear at the seams.
She was perfectly comfortable going to work, coming home, ordering shrimp lo mein, and watching the same episode of “Golden Girls” for the 188th time. You know, the one where they join the tap dancing troupe. Don’t get me wrong. I love the “Golden Girls,” especially Sophia, but the thought of this being the peak of my existence brought me to tears. I was outgrowing her fast.
I was still so curious about life. I wanted to travel the world, bike-ride while eating brownies in Amsterdam, and live in a commune. She, on the other hand, did not. Like the man before her, she understood my need to move on. And she admitted that deep down inside, she always knew that there would be a time when she would have to let me go. I thanked her.
A year later, I fell madly in love with a saleswoman and moved across the country to be with her. She was a challenge. We fought on our first date, and consequently, our last. I am drawn to passion. But moths are also drawn to the flame, and they always end up crispy fried on the light bulb. Not quite the look I was going for.
She mistakenly thought to keep me that she could not be like the others — soft and accommodating. So she attempted, unconsciously perhaps, to starve me of little courtesies — kind words and genuine affection.
I saw glimpses of her vulnerability, though, and they moved me. I believed that if I married her, she would finally trust me enough to let me in fully. On our wedding day, my ex-husband flew down to be my best man and gave a fabulous toast on the three different types of love: Eros, Philos, and Agape. I suspect some Martha Beck article inspired him. Funny that after all these years, he is still probably one of the most permanent things in my life.
My wedding to her was the most beautiful of the three. But a year later, I found myself starting all over yet again. Living in a new apartment with no furniture. Untangling a shared family phone plan. We never got to Agape love. She never opened herself to me completely. It stormed on our wedding day. That should have been a sign.
As a newly single woman, I know that I have a lot of work to do on myself. I have a kick ass therapist available at all times thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield. I’ve been copiously reading self-help and relationship books. I am taking myself out to movies, concerts, and dates — I might have to get a second job because I am not a cheap date! I am enjoying being, well, alone.
With time, I’ve learned to let go of the shame of my marriages and divorces. I’ve forgiven myself. At 33, I’ve lived a full life — probably enough life for two or three women. I’ve always been a risk taker — a free spirit of sorts. I don’t sit on the edge of the pool asking if the water is cold; I jump in. Like, all the way in.
I’ve come to realize that my need for self-actualization is not diametrically opposed to long-term commitment. I can continue to develop fully within the confines of a relationship. I can love someone enough to stay committed, even when it seems to threaten my own needs and wants. I’m learning my hardest lesson yet — patience.
Perhaps the craziest thing is that even after one straight marriage, one gay marriage, and a civil union, I still believe in marriage. I still get excited when friends or strangers get engaged. And I still tear up, just a little, when I see old people holding hands. I don’t regret any of my marriages. I still love the amazing people who shared their lives with me.
And every time that I tell myself that I’ve had too many chances, I won’t commit again, the little voice inside me says yes, you will. I will get up, dust myself off and try again. I will get this right. But this union will proceed quietly. With no florist, no photo booth, no gifts, or diamond ring. Just two incredibly flawed souls, moving toward each other, with eyes wide open.