Sunday, July 31, 2011

Twice Shy

In one year of being married once again, I have come to realize that when people such as DB and I come together in a second marriage, most of our energies are expended in navigating minefields. A certain tone of voice, a gesture, a mannerism, food habit or what have you will trigger a bad memory. Suddenly, the past will come into the foreground with vengeance, completely obscuring what little you have built together with pain-staking effort. Like a friend of ours said, a new marriage (even it is the second time for both) is a like a messy, kicking, screaming infant and we would be well advised to treat it as such instead of expecting adult behavior from it. 

Yet, more frequently than not, we expect the other person to "know better" given the lessons learned from mistakes past. We expect adult behavior from the bawling, unreasonable infant that is our marriage. When expectations are not met we are quick to indulge in self-pity, give up on the partner's ability to ever change. We blame the other for errors and omissions made in their previous marriage. What is more we accuse the other of going down the same destructive path because they are incapable of learning ; unwilling to change. Then the moment passes, tempers cool, reason, love and compassion return. After the clouds lift, I am able to see the many amazing changes DB has made in the past year, he sees that I am almost everything he wanted his wife to be. 

Post epiphany we are in rapprochement mode - and life is good once again. The days flow languidly like a brook meandering through quiet woods - until we hit the next obstacle. We want to believe this is no different from any new marriage but we do know that it is - indeed in very significant ways. Every marriage takes time to be broken in - the first time around, you are both willing to do a lot more to make it happen, you have many dreams and the energy to fulfill them. By when one marriage ends, the years of being alone are over and you start over, a lot of the energy has already been expended. You have the compelling need to make up for lost time and pretend your life had always been "on track". What is more, you want to prove to yourself that you have wisdom you once lacked and this time there would be no mistakes. 

That is the narrative you bring into all your social relationships as well. So I'd rather not have to explain why DB, J and I have different last names. I would rather pretend that DB has been in J's life forever and not want to talk about the time in her life when he was not around. It is as if the strength of this marriage and our newly formed family unit is based on how "old" and "comfortable" it looks to the world outside. It gives us the much need affirmation to pass for a family that has grown organically instead of having been cobbled together. We don't want to come across as still trying to figure things out, not having our act quite together yet, we want to look self-assured and confident with answers to everything figured out already. The pressures of those largely unrealistic goals come into the relationship and strain it even more. 

Every day this past year has been a learning experience for me. We both thought having been through a marriage once before would count for something this time. That experience as we are finding out is more counterproductive and disruptive than anything else. Time will tell if it contributed anything positive to our union.


Ardra said...

The awareness and identification of every thought, feeling, and the willingness to do the Best and when it is not one sided...well, definitely positive in the right direction, I think...

Added to the above, Best wishes and prayers from well wishers...
warm regards

Sutapa Dey said...

I am all ears to what you said about a second innings. It did provide me some food for thought. A second innings as you said, has its share of ups and downs but any relation for that matter has to be worked upon. Taking things for granted is what mostly hurts our relationships. I hope you are doing well and maybe someday I'll ask you for some tips. You can actually make a note of what worked and what didnt work. What say?