Remarried Life

The Man and I celebrate three years married today, and I feel so much more competent at being married than I ever have. It really helps to have married the right person. I think the perspective from being married previously (to the hopelessly wrong person) helps, as well.

From the beginning with The Man, I saw us as a team. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, she reveals that marriage in the early years of western civilization was actually an act of civil disobedience against the all-powerful church (who preferred that individuals be married only to God), and became an “us against the world” partnership.

This coincides nicely with the advice I picked up somewhere that suggests you should never speak ill of your spouse to others. It’s all too easy to complain to friends and family when you feel like your spouse is being unfair or overreacting to something you did, but I have really tried to hold my tongue and keep any issues we may have with each other where they belong, between the two of us.

Here are a few other perspectives I have picked up along the way:

  1. The “never go to bed angry” line is nonsense. You don’t have any control over your emotions and how long you will feel the way you feel. You don’t look at the clock and say, “Oh, it’s 9 o’clock so I need to stop being miffed now.” But do go to bed together. It means that you are still in this thing together, even if you aren’t agreeing right now.
  2. Try not to let the little things drive you crazy. There are times when I fantasize about big heavy cast iron pans when the snoring has gone past its usual 20 minutes, and the TV is still on and he’s asleep. But there will come a day when there won’t be any snoring and no TV to keep me awake, and I’d much prefer to have him there next to me, even if earplugs are required.
  3. Show it don’t say it. Those three little words lose their meaning when repeated so often. Offering to do the dishes when he’s tired, not pointing out that he’s complaining too much, and letting him listen to Conway Twitty on the car radio go much further, sometimes.
  4. Being right is overrated. I come from know-it-all stock. I used to wield my intelligence like a cudgel, at times. Now I know that it’s ok to let my husband think he’s right about the mouth-being-a-very-clean-place-actually-because-he-heard-a-story-about-it-on-NPR.

The Man was nervous about getting married. His first experience wasn’t such a good one, either. But he knew it was important to me, and so he proposed. After about a year of marriage, he told me he was a convert – he hadn’t realized it could be so good. I hadn’t either, but I believed in us, in our team of two.

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Evolution of a Stepdad

The Man and I have been married for almost three years, and together for about six and a half. He’s been involved in The Boy’s life since he was nine years old. As I’ve mentioned before, he was the one to teach him how to ride a bike, he’s taught him to surf, how to operate the riding lawnmower, and countless other life lessons (including using the plunger the other night!). The ex was around until The Boy was six and a half. Suffice it to say that The Man has been more of a dad to The Boy in his memory.

When we first married, The Man was quick to classify his relationship to The Boy. “That’s my stepson,” he’d say when we were introduced to someone new. It never hurt me or The Boy to be introduced in this way, but it was something I noticed. You see, The Man has a grown daughter he doesn’t see much. And she was very young when he and her mom split up. Then she moved six hours away, but he made the effort to be in her life, made the drive to see her every other weekend, took her on trips, chaperoned her school trip to Washington DC, brought her to the beach in the summer, paid for much of her college and her car, and actually paid more than what he was asked in child support. He sees the other side of the coin, and always respected the fact that the ex was and is The Boy’s dad. He never wanted to replace him.

But over the years, that line has softened. He has grown protective of our boy. He is more comfortable voicing his opinions on his upbringing (while respecting the fact that I have the final say). The two of them have begun to have their own private jokes and rituals. And he often refers to him as “our son,” in casual conversation with others who may not know the whole situation. And I notice. ❤

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Blended Boys

Blending families is an ongoing journey, even when you only have one school-age child.  Differences in parenting styles become apparent fairly quickly, and when your child has special needs, it can be even more challenging.  We have been lucky — The Man and I dated long-distance for several years, which gave us an opportunity to glimpse each other’s parenting styles and transition to a blended parenting style over time.  To say that it’s a finished product would not be right – it continues to evolve, but it’s functioning, and a positive thing for The Boy to have two parents in our home.

The Man continues to learn about The Boy and his challenges.  It can be unfortunate sometimes to have a disorder like autism, because it isn’t oustwardly visible, and people who don’t know will judge, while even people who do know will forget, myself included.  Not forget that he has autism, but forget The Boy’s struggles and needs, even if momentarily.  This happens with The Man from time to time, but we continue to communicate and progress on our journey.

The Man is a natural-born dad — he doesn’t know it, but sometimes I almost burst into happy tears at his small gestures towards The Boy.  He doesn’t even realize that he is doing things for The Boy that have never been done for him before.  And I have found that the one best thing for their growing relationship has been to force them together without me for awhile.  I have had to leave for work for a few hours on each weekend, and they have gotten to hang out a lot more this month.  And you know what?  We’ve had fewer meltdowns from everyone involved.

Yesterday, The Man pulled into the yard, home from work, and immediately grabbed our knock-around bike from the shed to go join The Boy who was riding around the neighborhood with some other kids.  And I watched, with those happy-tears in my eyes.

The Boys

No Honeymoon for These Newlyweds and That’s Just Fine

The Man and I thought we might get a chance to run away for a bit when The Boy visited his dad in August, but guess what?  Yup.  The Boy will probably not be headed to his dad’s until Thanksgiving, if then.  We didn’t really expect this visitation to pan out, but it would have given us a little time together.

ShrimperIn any case, we are making the absolute most of our Saturday nights together, and it has turned into an extended honeymoon/staycation of sorts.  We have been lucky enough to have fantastic meals just about every Saturday since we started over a month ago.  And I have to tell you, for an area that has about 12,000 people, there are some damned good restaurants down here.  Plus, we live in an area that relies on tourism in the summer, so it’s pretty easy to take a “staycation” – beautiful warm summer evenings, quaint little towns through which to walk, replete with old cemeteries, gardens, and, well, the ocean.

So, while I could be really upset that we haven’t been able to go away somewhere together, I’m not in the least.  The Man and I have done enough traveling over the past four years just to be together.  Now that we are together, we have reveled in these semi-private Saturdays, and we’ve been able to drag it out all summer long.  I really couldn’t ask for more. ❤

PS Thank you, thank you, thank you to Grammy and Poppy for this priceless gift ❤

Statistics

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Here’s my take on statistics: they are interesting, but really don’t have any relevance on real life.  I mean, in the scientific  research community, they are incredibly important, and results of studies with certain data lead to more studies, and that’s how we make discoveries and find cures.  I get that.  But the funny thing about statistics is that you can manipulate them to say whatever you want them to say.  And if I believed statistics from every little study that was reported, I’m not sure I’d leave the house.  I’m not sure I would have had children or gotten married.

Statistics are not your friend when you are the parent of a child with autism.  They can get depressing and make you quickly lose sight of the most important indicator of your child’s success — your child.  He’s not a machine or a robot or a lab rat.  There has never been another child like him.  So while studies can try to predict everything about your child, they still have no clue.  Your child is an unknown quantity, and you and he (or she) will have everything to do with his (or her) success in life, and not much else has any bearing.

Statistics are not your friend when you are getting married (and even a worse friend when you are getting remarried).  They strike fear into the hearts of even the most brave among us.  But again, the most important indicators of the happiness of your marriage are the two people in it.  Nothing else.

So while society may decide that “the odds are against” us, I have decided nothing of the kind.  No one knows these people like I do, and no “preponderance of evidence” is going to tell me something I didn’t know.  No statistics are going to tell me what is “significant”.  This is my life, and these are the people I love.

Book Review: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Kiss - RodinI know there are a lot of Elizabeth Gilbert haters out there, but I think she is actually a very good writer, and just because her books have been popular does not mean that her writing is mediocre. I find her writing style personable and engaging. I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, all the while envying her ability to travel like that – would that we could all take a year and visit three amazing places on our bucket list! Some complain that her divorce as portrayed in the book wasn’t “real” enough, even though her divorce isn’t actually the center of the story – her recovery is (and shouldn’t we single gals be supporting each other instead of tearing each other down with “if you think that’s bad” stories?).  When Committed came out, I actually bought it in hard cover (not a planned purchase, just one of those see-it-in-the-bookstore-and-think-what-the-heck purchases).  And I read it and enjoyed it, how it weaves anecdotes with research, and I learned a heck of a lot more about matrimony than I had ever known before. I like books where I learn stuff.

Here I am, on the cusp of getting married again, to someone who is not-scared-of getting married, but shall we say, a little anxious, not having been married since the mid-eighties. And I remembered this book, sitting on my shelf, about a man and a woman facing marriage, and who are also a-little-more-than-anxious about getting married. I decided to read it again, to see if I could gather any insight into my fiancé’s perspective, and explore my own feelings on the subject.

Ms. Gilbert says, “It’s been famously said that second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. It seems to me that first marriages are the more hope-drenched affairs, awash in vast expectations and easy optimism. Second marriages are cloaked, I think in something else: a respect for forces that are bigger than us, maybe. A respect that perhaps even approaches awe.” I tend to agree, although I think hope is the wrong word here. I think first-time marriages are the epitome of naivete (sorry – can’t think of a better word!), thinking that divorce will just not “happen” to them, because they think they are in control, while second marriages are hopefully careful, acknowledging that there are forces within and around a marriage that are just not in our control, but that being aware, and having that experience may actually give us an edge.

I take exception to her terminology and jaunt into singlemomdom, when she uses that washed up old term “broken home” to describe a single parent family. Although she does stress that her point about kids doing better in two-parent homes is actually in reference to the consistency and stability of a family, rather than the actual numbers of parents, I really just wish she had said that instead of the whole “kids do better in un-broken homes” section.

But the stories about the people she encounters on the other side of the world, and how silly her questions may have sounded, and the over-analyzing of the marriage statistics…  It all makes sense to me.  Because I do the same thing when I am anxious about something.  I’m not (very) anxious about my own second trip down the aisle, but as I said, I get it – I completely understand why anyone would be.

Another point that resonated with me was the discovery that early western marriages were in spite of the Church, who wanted no one between an individual and God, not even a spouse. Early western marriages, then, were alliances between a man and a woman, in effect, against the world. I like that.

I spoke with a friend today who is at the beginning stages of her second divorce, and she is obviously bitter about marriage in general.  She can’t be happy for me, although she is trying – and I understand.  She said, “Why can’t you just be happy together?  Why do you have to get married?”  I had no reply, because I understood.  But my question back is, Would your heart hurt any less if you had never gotten married this second time?  Or would it still be messy and ugly, this breaking up stuff?

In any case, this book is a thinking person’s book for anyone, not just those contemplating a second marriage. Ms. Gilbert tackles tradition, cultural differences, expectation, and anything else a skeptic would research before coming to terms with something as important and life-altering as getting married, for the second time.

Going to the… Gazebo

Exciting news, kids! We’re getting real close to setting a date! Of course it depends on the 4-6 people we’d like to be there, and when officiants and venues are available and such … Planning an albeit tiny wedding in about two months means we have to be a little more flexible, but I’m geeked, especially because I think The Man is or soon will be on board with my modest plans, rather than his idea of a quickie courthouse wedding – nothing wrong with that (and certainly not ruling anything out at this point), but I’m a bit excited to be in the planning stage. A combination of “Whew!” and “Yay!” and “Gulp…”

But mostly “Yay!!!” 😀

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