Forty-five years ago, last May, I said: “I do”. In the early sixties, as the child of divorce, I swore when I married it would be forever. In 1973 my husband and I left Philadelphia for Connecticut having purchased a small business. I enrolled in Connecticut College part-time to complete my bachelor’s degree.
My husband was ambitious and before long, we managed to get out of debt, own a home and become solidly middle class.
Both of us had grown up poor, working odd jobs after school, hustling to help our families with the basics. With affluence came more freedom to choose more specifically, who I wanted to become, now that our lives were less stressed financially.
My primary attention had shifted away from wanting children and a family towards studying Psychology, learning what made people tick.
My husband began moving closer to his faith, grateful for our material comfort, now he wanted to deepen his spiritual life. It wasn’t long before couples therapy was a way for us to face this fork in the road without blame and accusation.
As a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Christianity was not a path I could take.
My husband’s devotion to the teachings of Jesus was a reality that challenged my belief in ‘til death due us part. It was an amicable divorce.
Religion and intellectual curiosity can drive a wedge between a loving couple
Who would have thought that religion and intellectual curiosity could drive a wedge between 2 people who dearly loved each other? What women’s magazine doesn’t tell you sexy underwear and better technique in bed could fix any marriage?
I went off to complete graduate school with the money from the divorce settlement and moved back to Philadelphia to pursue an MSW, which I completed in the early 80’s. I dated sporadically as my career path came into focus. It was slim pickings and internet dating wasn’t really a thing yet. No matter how many blind dates I tried or introductions by friends I could not imagine myself back in the routine of living with someone, once I adjusted to life on my own. I lived with a lot of yearning and smoked too much pot.
In the middle 90’s I moved to San Francisco after developing an interest in helping alcoholics and drug addicts recover as a therapist.
I myself had gotten sober in 1986 and felt gratitude for the support and community that had allowed me to more deeply know myself unencumbered by the “shoulds’ and pressures of cultural imperatives. I had always marched to my own drummer and San Francisco offered me a chance to explore lifestyle options, I never imagined.
Finding a new lease of life
While conducting an Addiction Seminar in the summer of 1995 for Bay Area social workers, I was assigned a co-presenter who turned out to be Mr Right.
Working together gave me a chance to share not only my philosophy of recovery but also learn about his struggle to achieve a life wisdom and grace of his own.
He was a single parent, raising his teenage son in Berkeley and was in no hurry to change his lifestyle. I had developed a meditation practice and community in San Francisco and wasn’t interested in moving to the East Bay.
Fast forward 23 years, we have become devoted soul mates. His son has married and moved to NYC and we settled into a pattern of weekends and Wednesday nights together and Tuesday and Thursdays on our own.
Benefiting from past turmoil
In hindsight, it all sounds so effortless and I guess meeting in our mid-forties with so much personal work under our belts simplified things. Or maybe we benefited from a lot of heartbreak, loneliness and solitude experienced before we met. All I know is it works for us.
I feel more secure and committed to our relationship despite the lack of the external structure of a marriage license. Monogamy has been our mutual choice and the freedom to be together or not somehow keeps the passion alive. I turn 70 next year and take each day as it comes. I guess I finally feel blessed, all these years later, that I so totally and completely flunked marriage.