Wednesday, May 11, 2005

the end

The marriage of my brother-in-law just ended. Well, I shouldn't say just ended because the end was long in the making, its seeds sown years before the final act of goodbye.

Events like these affect me deeply because it forces me to consider that in the realm of possiblities, perhaps my marriage may also be on the line some time in the future. For thirteen years, my brother-in-law worked hard on his marriage, providing for his wife and two children. Then, his wife walked away.

Did he see it coming or was he blind to the troubled waters? Their marriage hit a few rocky patches, like most of everyone's, but he sincerely believed it could be worked out. Thing is, belief does not necessarily bring about results, and in this case, he was sincerely wrong.

So what about me? Is almost ten years of happy marital life any kind of guarantee of a wonderful future? Will there come a time when I say to my wife, "Hey, remember when we were happy?".

There are few certainties in life, and, unlike fiction, real life does not have to make sense. Few of us are granted closure, which is why fiction that offers happy endings is consumed by the metric ton by people who cannot stand the thought of a more dismal reality.

When I am exposed to unacceptable endings like this, I remind myself that I renew my vow to wife and to my marriage on a daily basis. I do not need to verbalize it, but it's there. I renew my choice, which is to stay and to do my best to be what a husband in my precise context needs to be.

I love my wife with all my heart, but with all the crumbled relationships I've seen, I know that loving is not enough. It needs to be a love that acts, that is aware of sacrifice and pain and terror and doubt - and fights against what is unacceptable. It needs to be a love that is empowered by choice. A love that works and strives and struggles against easy temptations and rigid thinking. A love that concedes that it is imperfect but willing to try. A love that hopes but does not just sit around hoping for the best. A love that is aware that it takes two to tango.

Our friends look at my marriage as a model for how to be blissfully married. This frightens me because how my marriage works may not work for everyone, and I certainly would be the last to offer myself up as a good role model. Don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong with us right now. We're happy with each other, blessed with a wonderful little girl and enjoy the challenges of life together.

But events like this get me thinking, and the playwright in me weaves scenarios that make for riveting drama that, while of melodramatic interest, I would not wish on anyone. The scenes are filled with startling epiphanies and painful revelations, staggering recriminations and ultimately, goodbyes.

And I think about how, as writers, it is so easy to create and destroy lives and relationships on paper.

And then I blink and I'm back in the real world, in front of this monitor, and I am struck in the face by the unaltered fact of my brother-in-law's unwanted ending.

In a perfect world, marriages last forever with invisible effort. This world that we live in, however, demands that we work for what we want to keep.

And even that offers no absolute guarantees.


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