The Spaniard and I are getting married. Not in the let’s-get-married-someday kind of way, but in the it’s-happening-in a-week-or-so kind of way.
Because of our multi-year engagement, we’ve been asked countless times, “So, are you guys ever going to do this, or what?” My fallback answer? “I don’t know.” And that was the truth. I didn’t.
I met The Spaniard when we were both 11 years old. I remember the first time I saw him — towheaded and wearing a bright white t-shirt. We remained lifelong friends. Through college and young adulthood. Through weddings and babies and career changes. Through geographical distance and nearness. “You’re like a brother to me,” I told him once when we were in our early 20s. And it really did feel that way. He now says that comment crushed any hope he’d ever have a chance with me.
And he was right. He didn’t. Until midlife happened. Until his divorce, and then mine. And then, a deepening of an already cavernous friendship of years. It took both of us by surprise. And it’s been good. Sometimes stunningly, chick-flick-good. And sometimes stunningly, film-noir-not.
People love our story. It always elicits the same response: “Ohhh… that’s so romantic.” We joke about it because, for as much romance as there’s been, there’s also been the Everest-sized challenge of building a healthy, trusting relationship in the wake of our divorces and their attendant disillusionment.
The Spaniard drives me crazy and makes me well. He loves me in the only true way to love: because of my flaws, quirks, and sins — not in spite of them. And what other choice do we have if we want a mature love that’s pure and real? Most of us hope for a deep and abiding love. But as beautiful as deep is, it really can’t be measured. It’s the abiding part that deserves our focus. Because abiding means that it’s durable and persisting. It’s measurable. And that’s the kind of love that sustains us. A love that sticks through the chaos of life.
From where we sit, we’re already married. We own a home and have brought our families together in the all-male version (five sons between us) of the Brady Bunch. But we’re not married — not in the eyes of any law. And, in the state we live, there is no common-law marriage. So, instead, we’re affianced partners — with no reasonably good word to describe who we are to each other.
But we haven’t married and that’s on me. I’ve dragged my cold feet for years and, although there are some pragmatic reasons for that, the number one reason is this: I can’t bear the thought of getting divorced again.
Divorce is something you get that forevermore becomes something you are. And getting remarried will never change that status or heal the losses that accompany it. I can accept being divorced once. But twice? My heart and stomach respectfully decline.
A couple we know were devoted life partners and then, seemingly suddenly, the “wife” died of an undiagnosed illness. And that left the “husband” grieving, alone — and without any marital rights. In the eyes of the law, he was nothing as it related to her. He was persona non grata before she even took her last breath.
And this is concerning because what if, God forbid, this happened to us? Everything we are to each other would mean nothing when the legal rubber hit the road. After all we’ve built, endured, and enjoyed together, that thought is devastating. Would I regret, then, that I never made this official? The answer, surprising to me, is yes.
So now the I-really-want-to-keep-it-small wedding has become a full-on bash. And everyone we love will be there to witness our nuptials. It’s exciting and momentous. It’s also scary. But if everything we want is on the other side of fear, then everything I want is awaiting me in a life married to this man.
I do want to stand before God and our loved ones and say my vows. I do want to model for our sons that your spouse can be your best friend, staunchest supporter, and softest place to land. I want to prove to the shadows of the past that a good marriage is built on the strength of vulnerability and the valiance of forgiveness. And I do want to be able to say, “This is my husband,” for all of the legal, social, and spiritual significance these words hold. I do want all of these things.
Yes, I do.
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