Happily Ever After?

May 18th, 2010.

I think I’m out of stories. All I have left are images. Bright little flashes of emotions that dance in the peripheral of my vision. They seem significant to me, but I have no context to put them in for you. I can’t explain how one smile changed me, ever so slightly, or how a single look of despair, in retrospect, was a warning I should have heeded. I’m not talented enough to pull that off.

But, I’ll try.

I met a couple at a resort once. Older couple. Both in their late sixties. They had been married 40 years. In this day in age, that could be considered unusual. Hell, any marriage lasting over 10 years could arguably be considered an accomplishment. However, the fact that they were married didn’t surprise me as much as the fact that they seemed to be happily married.

I’ve met other couples in the past that had passed the 30-40-50 year mark. They always looked the same: bored, indifferent, and with dead eyes. Some were tired; some were lonely, and all looked as if they had embraced feelings of subdued acceptance.

But not this couple. This couple? Was radiant. That’s the only accurate way I can describe them. They were falling all over themselves in love with each other. They were laughing, smiling, staring adoringly into to each other’s eyes. I’ve seen teenagers less enthusiastic about their first loves. It was so unusual, it was almost madness.

“What’s your secret?” I asked.

“You know,” the gentleman replied thoughtfully, “We just really enjoy each other’s company!”

His wife nodded enthusiastically in agreement. I gaped. After all, I’ve read stories about love like this in books and even watched it played out on the big screen a couple of times. But never, never, ever have I seen a couple proudly, happily, and sincerely claim to enjoy each other after 40 years.

Amazing.

I never saw that couple again, but the very knowledge of their existence stuck with me for a long time. I have no doubt that they’re off somewhere holding hands and sipping champagne serenely by a beach. They are an enigma.

Almost exactly a year later, I met another couple at a restaurant. They tiredly proclaimed to be married for 51 years. When I complimented their accomplishment, they only shrugged.

The wife was angry, bitter, and resentful. In her eyes, her Husband could do no right. He cut his meat wrong. He put too much ranch dressing on his salad. He had no idea how to hold a knife. She threw criticisms across the table with laser accuracy.

It was obvious (to me, anyway) that the husband knew exactly how to hold a knife and cut his meat. After he poured his ranch dressing, he carefully and stealthily hid the majority of it underneath a leaf of lettuce; apparently he didn’t want as much as he poured. With a start, I realized that he was purposely antagonizing her. He was pushing her buttons out of pure spite.

Watching them was like watching a sick, evil little puppet show. He goaded her, she attacked him. He ignored her attacks, she escalated. Within minutes, dinner was ruined. They both looked supremely satisfied with this result.

Before I turned to leave, the man reached out with a bony, desperate hand and clutched my arm.

“Never, never get married,” he implored.

I looked at his wife. Instead of looking offended, her eyes widened in tentative agreement. A slight nod of her head was like the period on the end of his sentence.

That couple was trying to save my life.

Unfortunately, I had met the happy, alien couple first. The odds were against me, but they had accidently (and with no mal intent, I’m sure) turned me into a gambler.

So, I gambled. And I lost. Just like everyone else.

At what age will I learn to respect the odds? At what age will I listen to those older and wiser than myself?

Youth and the ego that comes with it is a curse.

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13 Responses to Happily Ever After?

  1. xiaoda

    I really love your writing. Please keep posting whenever you feel like it, even if you think you have nothing to say I’m sure it’ll be a pleasure to read.

    And who knows?
    Perhaps you’re far more talented than you give yourself credit for.

    Inspire.

  2. a1

    How sad. I’m sorry. :(

  3. Goldie

    I saw this post in my google feed a week ago and was shocked. I thought you two had a good marriage. Sorry to hear this :( What can I say, might be something in the water – our court date was last Wednesday. In our case, I think it’s for the better. If I ever enter an LTR again (no more marriage for sure), I will put more thought in it than I did the first time around.
    I think if the couple learns from their mistakes and remains friends, this change could truly be for the better. I know I’m better off for it, and, even though my X does not realize it at this time, he’s better off too. Good luck to you both.

  4. meatgrinder

    “Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must live.” – Charles Bukowski

    Been there, turn your pain into art.

    -M

  5. 2–Book Review: Rapt « Adam Reed Isom

    […] focused on the kind of behavior that brought them together in the first place. As a diversion, see this post for a description of two elderly couples, one radiant and the other nasty, to see the two extremes […]

  6. sufehmi

    Hey, really sorry to hear that. Hopefully you had enough strength to pick up the pieces – and start working to rebuild your life.

    Last year I also had 2 close friends’s life shattered. Worse, the divorces were because of domestic violence.
    I’ve heard the stories, but never once I thought that it would happen to someone so close to me. We’re talking about serious violence here – one of the victim even got her face ripped. She ended up having to undergo cosmetic surgery.

    Myself I’ve been married for 13 years, and so far pretty good. We’re probably like the aliens you mentioned here – we missed each other when we’re apart, and we giggles together.

    If it’s any consolation, your posts were of great help & inspiration – “Marriage is a series of peaks & valleys” especially hits very close to home. I’ve YET to find an article of similar quality anywhere else on the Internet, and believe me, I browse a LOT.
    (if I knew your address, I would have sent some token of appreciation. But I don’t even know / wasn’t even able to find your email address. Guess I’m not as smart as your other visitors :) )

    Indeed our 13 years together is nothing like “…and they live happily ever after”, it’s more like a struggle after another struggle after another struggle over many problems. But we worked really hard and got lucky I guess.

    Probably I should try gambling.

    Anyway, I know you’re tough, and perfectly capable of finding / creating your own happiness. So, hang in there, and continue walking up. The peak is coming soon.

    Take care.

  7. Mary

    I don’t believe you will ever be out of stories….you are just too talented, and you owe it to yourself and the world to continue. But having said that, you will do it when it makes sense for you. I am sorry you had a bad experience with marriage. I have been with my husband for 37 years and wouldn’t change a minute of that time. So…you see….it can happen more than once!! Don’t give up, there is someone out there who will be able to share your life with you and someday you will be sitting in a restaurant holding hands and some young woman will be amazed at how well you fit and how the light in your eyes shines forth for one another. Believe in it…..and it will come to you. You have endured so much in your life at the hands of someone who was supposed to be your protector, not your tormentor…..so you can do this too. And you will find the strength it gives to you, just as you have your whole life. You are an inspiration to many….judging by your comment list…and not just anyone can do that. It is a gift. I hope you come back soon……

  8. J

    You took a gamble…and it seemed to be a pretty reasonable one.

    Look; don’t be hard on yourself. After the childhood you had (you and I seem to have a LOT in common, BTW) you’ve done a fantastic job in avoiding many of the same pitfalls the rest of us “abuse kids” fall into…namely unhealthy relationships in an endless string of stupid.

    Just keep on chugging. I’m doing the same over here in my corner of the world.

    It’s nice to know you’re out here. I haven’t read your blog in a while but I’m grateful that you’ve opened comments. I hope you keep writing. To me, you are a tandem, validating example of another girl like me: one who has been through PROFOUND child abuse but was born *juuuust a littttle smarter* than those around us…just a little more wiley and with a little more fight. We have therefore; managed to find a way through this life without resorting to breaking major laws or doing shit that would get us killed.

    Hang in there. I believe you’ll find your best friend/partner sooner or later.

  9. Loren Rademacher

    Sigi and I have been married 35 years. We are another happy couple who enjoy each other’s company. We like each other. We are not so much in love but rather we love each other; with “love” being an active verb rather than a passive state of mind. I jumped in hastily and a couple of times I wanted out but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m glad I stayed and made a go of it.

    I’m lucky. This is my first and only marriage. Others need multiple tries before the right one is realized. My wife was in a bad first marriage and it took some time for her to realize it and get out.

    Anyway, I wish you well for the future.

  10. Theodore R. Smith

    Several years ago, when I was 22, I found the book Toxic Parents, and it changed my life for the better. I highly suggest you, and anyone else who had a rough childhood, read it. It *really* helped me get out of my patterns of self-defeatism, isolationism, and get on the path toward recovery:

  11. tiffythom

    I’ve seen with my own eyes 1 couple like the 1st one you mentioned. I am like the second, married 21 yrs, together 27. Only reversed… He is the verbal abuser and I try not to bait him, although it might be entertaining :!

    Came across your blog, “What to do about a Fat Spouse”. Printed it for my husband. Shared it on Facebook with the caption, “I love this guy, I want to marry HIM, could have done without the language tho”, I thought you were a guy.

    So far I haven’t been offended. You have a new reader.

    Also, to Theodore R. Smith in the comment above. Is there a book called Toxic Spouse that may help me?

  12. Benjamin

    Yes, I was married 1 time. I required a prenuptial agreement from my future ex-wife. It saved my ass. I was rich when I met her and still in my early 30’s WTF would I agree to give her 1/2 of my assets, my intellectual property and future income. I also required that she waive spousal support in lieu of a 1 time, reasonable settlement/payout. Marriage is vastly overrated for a man with means, money, a career and assets. Women get fat and unattractive and most of them are, simply put, parasitic. After 4 years of marriage I stealthfully spent 6 months planning my exit and served her one fine day, it was over before a short was fired. I realized what a pointless exercise and transfer of unearned wealth marriage/divorce are.

    Oh, and only a moron tolerates a girlfriend/boyfriend who is a lardass, fat slob. It truly takes commitment and work to get fat. WTF would I try to shame someone like that when it’s so much easier just to dump them. If they ask, I tell them “becuase you wash with a rag on a stick, you fat slob!”. I always move on when the bloom is off the rose.

  13. ELC

    Firstly,

    You have some proverbial balls that I wish more women possessed :)

    I too have encountered the ridiculously happy, been married forever, couple and I think everyone falls into that idealistic hope trap. Hope can be such a powerful human motivator but it’s sad because it is that same emotion that can trap us in relationships that are no longer loving or rewarding. It’s sad but people most people are just lonely and would rather be with someone they hate than deal with the reality of being alone. Which is sad because they are cheating themselves out of happiness.

    I think too many young girls have bought into that Disney princess bullshit of meeting their prince charming and living happily ever after! But Disney forgets to tell you about the life part of that equation. They should change “Happily ever after” to “You will be happy once you are a corpse”. I think that’s where most people get fucked. They expect everything to be perfect, easy, and fair–but seriously now, when is life ever like that? I think the same applies to relationships: They can be as beautiful as they can be ugly and destructive. Know when to call it quits and don’t stay with someone because it is better than being alone. It’s not.

    People are stupid and often make very poor decisions for themselves, especially when emotions are involved. I see so many people who just bounce from one bad relationship to the next or just stay with someone they are miserable with… I never understood why. Is it really that scary and terrible to be alone? Or perhaps some people are just incapable of learning from their experiences.

    Love is always a gamble–so be picky! Don’t settle or let your fears coerce you into or out of a relationship. No one knows what the future brings and you have zero chances of winning if you never play the game.

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