The bright Caribbean sun looked like a ball of fire just beginning to journey into the sea. Khaki pants and white linen shirts adorned the men standing next to the groom on the sand. The bridesmaids dresses were the color of the pinkish blush sky and flowed with the breeze as they sashayed down the aisle. The guests, in their tropical colors awaited the bride’s entrance. The saxophone players beautiful romantic tunes filled the air. All of a sudden you heard the cheers from the pool and knew the bride was making her way to us. As she stepped on to the beach, there was an audible gasp, breathtaking in her body hugging dress and smile across her face.
The ceremony was simple and elegant. During one part, each guest was asked to hold the rings and send positive energy and love to the couple. The last four words the officiant shared for an enduring marriage were:
Love, Trust, Caring, Forgiveness.
My mind began to wander. Did I have those in my two marriages? If I did, why didn’t either endure, why couldn’t we work through issues if we did have these? As these words circled my brain I started to wonder if it wasn’t that these existed or not as I embarked on these marriages. It was more about the depth of each feeling, a depth that ensured you didn’t question each or manipulate each but that you carried them purely from situation to situation.
There was love, but it was never unconditional. It was never, “I love you, and am committed to you and us, even if I don’t like your behavior right now.” It always seemed to be “I love you as long as you…” fill in the blank! Any behavior that didn’t measure up began to chip away at the love that was there. Many people say the only unconditional love is that of a parent to a child. I look at enduring marriages and I think there is unconditional love in there. There isn’t a quid pro quo of love in enduring marriages that I see. There is a deep love that says, “I may not like you today but I always love you and what we are together.”
Trust. The first marriage started with so much baggage around trust that I am not sure there ever was a real deep trust of each other. There was a lot of rationalizing behavior, and a blanket of trust, but it was never complete. The second marriage began with trust. The lack of communicating feelings, wants, desires and being open to each others fears created a lack of trust over time. Not the traditional trusting issues, like fidelity, although that is what ultimately ended the trust, but trust that I’m there for you no matter what. Trust that we are a team having each other’s back. Trust that what I do and say is for our best interests not individual best interests. Trust that the love will always be there, even if the like isn’t. That trust did not exist, not both ways anyway, not all of the time.
Although deep caring was abundant in the beginning of each marriage, the second had caring at a cost. “I will care for you and us, if you do…” Again quid pro quo. It had to lead to what each wanted. I looked for support and someone to help me shoulder the emotional chaos inside of me. He looked for sex in exchange for caring.
Forgiveness truly made me pause. As I have made peace with each marriage and understand my part in each, I realized that forgiveness was always given and received. Forgetting and letting go was not. Each item became chit tossed in a bank to be redeemed at a later date. Many times used to manipulate by either of us. Many times used to chip away at the love, trust and caring that surrounded the marriage. Each time focused on what the individual wanted versus what was good for the couple.
As these thoughts surround me I see that depth of what they mean along with the commitment that the couple is stronger than the individuals, were what was missing in both of my marriages and other relationships that I have had in my life. I wasn’t whole in either of these, so what they got from me was my attempt of them making me whole. That Jerry McGuire, “You complete me,” moment which really isn’t how you endure. You need to be complete as a person to truly love, trust, forgive and care another in a committed relationship.
The couple I witnessed this weekend seem to have all of this and a completeness about themselves as individuals and a couple. Perhaps it all about striving to be complete alone before we can be complete with someone else and let the fairytale stuff stay in the movies.