You know that movie plot where two best friends decide to go ahead and kiss on the condition that it won't change anything between them? But then things obviously DO get weird, but they get over it and get married and -- we assume -- live happily ever after?
Yeah, well, that was my parents' story.
Well, sort of. I say “sort of” only because, as is the case in most real-life scenarios, their story played out well past the conga line at the wedding.
My parents were acquaintances who turned into friends who turned into best friends who kissed, dated, got married, had babies, broke each other's hearts, got divorced and made the journey from acquaintances to best friends all over again.
I don't like to identify myself as one of those “children of divorce,” because I feel like that's misleading. You see, my parents had a different kind of divorce. They had a divorce that actually restored my faith in love.
I don't think of my parents' divorce as something bad that happened to me. I was only two years old, so I don't remember the fighting and the heartbreak. Well, I remember a little bit of the heartbreak -- some tears and some last-ditch attempts at saving a marriage that just wasn't working.
But that's not what I take away from the situation. I look at my parents' relationship today and I see a sort of love that's real. A sort of love that lasted through some insanely high peaks and some painfully low valleys. A sort of love that lasted beyond the fleeting moments of lust and frustration and hate. A sort of love that had such a strong foundation that it would last even if the world they built on top of it came crumbling down.
They've been through some sh*t together. They've been filthy rich and they've been dirt poor. They've fallen in love and they've torn each other's hearts into a million pieces. They've gotten married and they've gotten divorced. They've raised kids and they've raised grandkids.
And you know what? They can still just hang. Go to my mom's house right now, and odds are you'll find the two of them sitting on the front patio, throwing back a couple of tequila shots and laughing about one of their 80 million inside jokes. To me, that's the purest form of love.
Of course, I want the classic fairytale romance. That's the ideal, right? Meet someone who is both your lover and your best friend, and have it stay that way until the end of the time. That would be fantastic. That's what I want.
But even if I ever really am lucky enough to have that fairytale romance, you know what? It wouldn't feel real and true to me unless I knew that reality could come in and tear apart my fairytale at any given moment, wreck our marriage and break our hearts into a million pieces, and, at the end of the day, we would still be friends. We would still be friends who could throw back a couple of tequila shots (in this hypothetical scenario, I am a cool girl who can throw back tequila shots, no problem, without the overwhelming desire to yack everywhere) and just hang.
That's the most important thing to me. That foundation.
We all subscribe to a singular, overarching narrative of what love should be. We're all watching the same movies with the same happy endings. Two people fall in love, get married, and that's that. We assume life stops throwing them any more curveballs, that their love will last forever and it will be wonderful and fabulous. We sit for hours with our girlfriends fantasizing about the day when that sort of love comes around for us. The day we find that great love with the happy ending.
As far as the movies are concerned, divorce means your love failed. Think about it. If someone told you that Harry and Sally stayed married for 10 years until Harry got a job offer in London and Sally didn't want to move because their kids were all going to school in New York and she had a career there, and they tried to be separated for a while, but long-distance marriage was too hard, and then he tried coming back, but his heart was just with that job in London and he could feel himself growing to resent her for keeping him in America, so finally they had no choice but to divorce ... What would you think?
You'd think their love failed. You'd think the love you watched blossom so beautifully failed, and it would make you immensely sad.
When the marriage fails, we are programmed to think that the love those two people shared as a whole failed. But my parents' divorce gave me a different way to look at it. If you told me Harry and Sally split up, I would ask if they were still friends. Could they still go to Katz's and hang while they laughed about that time Sally faked the orgasm? If they could do that, even after all of the heartbreaking sh*t they had to go through together, their love passed in my book.
Because at the heart of real, strong love is a friendship that's everlasting.