By the time I was thirty years old, I’d been married three times.
My first husband was a musician. He was a sweet guy, but he wanted to be Jimi Hendrix, and I was just a waitress, trying to support us both on my tips from the Chinese restaurant. We were eighteen and in love. Or maybe I mistook yummy sex and sweet friendship for love. I said my vows in the same dress I’d worn during commencement exercises at my high school graduation just a month earlier. It was 1973 and the mayor presided over our group ceremony in the city of Detroit. We had no honeymoon, but a year later, it was over anyway.
In 1976, our country celebrated the bicentennial and I ecstatically entered into my second marriage. This was a dream wedding, with a floor-length ivory gown and lace veil, a church ceremony, and a photographer hired to catch every blissful moment. The groom was my soul mate and, eventually, the father of my two lovely sons. We had a good life, a wonderful life, until it wasn’t. Before I left, we tried marriage counseling. It didn’t work, because, my husband said, the problems were all mine. At his urging, I entered into individual therapy.
I tried for two years to change who I was so that I could be happy with him–and he with me. Therapy eventually allowed me enough insight and courage to leave a worsening situation.
I left both my marriages, one after a year, one after seven years. When I married my third husband in 1985, I made a promise to myself that I’d never leave him. He has the best qualities of each of the others, qualities that work well with my personality, that help us stay solid. He’s kind and loving like husband #1, and he’s a good provider and keenly intelligent, like husband #2. And he has the key thing neither of them were ever able to offer: he believes in me. In my goodness, in my kindness, in my intelligence. But most importantly, he believes in my writing self. He honors that room of my own.
I’ve been married to Al for 24 years now, and not all of those years have been easy. We came close to splitting up a couple of times. What kept us together were his steadiness and my determination to never go through the horrors of divorce again. I was particularly determined not to put my children through that again. Not very romantic, but then, I’ve finally learned, marriage is about much more than romance.