Marriage and intimacy

During the 2010 Olympics I was lucky enough to obtain a ticket to the pairs figure skating competition. I was initially disappointed when the event began as I hadn’t realized that I would be watching twenty pairs perform the same routine over and over again. After watching many of the couples perform, however, I began to see the beauty in the repetition, noticing that the couples who were most magical were not necessarily the ones  always in sync. Instead, it was the couples that fell out of step with one another while maintaining their connection who were most appealing. For it was in viewing the stronger partner unhesitatingly and unflinchingly carry the faltering one that the intimacy between the two was most visible, providing a peek behind the curtain into the deeper bond that enables two distinct individuals to separate and come back together in a unified dance that’s all the stronger for a misstep.

Over time, I reflected on this hidden beauty, struck by how it paralleled the relationships that I know and most admire.  And so, when presented with the opportunity to get married to someone who loved me, I turned him down, knowing that our relationship did not meet the litmus test that I had set for myself.

When my son, who also loved this man, asked me why I wouldn’t marry him, I gently explained that I believe that marriage is like a puzzle. Whereas you can sometimes force together two pieces that look as if they belong with one another, it’s a struggle and you always know that something’s not quite right, if not through the process then by the end result. On the other hand, when two pieces belong together, they gently nestle up against one another, falling together into place to create a picture that is more beautiful than either piece could create on its own, each unique part accentuating the other’s natural form to present it in a supportive and flattering light.

Having no desire to be the next Elizabeth Taylor, marrying repeatedly for an elusive but heady feeling that’s unsustainable in the long term, I’ve decided to save my last marriage chit for a relationship that is mutually supportive, allowing each of us to explore and express our dark and light in all their splendor while striving to become the best version of ourselves. And it’s my hope that as my son matures and falls in love, he’ll ultimately choose for himself a relationship in which he’s loved in spite of his flaws all the while being recognized for the work in progress that he is, supported during his mis-steps and throughout his attempts to make the most of who he is, while complementing his other in a dance that creates a long-lasting moment of truth that is beautiful for all of its work and imperfections.

Love

When my son was nine months old, he would play on the double futon I had installed in his room. For hours on end, he would stand up, hold on to the window ledge and then let go, spiraling into a free-fall. In the small span of time between letting go and landing, bouncing softly and comfortably into the mattress, a smile enveloped his face depicting his delight in being out of control while knowing that a safety net was firmly in place.

Watching him, my heart would race, aching for the naiveté and absolute trust required to capture that heedless sensation of wild abandon. It would make me remember how, when I was first taking ballet at the age of six or seven and, having recently fallen in love with the nutcracker, I would pirouette and jettée across my living room floor, convinced that I was experiencing a novel sensation of free-floating headiness that no one had previously experienced but, given the minutest chance, would do anything to.

And then it occurred to me. Falling in love is similar, without the safety net. My first experience of love was like being struck by a bolt of lightening. It came at me, unexpected but strong and sure, changing my chemical and genetic composition forever. It made me happier, nicer, and more loving in general.

At that time, it never occurred to me that things wouldn’t work out and that there wouldn’t be a happily ever after. When the relationship ended, my complete faith in fairy tale endings was destroyed.

Watching my son execute his spirals of innocently sinful delight, it occurs to me that love is much like his actions. Until you come up hard and fast against the realization that there is no safety net in place, you can abandon yourself completely and give your heart away on a silver platter as if an offering of delectable delight that’s impossible for anyone to refuse.

Once you realize that no one can guarantee a happily forever after ending and that, by definition, love and relationships are risky, you also realize that therein lies the magic. And, in a heartbeat, I realize that this is something that I want my son to learn.

Falling in love is part something that happens to you and part a conscious choice. When two people meet, and there is that spark and recognition of the other, there is often a point at which you have to decide to take a step and let go. The step may be small, but, once aware that a safety net doesn’t exist, it’s the hardest step you’ll ever take. It requires you to take a leap of faith built on vulnerability and hopefulness while trusting in something entirely intangible and out of your control. But, if you willingly suspend disbelief and open yourself up, the rewards are usually unexpected and unquantifiable.