Hollywood has it wrong.
Well, maybe not wrong so much as incomplete.
For years, since I was a teenager, music, magazines, and every single John Hughes movie made in the 1980’s extolled the virtues of love, romance, and the idea that you’re meant for each other. The more ambitious of those pushed the idea that you should wait for the “one”. Your soul mate.
I bought into this, hook, line and sinker. I romanticized things . . . that is until I started actually dating and realized that dating really, truly, sucks. I loved the romance once you met someone you liked but hated everything up to that point.
But two things have had me questioning the “Hollywood-ization” of love.
I married an amazing woman, let’s get that out there into the screaming superhighway of information right now. Andrea was beautiful, seductive, funny, light-hearted and knew how to push me to be more than I was at the time. She was the perfect woman for me…then. I was truly a better person with her than I had been before meeting her. I wanted to be more than I was and she was a sexy, provocative woman who actually was interested in me as well as what I could be. But communication sometimes gets replaced with complacency and intimacy is often replaced with familiarity. The lesson I see my kids getting from the greater media around them is the same one I got: that one, that singular person is out there, somewhere, you just have to find them! They don’t describe or portray the work it takes to keep a marriage alive and happy.
Then comes my whacked-out corollary to the Hollywood hypothesis.
Andrea died 2 ½ years ago. The line I often hear is, “She’s up there waiting for you.”
But how do you, if you’ve been told all your life through example, media, and print, honestly move on? How do you, as a human being, tell people, “She’s my soul mate” and then go sign a marriage license? Death ends a marriage contract, it’s pretty damn explicit in its wording: “’til death do us part.” But if you listen to the idea that your soul is matched with only one person, what happens when one of you dies far too early in that marriage?
If you listen to the soul-mate argument, you’re screwed.
Is it fair to your late wife, if you continue to believe this, to start dating someone and fall in love again? Is it fair to the person you are now dating if you tell them you struggle because at the age of 23 you married someone you thought was your soul mate? I’m not joking when I ask . . . what happens when all three of you are gone and moving into the hereafter? The contract here is over but what do you say to each other if they’re “waiting?” If you get to do it over again, living another life, which one is the woman you find out there in the world when you grow up again?
I was married 18 years, but I’m only 43 and looking at (hopefully) a long time ahead of me. Tomorrow, if Andrea walked in front of me I doubt I’d even ask her out. My life, my views, my character . . .all those things have changed. Do our souls not match any more?
Or could you match more than “the one?”
How do you have that conversation with your kids? How do I tell them I love their mom, deeply, but might consider dating someone else? My kids don’t look at me today as someone who is looking to date. One has vehemently reacted to it, saying they couldn’t handle it. It’s a hard conversation to have when they’re talking about all the things I could “be free to do” when they’re gone and out of the house. They don’t think about the fact that is 8 years from now.
“You could go be a reporter for the BBC,” says my oldest, Abbi. “You could tour in a band like you’ve always wanted to do!” You know, 51 – great age to strike out as a rocker.
But my conversations lately, as my oldest heads off to college, is to work at it. Love is easy. Friendship and compatibility are really, really hard. When you’re young you try to force opposites to attract and love the magnetism of it all. Now, at the middle part of my life, that’s different. I like staying up all night in conversation. I miss little, intimate details, not just the crazy, sexy exploits.
I have begun by saying they should ignore the “fate intervenes” message Hollywood is sending. Friendship, that’s the key. You can easily love someone but liking them . . . that’s really hard. Love can ruin friendships some say, but friendship can make love spectacular.
And spectacular…that’s what you should strive toward.
What about you? What do you believe? What do you tell your kids? In a society where divorce rates rise and marriage isn’t taken quite as seriously, what message do you choose to believe?
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.