I married a good man, a decent man, a funny man. After more than a decade since we first met, he's still that same kind of man. But we're no longer married.
We now live on nearly opposite sides of the world, living wholly different lives than the one big life we had together. But we communicate still, at least once in a while. Nearly two years since we split up, there are still things we need to discuss, things that connect and bind us. When we talk there's still the same warmth and concern in our voices; we still want to know that the other is doing just fine. I miss his family; he still asks about mine.
Two years ago we decided we weren't going to discuss our marriage with other people. "It just didn't work out, but we're okay," is what we decided to say. Only our closest friends might know a few more details, but even they were stunned to discover we had ended things for good. There was never any drama, no back-and-forths, no test separations. We kept details of our married life close to the chest, even when we were husband and wife. We decided at the start that we were going to treat each other with respect and value each other's reputations. That didn't end when we did.
Looking back I know what I could have done better, of course. I don't know if I could have tried any harder then -- remember that I'm writing this through the dubious benefit of hindsight (it can lead to tremendous guilt for things we did as we were before, not as we are now). Then was then, and I was I. Then. But I do know what I could do better now as I move forward in my life. And I am trying to do, to be, better.
Someone asked me if I regretted anything, all those 10-plus years. Never, not even when it got really, really, really hard. We went through tremendous difficulties together and just didn't make it through to the other side the same way. Now I'm not one to believe that fate is inescapable, but I do believe he and I were meant to meet and build a life together. I wouldn't be the person I am today if it hadn't been for him. Believe me when I say that I like who I am today, much more than I've ever liked myself in any other time of my life.
There are people who would argue that we're fools for giving up, that marriage is something you keep together unless there's abuse, cruelty, and deceit. And even some folks would say despite all that, too. I have young friends who wonder how two people who have so much love and affection for each other can't possibly make it work. All I can tell them is that it just shows how much work is involved in a marriage. I'm not saying it's not worth it, I'm only saying that marriage goes way beyond romance, lust -- even friendship.
Our circumstances are still difficult. We each face challenges we didn't think we'd have to deal with at this stage of our lives. But I know for sure I wouldn't still be standing if I never had spent all that time with him. In the end, that's the gift I have: the certainty that even when I fail, I've also succeeded somehow. Nothing is ever for nothing.
I once married a good man, a decent man, a funny man. A man who still asks if there's anything I need, who delivers on his promises, and who makes me laugh. In his way, in our way, I also became a better woman. That is all.