The Second Time Around: Yours, Mine and Ours…Not! (Part One)

Photo courtesy of http://hookedonhouses.net/2012/12/03/yours-mine-ours-the-big-old-victorian-from-the-1968-movie-with-lucille-ball-henry-ford/
Photo courtesy of HookedOnHouses http://hookedonhouses.net/2012/12/03/yours-mine-ours-the-big-old-victorian-from-the-1968-movie-with-lucille-ball-henry-ford/

I love old movies. The sappier the better. In the 1968 gem “Yours, Mine and Ours” starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, a widower with ten children marries a widow with eight children. Yours and mine are clearly defined, but then they have a biological child together. The new child is a clearly defined ours. The same year gave us Doris Day (queen of Hollywood schmalz) in “With Six You Get Eggroll” which had a similar premise. Then came The Brady Bunch. Remarriage and blended families ala Hollywood: two single parents meet, conflicts arise, no one likes each other, then suddenly (after some campy skirmishes) they all love each other and live happily ever after. Phew! Of course, this is Hollywood. But I so love storybook endings.

Real life is different. The second time around at mid-life is even more unique in its difficulties. And here’s why:

Not everything that’s his is mine, not everything that’s mine is his, and we’re not quite sure what’s ours.

I will share three major Nots here, though there are many more. I don’t want to be too negative. In Part Two of this series, I promise to be positive.

The Nots

  • The children. They are all grown, so they are not under our roof. Clearly, this is not a Brady Bunch situation. And clearly at 50+, we are not expecting (pun intended!) to have an ours. Mike’s three children came to our wedding. I was glad. It showed some kind of support and perhaps love. Only one of my three children came to our wedding – my daughter. So with six you only get a bite of eggroll, in my case. My previous post explained how my daughter and I grew closer together as the ‘widow and orphan’. She grieved with me throughout my separation and divorce. She was thrilled when I met Mike. Not only did she attend our wedding, she was my Matron of Honor. It was clear why my sons were not present and I was not offended by their absence. I just missed them. I would have liked for them to share in my joy. How could they? It is totally weird to watch your mother marry another man who is not your father. Understood. I could never imagine my parents splitting and taking other spouses. Yuck.  Our collective children really don’t know each other. We don’t all have dinner together and we’re not sure if there will ever be a scenario where there’s fluid unstrained conversation between our children. His are in Ohio. Mine are in California, North Carolina and Indiana. We hardly see the out-of-state ones. It’s hard to get to know his children. They only text, sporadically. His. Mine. Not ours.
  • The stuff. When we met, Mike had a house in Ohio, and I had the Storybook House in Indiana. We had to decide which one to keep and make ours. I didn’t want to sell my house, but I did put it up for sale because I took a marriage vow that said ‘whither thou goest I will go, whither thou lodgest I will lodge‘! Mike was working in Ohio, so that’s where I had to be. Unfortunately, he lost his job nine months after we were married. Fortunately, we kept my house and Mike moved into the Storybook House. And I still call it my house, a hard habit to break. God worked out the home situation to my advantage. Beside the stress involved with relocating, there are other problems when you both own stuff attained in a previous marriage or before you met. You have to factor in death and inheritance and that sort of thing. This post is going from negative to morbid, but let’s be realistic. Who gets the stuff when I die? How do you divvy up the goods in a second marriage? My stuff. His stuff. Not ours. His kids. My kids. Let’s buy new stuff and call it ours.
  • History. We don’t share a history together. We’re in our 50s and a big chunk of life is behind us. Confession: I envy couples that have been in long faithful marriages. They share children, a long history, have the same memories, and gather together at holiday time. Of course no marriage is perfect. No family is without conflict. In spite of imperfection, I admire those couples. Secondly, I get a bit jealous when Mike speaks of a past memory. I wasn’t there. Other people were. Mike has been so many places, having served in the Navy for six years and worked in the nuclear industry for over twenty years. I wasn’t with him then. Other people were. Thirdly, holidays are weird the second time around. Who’s coming over? His kids or mine? They’d be awkward together. Last Christmas, I got depressed. How was I to decorate our tree? Just looking at ornaments my children made in grade school got me bawling. I treasure these ornaments. While they give me great joy in remembering those days, they also remind me of my broken family. They hold no meaning for Mike. They are my ornaments, my history, my ghosts of Christmas past. While I never want to go back to lonely holidays, they can still bring sorrow if I let the past mar my joy.

    Christmas 2013 at the Storybook House. My ghosts of Christmas past paid me a visit.
    Christmas 2013 at the Storybook House. My ghosts of Christmas past paid me a visit.

There they are: three big NOTS – things Mike and I can’t call ours.

Getting back to old movies, old stuff and old crooners, Frank Sinatra sang, ‘love is lovelier the second time around‘. Shalimar agreed in 1979 (the year my first marriage began), in fact they said the second time around is better than the first time. Yes, I think the second time is lovelier. Better. Sweeter. I’ll tell you all about that in my next post, The Second Time Around: Yours, Mine and Ours…Yes! (Part Two). In the meantime, put up your feet and watch an old sappy movie. May I suggest “Yours, Mine and Ours”?

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My Testimony of God’s Faithfulness in Caring for Widows and Orphans: The Sabbatical

While this blog’s focus is on remarriage after divorce from a Reformed perspective, I thought it appropriate to post my testimony of God’s care during the time of my separation, divorce and eventual relocation from New York to Indiana. I pray that readers can see evidence of the Lord’s mercy and long-suffering toward me through His miracles and kind Providence displayed while I forged through deep waters. My prayer is for this post to be an encouragement to women faced with infidelity, abandonment, divorce and the despair that goes with it. Names are changed to protect privacy.

The Sabbatical

December 30, 2002. Long Island, New York.

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I thought I had a wonderful life!

“I’m not in love with you anymore.” The words pierced my heart like a knife. They echoed in my brain as I drove to work.

Fleeting thought: All I have to do is glide over into oncoming traffic and close my eyes.

I wasn’t in love with him either. But I loved him with an abiding, comfortable love most long marriages enjoy. Being in love was juvenile euphoria and hormones. Wasn’t our long history together precious to him?

“You can have the house.” He’d already divvied up the goods with devious calculation. I thought about the long years spent here raising our three children. My heart was in the home while his had been far away.

“Now you’ll have to work full time,” he sneered. He loved this part. My provider resented providing for me. I felt that resentment while watching our boys play Little League Baseball. He admired the women who did it all. Those women who came to the games late, stylishly adorned in career garb, trendy haircuts and make-up. I graced the bleachers in my frumpy sweats and a t-shirt. Funny, but those women envied me. They witnessed his affection for me in public. Apparently, it made him appear heroic. Perfect husband.

I was a Christian since childhood. I thought my family life was near exemplary. My husband held my hand in the mall. He bragged about my cooking, my frugality, and my decorating skills. For so many years, he doted on me. I felt secure in his love, never doubted it. Betrayal was totally unexpected. I was fooled for 23 years.

The words of his mouth were softer than butter, yet war was in his heart, his words were more gentle than oil, yet they were swords. – Psalm 55:21

On a frigid day in January, my husband left our home for his new apartment in the city. Thus began the four worst years of my life.

My sons were 21 (away at college) and 18 (a senior in high school). My daughter was 13 and she suffered most. I’d get up for work to discover her curled up in bed, unable to go to school. Piano lessons stopped.

Something like adrenalin kicked in. My body kept going, zombie-like. The body that shed fifty-seven pounds so he might love me again. The body that only craved liquid dinner after work – wine that calmed me and helped me forget. Anger stirred me. Then complete sadness overtook me. I reminisced. I rehashed, analyzed and cried. I played games like revenge dating, hoping he would be jealous. It only hurt more when he wasn’t.

I filed for a legal separation to protect myself and ensure that he’d give me monthly support. I needed to stay afloat and pay the mortgage. I prayed he would have a change of heart and told the kids to pray for the same. I didn’t want a divorce. Six months later, he was sure he did.

John Flavel wrote: “The Providence of God is like Hebrew words. It can only be read backwards.” I remember wrestling with going back to work six years earlier. Homemaking gave me all the creative outlets I craved, but my husband admired those career moms. I took the hint. My degree in Advertising Art was twenty years old and computers had taken over the design profession. Unequipped to revive my art ‘career’,  I was hired as a proofreader at a small community newspaper. My boss allowed me to learn graphic design on their office computers. Self-taught, I joined the design staff shortly after. Even though I really didn’t want to re-enter the workforce, in doing so, the Lord prepared me for what was ahead.

When my Judas left, I was a single mom with updated skills and six years of experience in graphic art. I got a full time job in what I called the Ad Agency from Hell. The place was a horror, but I couldn’t be picky. I thought if I had to continue working, I needed to get out of the advertising industry. I enrolled in college for a Bachelor’s degree with a minor in writing. I carried twelve credits per semester and worked a 4pm to midnight shift at the agency. Foolishly, I dated subpar men via online dating just to have something to look forward to on the weekends.

My daughter and I hardly saw each other. She called me at work many nights, just before my shift was over, asking me to pick up gooey brownies or some other sweet and I obliged her. We had to keep our endorphins flowing. There I was at the 24-hour supermarket, wearily buying some mood enhancer. It’s the little things that keep you going during devastating times. Little things like a quiet cup of coffee, a brownie, or Godiva ice cream. Mommie Dearest met her match when, in desperation, I devoured my daughter’s Godiva ice cream when my own pint was gone. I knew I’d suffer her wrath, but did it anyway. She never lets me forget this.

I shouldn’t have dated at all while merely separated and vulnerable. My rationale was broken vows meant we were already divorced. I wanted to cling to someone again, while Jesus, the only One I needed, was waiting for me ever patiently, to come to my senses. My disobedience only resulted in chastening. There was a car accident, there was pain, there was more agony. I sought counsel, though it was not the wise kind. My liberal Lutheran pastor gave me worldly psychobabble, not Biblical wisdom. The Lord beckoned me through a Sunday School lesson I taught to five year olds. Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and his friends couldn’t even stay awake with him. Did he feel alone? Abandoned? Friendless? He was speaking to me and I drew near to Him. As I did, He drew nearer to me.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:8

After two years, and with the divorce final, I resolved to stop dating. I studied, worked, wrote papers, slept. Realizing local churches were in apostasy, I tuned in to sermonaudio.com each Sunday instead. There I found the meat of Gospel Truth like the reformed preaching I’d been listening to for years on radio. Through the website, I discovered a local church that preached reformed theology and began attending.

Meanwhile, each weekday afternoon I was frantically pumping on my elliptical while praying, Lord, get me out of here. This was my ritual before I headed to the ad agency. I prayed for a sabbatical. Lord, please make it a long one. At least six months. I’m so tired.

My daughter had been communicating with someone she’d met online since she was 14. Lori assured me they met unintentionally through a gaming site chat room. This young Christian man helped her through her emotional struggles in dealing with her father’s abandonment. They talked on the phone for hours. Romance blossomed. It was time for us to meet this Indiana boy. I knew that Lori was wise beyond her years, but I wasn’t sure she was mature enough to trust her feelings. I glared at this Country Boy, interrogated him at my kitchen table, and spoiled his appetite for the New York pizza I’d bragged about. Once recovered, the Country Boy got a tour of New York City.

Lori suggested we move to Indiana. I searched online for Indianapolis homes and their affordability tempted me. I knew I couldn’t keep our house on my salary. I didn’t want to either. The house haunted us with past memories. Lori and I had enough. Eventually, my sons moved out and were managing on their own. Our turn came to visit Indianapolis. Continue reading