I got married for the first time at age 19, and for the second time at age 30. Of course, so much happened in the intervening 11 years that it almost goes without saying that things would be different the second time around.
Love for me, the first time, was all-consuming. Like a lot of young adults I was hungry for love and acceptance. I thought I had found it. I guess I read too many romance novels as a kid, or maybe it's just an artifact of having been young, but for whatever reason I thought love had to be hot to be real. I thought if it wasn't passionate and crazy what was the point?
Yeah, try not to laugh at me too hard.
This time...it's not like that. Not at all. It is the difference, if I can be allowed an overwrought metaphor, between setting your clothes on fire and sitting outside in the sun. Either way, you're gonna get warm, but one of them will hurt like hell and may just cripple you.
I've always been a bit of a homebody. I don't care where I make my home, and I don't much care about the physical possessions I have inside that home. I care about the people inside that home. The thing about Erik is this: I love him wholeheartedly. More, and better, I think, than I did my first husband. And it is calm.
Erik and I lie in bed at night, after the kids are asleep and after Marie goes to sleep, and we hold each other and talk. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax (and occasionally cabbage, but almost never kings). Sometimes, usually, it starts out as a discussion of something which impacts us both (or us as a family), but it almost always veers off from there. And...I love it. It's probably my favorite thing. It reminds me in a good way of my friendship with Mark; he and I almost always have a minimum of three separate conversations going on at once, and uncountable tangents to each of them. Erik and I are the same way.
I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that you need to marry your best friend. I had it the other way around--your husband will be your best friend. Subtle difference, I think, but important.
I can't say I didn't talk with my first husband, because I did, but the depth simply wasn't there. It was more me pontificating and him agreeing. I have a kind of strong personality and a habit of running over folks without even realizing it. Combine that with a guy who had a lifelong habit of agreeing with whomever he was with...
You know, I had a friend back in high school, John, and on his own he was great but when he was in a couple he wasn't John anymore, he was Kristenandjohn. He lost his own identity. It aggravated me as a teenager, and yet somehow I slipped into being Sabraandrobert. (Note the position of the names in these examples.) I never wanted to be there, but my usual ability to step outside of my situation and analyze it failed me utterly in that case. I was too much the little kid wanting to be loved.
The way the love is, though, is not the only difference. There are other things, more concrete things. Part of the first time around involved picking loose every scab, poking at every scar. This time, we both leave well enough alone. There are places in his head that I'll never go, and vice versa. And it really is better that way, although maybe it sounds like a cop-out. A good love isn't necessarily all-consuming; allowing privacy is just as important. (Should have dated a libertarian much sooner, eh?)
I've grown up, and Erik benefits. I've finally, finally gained somewhat of the ability to not snap another person's head off when they say something I think is dumb or overly obvious. Well, okay, I've gained the ability to not do that to Erik. Pretty much everyone else still needs to beware, but he can fumble, and at the same time I can let myself fumble, too.
See, part of it is simply that I've matured, but a lot of it is Erik. He doesn't set my back up the way my ex-husband always did; what I mistook for passion to begin with was really not much more than irritation. Hey, you get something stuck under your skin and you're gonna be jumpy, right?
That doesn't exist now. It is only an improvement.
Put it simply, Erik makes me a better person. I can't not be amazed by that.