It's a hard thing, to remember something good that no longer is. I have a very close girlfriend struggling through this right now, and I'm writing this column for her.
I remember when my parents sold the house my sisters and I had grown up in, to move into a smaller, more easily managed place. I went through a few last boxes of things that my parents couldn't keep, odds and ends. Someone had surprisingly found an old notebook of mine and I leafed through it curiously, remembering a different time in high school that had been so vibrant and all there was.
Now what is here is my current family -- my husband, our two children, and me. It is all there is.
Sure, I still see my parents and sisters and their families. My inlaws, who live nearby, are frequent visitors. But we are the unit: my husband, our two children, and me. It must be so. I see how the kids take this stability for granted, and how they thrive because they know that we're here for them.
I've seen marriages -- a fair number -- break up, and it's always excruciating. My sister was once married to an alcoholic and it was a good thing in her case to end the bond, but without desperate circumstances it isn't. Beyond the moral issues of unkept vows, a broken marriage destabilizes the people involved. Yes, there can be repair, and a new stability established, but the remembrance of a break haunts the new status quo. Furthermore, innocents can be caught up in the events, and when this happens they may suffer terribly.
Stability is hard work, and more fragile than we like to admit. Threats can come from without: a car accident, an illness. But they can also come from within, and sometimes these inward threats are so subtle and gradual that you barely notice them until they have you by the throat. It's easy to play "what if." What if I had married so-and-so instead of my current spouse? What if we had lived here, instead of there? What if I'd been able to do this, instead of that?
We're probably all guilty of playing "what if," of course, but attempting to make these dreams real entails a cost. Sometimes the cost is worth it -- say, training for a new career -- but the cost is usually higher than one has anticipated. I have to think there are very few circumstances that are worth the pain of a broken marriage.
Straddling the chasm of reality and fantasy, it's easy to move for awhile from imagined thing to reality without disruption in one's life. It's dangerous, though. A parable in the Bible says that a man cannot serve two masters, and while Jesus was talking about God and money, the concept is the same. One cannot have two conflicting things. The reality may not be everything you'd wished for, but the fantasy probably wouldn't do it either. Truly, how many times has something turned out that met all of your expectations?
From time to time, we are all guilty of this straddling. However, I'd like my girlfriend to remember that it's cruel to hold out "what ifs" to others who may be hurt. Better to hang tough, turn completely, and just hope the other person forgives you as you both wait for heaven.
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