November 4, 2004
And They Lived Happily Ever Apart
Years ago, when I met someone who had life-partner potential, someone who could be my first real adult relationship, I held on
tighter than Donald Trump to a bad hair style.
"I love you," I said.
"I want to be with you all the time," I said.
"Let's get married," I said.
I said a lot of things. We got married.
At first, it was just like the movies. There was love and passion and caring and sharing and laughter and plans for the future. We were like the models on Hallmark greeting cards. There were fields of daisies and we were running across them, in slow motion, toward one another, arms outstretched. It couldn't have been mushier or cornier, but we didn't give a damn. Other singles envied us.
"Be strong, little singles," we told them. "We were you once."
Flash forward. A dozen years. A couple of kids. A few conflicts.
"I want you" was replaced by "Are you still here?"
"Do you realize we've been having sex for six straight hours?" was replaced by "Do you realize we haven't had sex for six straight weeks?"
And "I just love all your little quirks," was replaced by "That sound you make when you sneeze makes my skin crawl."
Being together day after day for 14 years sadly lost its luster.
We tried to save the quickly expiring marital patient. Counseling. More counseling. More counseling. But it was not to be. We decide to pull the plug. Divorce. Mediation. Married couple becomes two singles again.
When you're alone, you look around and it appears as though everyone else in the world is in love, except you. All the other animals on the Ark are in pairs -- except you, the sole pig -- Porky, party of one.
So I jumped back into the quest. Almost another decade of dating; of periods of no dates, of bad dates, of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am dates. And now, once again, I've met someone who has life-partner potential. I want to be with her all the time. I see fields of daisies and us running across them, in slow motion, toward one -- wait a minute. This is starting to sound familiar. I try to remember the TV show or movie that's reminding me of what's happening, and then it occurs to me that it's a rerun from my own life. Oh, God. I'm repeating the pattern. Will I be stuck in this Dante's Romantic Inferno forever? Will this be my personal hell? My Vietnam? My Iraq?
Is this going to be the arc of my romantic growth? To go from "All You Need Is Love" to "Familiarity Breeds Contempt?" Is there any way to change my fate?
Life has a way of stepping in when you need it. This time (Adult Relationship No. 2), I can't spend all my waking moments with my new girlfriend. Because of our work, children, pet and activity schedules, we can only see each other a few times a week. Maybe that's why each time we do, it's like we're meeting for that first time. We're constantly in a state of missing each other and accumulating experiences and feelings to share. We're not together every day. We're definitely not living together. And we're both fine with that. Really. We've each been married before, so neither of us are in a hurry to rush into anything permanent. We each value both our time together and our independent time apart.
I remember many of those fairy tales we read as kids ending with: "And they lived together, happily ever after." I suppose for some people that still holds true. But for myself and for many others these days, it's a new, revised fairy tale ending: "And they lived apart, happily ever after."
Maybe it's not the perfect fairy tale ending. Then again, what with the national divorce rate at 50 percent and higher, maybe we're simply creating our own fairy tale.
Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org