It’s true more often than we realize: each new love is built from the wreckage of the loves that came before. We love those who fit the peculiar voids within us, our hollow wounds. We love to fill the spaces the old loves left behind. p. 314, Faithby Jennifer Haigh

In the car today, the girls and I talked about the point of marriage, and how to get it right. My children are children of divorce, of failed marriage and a second go at successful marriage. They are children shuttled back and forth between houses, between lives, between the past and the future.

The present, we think, is this suspension of two families as status quo.

I’ve written before about how fascinated I am with the reality TV show, 19 Kids and CountingIt’s partially because of the train wreck that is a family with 19 children.

It’s also because the wholesomeness presented on the television – perhaps fictitious, perhaps embellished, perhaps truly a dream – is what I would want for my own family.

If I could, I would erase the bumpy roads and replace them with smooth paths. I would create a Rockwellian memory of one happy marriage, of children from that union of best friends and helpmates, of one solid bustling family.

But that is not my path to walk in this life. It can be, though, for my children.

Does it trouble no one the preponderance in western civilization to date and “hook up” and “try people on for size” before committing to The One? Does it not occur to any of us that in doing that, we dampen the very notion of marriage? We surrender to the notion of wait-and-see and the pattern of if-this-doesn’t-work-we’ll-end-it?

I speak from experience. I grew up with a silver screen notion of what love is and yearned to find it in the grubby boys and players around me. I wanted someone to “complete me.” I wanted wholesomeness out of a world that is nothing close.

I know now that you can’t drink tepid beer at frat parties and hope for happily ever after. Did we really not know it at the time? It’s why I became religious, why I signed on for what I knew would end up being a failed marriage.

Yes, I got the great kids out of it. And in the car today, both Grace and Eliana quipped about how, if Dan and I had found each other young and innocent, they wouldn’t be here.

I can’t even imagine.

I just like the idea of a first being an only. A life partner, truly. Someone to know when you’re young, to grow up with, to discover together the pleasures of commitment and familiarity and passion.

The quote at the top of the blog, from a fantastic book I finished last night: it’s a novel about this very notion of loving another, of knowing oneself enough to know how to love.

Do any of us really?

It’s not easy to spend a lifetime with a person. It only works when the shared definition of love is to give. If you’re both giving, you’re both happy. And everybody wins.

I’m sorry that my children shuttle back and forth between houses. I’m sorry for being selfish. I’m sorry that I didn’t “get it” until my 30s.

Perhaps I can start them on a better, cleaner, happier path. Perhaps my mistakes can be what ends the chain of stupidity forever.

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