“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.”
My sister moved out of her house and 12 year-long marriage recently. I feel bittersweet about her divorce because her kids will have to be taxied around each week and finances will be less secure, but I know in my heart that she is doing exactly what is right for her family.
One moment she is ecstatic (well most moments, fortunately):
Her Facebook status read, “Furniture put together, placed, boxes half unpacked, cable, internet…just need my clothing, art, kitty cats…and I will be a whole new Lady! I might have this all done by tomorrow night so I can rest, relax & enjoy on Sunday. Yee Haw. Over the flipping moon! Thanks to all of my helpers, y’all are like firecrackers!”
And in the very next minute, after she posted the above passage, she posted a photo of a beautiful tree-lined path, captioned, “Just Breath.”
As my laptop’s old warped fan whirred, it struck me. I could feel the dichotomy of the two simultaneous posts wrestling with each other in my mind, as they seeped in. After a few moments, it washed over me like a set of ocean waves. I felt so off kilter.
Then it happened—I, a happy and grateful married woman of 18+ years, felt an awkward jealous feeling well up from deep within.
Did I just admit to that? Oh crap, I did! And it wasn’t the first time that I have felt this jealousy.
Just to be clear, I do not wish to leave my husband who is my best friend and lover—nor do I want to entertain other lovers. But the fact is that I have always loved my freedom to do as I please while participating in a monogamous marriage.
At the same time, I know I am not the only one who has experienced these feelings of duality—feelings intense enough to leave one’s brain parted into two separate mental directions.
My close friend and I recently spoke. He has been out of his marriage for five years, and I learned that he is now in a new serious relationship. I was feeling elated for him even as he explained that it was a huge decision to trade in his privacy and autonomy in exchange for the love of a new partner. He went on to say that he neither had to answer to nor be accountable to anyone during those several years of freedom that he had savored all to himself.
He was missing his independence while still loving his new mate. I could hear it in his voice and it made me feel queasy because I could relate all too well.
My reaction is not unique and has actually been well studied. It has been found that when a friend or loved one divorces, it causes a ripple effect and those who are close to them also become much more susceptible to divorce:
[A limited social study done in Framingham, MA and led by Rose McDermott, claims that divorce is as infectious as a rumor. If one has a friend who divorces then they will be 75% more likely, from where they were at before, to divorce as well. If a friend of a friend divorces, the rate of contagion is 33%. The research also suggested that longer lasting relationships are contagious as well]
My soul’s truth is that I have always known that my freedom and sovereignty would be in disagreement within my married self someday—long before I ever even met my husband.
And although I am am happy in my relationship status, I still feel conflicted in loving my present life yet longing for more freedom. In fact, I feel embarrassed for wanting to live on both sides of the fence when I am so blessed with a wonderful husband!
“Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.”
~ Blaise Pascal
Lucky for me, I had grandparents who lived out a beautiful love affair until death separated them. Despite the occasional argument, my grandparents acted like love birds—holding hands, enjoying each other’s company and conversations, doing crosswords together at breakfast, etc.
My grandfather, George, always took a morning walk, and as predictably as the Old Faithful Geyser, he would steal a single flower for my grandmother from a different garden along his path each day—his daily gift to his beloved wife who he always introduced as, “my bride Jane.”
My grandfather painted my grandmother touching handmade cards. Many of the cards have been lovingly saved. Here is one that he made for my grandmother on their 50th wedding anniversary:
I am forever grateful to them for teaching me, through example, about duality in a quality, long-term partnership.
“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck. But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.”
~ Ellen Goodman
During our marriage, my husband and I have fallen in and out of love many times over. Each time we fall back into love it is a much deeper love and connection that we feel, but it has been no cakewalk—I don’t believe any lasting relationship could continually be one, but I am in this for the long haul.
Still, my essential and not so secret dream is to own a cottage down the street from my house that is only for me. If my dream came true, I predict that I would feel much more balanced, perhaps spending just a few days a month alone there to revel in my own private time and freedom—no one to bother me, all my own stuff, keeping it messy or neat, having friends to visit or call without interruptions.
Living out the best of two lives at once and watering the grass on both sides of the fence.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photos submitted by Laura Kutney; Card by the late George J. Paulus