-Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

unveiled

Happy Endings

One couple learns that love is a process—twice.
By Cara Asalita Schrock | Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan - 2014
   

After a five-year courtship, four years of marriage, four years of separation and divorce, and relationships with others both significant and inconsequential, Bryan and I found ourselves standing side by side in front of a Las Vegas minister, once again becoming husband and wife. Bryan is my home, and I am his. We always were, but it took some time to realize exactly what that meant. But, once we did, we realized that regardless of the sequence of events, it is the final outcome that matters most.

When I first met Bryan, I could see immediately, on top of his charm and sharp outfits, that he also had a good head on his shoulders. He was the first guy I dated to have a respectable 9-to-5 job by day, balanced by being the lead singer of a band by night. He was the stability I didn't know I needed, with the quick wit and creativity to keep me smitten. Best of all, the relationship didn't leave me feeling like a perpetual teenager, like the rest of the relationships I subjected myself to. He proved time and time again that he would not be deterred by my baggage and many times offered to help carry the load.

I think our divorce caught many by surprise, including us. We didn't wed the first time until my late-20s, and a day after Bryan's 30th birthday. We had already spent half a decade together, owned our first home, and worked in the same office building, mere feet apart, for several years. It was safe to say, our dynamic just worked. We thought we had it a figured out, what could surprise us now? Maybe the lack of surprise is what surprised us most of all. We had the baby, the city version of a two-car garage single-family home, the pets, and financial stability—we were doing it the way we were told it should be done. While reaching every textbook milestone, we lost sight of the necessary balance and learned that togetherness should not be a full-time job. A little independence goes a long way and does wonders for remembering who we are as individuals, allowing us to grow in ways that encourage us each to thrive.

I have been struggling to articulate the years, experiences, and discoveries that led us back to each other. The best way I can describe it is, much like the historic house we purchased together before separating, it might be a fixer-upper, but we know the foundation is strong. We still see the original charm through the dust and grime built up over the last several years of neglect. And the wear and tear caused by our own loving and living hard? That provides character that maybe only those of us within these four walls can appreciate.

Our second wedding and honeymoon last May were one and the same, consisting of a four-day trip only our parents and son knew about. We discussed the possibility of reuniting quietly for some time without anyone's knowledge to protect our son from any more ups and downs in his short life. We did not reveal any decisions until our trip was booked. The reactions to our abrupt getaway from those who mattered most allowed me to settle even further into the comfort of our decision. Even during our time apart, we remained very child-focused, trying to make the transition and new lifestyle as easy as possible for a small child who now had two houses, two sets of rules, and a trickier schedule than a part-time retail employee. Even though he was only three when we first separated, he handled a difficult situation with such maturity that I often wondered if he minded at all. To see his face light up at the news and the wheels in his mind start to spin with ideas for how to celebrate, immediately wiped away any doubt that what we were choosing for ourselves was also best for him.

The wedding was simple this time around. Unlike our first church ceremony and reception, there were no china patterns to coordinate, or playlists to devise, or tastings to attend. There was no binder overflowing with inspiration and themes or time spent on bridal forums dedicated to fine-tuning the tiniest details. Months of tracking down the perfect dress and having it tailored to my specifications was replaced with selecting from the sale rack at a local boutique five minutes before they closed. The fact that it fit, was the right color, and had a few of the characteristics I was looking for was enough for me to declare it The One. Our guest list didn't require diagrams for conflict-free seating arrangements, but consisted of a woman we never met to play witness. This is not to imply it was not given the same importance as our first event—quite the opposite. This time, we were able to remain focused on the purpose of the day and not be distracted by living out princess-for-a-day fantasies. (Okay, my princess-for-a-day fantasies with a groom who happily played along, but I'm sure would have been just as content running down to the courthouse and calling it a day.) We did, however, search for an adorable chapel worthy of such a moment. We did go to Vegas for its reputation for efficiently churning out marriage licenses and getting the unwedded hitched, but kitschy was not what we were after. Becoming husband and wife with more clarity than we could have known existed nine years earlier was our mission—and to that we stuck.

Our grand announcement consisted of a Facebook check-in at the chapel and took many by surprise, although some were not surprised at all. We were immediately peppered with congratulations along with messages like, "I knew you two would get back together. I knew you were meant to be!" These comments were appreciated and alleviated any concerns I may have had about what people would think. I was never concerned enough to stop myself from following through—the opinions of others were never something I let hold me back—but I also know it's not every day that an ex-husband and ex-wife remarry. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit to some slight insecurity about how it would be perceived. Learning that we had more people rooting for us than I knew made an incredible moment even more special.

There was no honeymoon high to linger on long after the thank-you's were mailed; instead life did not skip a beat. We came back married with no time to gloss over our wedding photos, or relive the highlights from the honeymoon-slash-whirlwind-wedding deep into the night. The day-to-day of our jobs, the tricky maneuvering of merging two households, and the homework-and-bedtime routine with our son, thrust us right back into total normalcy.

But the important reason for the trip to Vegas continues to shine brightly through the chaos of everyday life, because it is in these moments when you realize you are right where you are meant to be with the person for whom you are meant.

With Bryan, I am home. He is my home and, despite several years of individual experiences, we never drifted too far away. And though our reunion may lack the bright, shiny things a newly built relationship would bring (No repairs! Less maintenance!), we have learned that all that is temporary. All relationships, like homes, old or new, end up with cracks to patch and repair. However, if you are lucky, you come to a point in your life where you realize which is worth the effort. Which house holds the real value. Which house bears your roots and soul, not just your favorite paint color. Which one do you call home because that is where you always need to be? In my experience, the wherewithal you didn't know you had will always reveal itself if you let it.

Today, we welcome the familiarity and realness that overshadow the typical excitement of newly wedded bliss. The years apart have taught us many lessons, but my greatest lesson of all is that excitement is never permanent. In any situation, the excitement will subside. It has to. Life cannot continue at that pace and leave us with enough leftover to make it through the day to day. But I've learned not to confuse excitement with joy. We exist in a culture that glorifies fairytales, and we grow up believing they are not only possible but maintainable. This is not to say you can't be swept off your feet by your Prince Charming, but it's important to remember that the real beauty of the fairytale happens long after you turn the last page.

Once the excitement ends, as it always does, it does not mean that the love has faded. The excitement is only the beginning, and the end of it means you're simply clearing the way for the real love and growth to begin. Now our love has more depth and understanding than ever. It is subtle and never superficial, and we are comfortable in the silence of true love without the distraction of excitement. It is in this place that true joy comes. It is in this place that I am home.