FARE THEE WELL
(Then Comes Marriage, Part 8)
“A relationship is like a shark, you know?
It constantly moves forward, or it dies.
And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
– Woody Allen, Annie Hall
The series isn’t over.
But your patience for it is.
I stopped reading minds.
But I can tell when minds stop reading.
Granted, it’s been a lot to digest.
You opened your mouth for a sip of water.
And got power-washed by a fire hydrant.
In the grips of some manic binge-writing, I fired off posts like Rambo‘s M60 machine-gun, splattering innocent villagers in a torrent of stray bullets.
People fell behind. Lost track.
Checked out. Or simply had enough.
The hydrant is a wonderful extinguisher.
But it’s a lousy beverage dispenser.
“Descending a staircase…
not knowing where she’s going…
because all dreams lack conclusions
and she’s not enlisted to an ending.”
– David Berman
I’m not enlisted to an ending.
But I am convinced we need a pause.
Let’s close the curtains on season one.
We can get back to tackling other topics.
So I can get back to being a bad husband.
What’s a finale without a reunion?
Let’s wrap up by retracing our steps.
Revisiting some highlights of our trek.
To thread together a thematic tapestry.
And stick a fork in this goddamn shark.
(I pinky-promise not to hose you down…)
Part 1: The U-Shaped Curve
We began our voyage with low expectations. In the spirit of tempering romanticized hopes, the “U-shaped curve” taught us that – over a lifespan – marriage gets a whole lot worse before it gets a whole lot better. This may strike some readers as a deflating Debby-downer, but denial sets us up for an epic Debby-disaster.
“So buckle up,
As we slide and swerve,
Through the highs and lows,
Of a U-shaped curve…”
Part 2: The Fixer Downer
If Part 1 was a punch to the gut —
Part 2 capped off the one-two punch.
This post was by far the most popular (both, in quantity of views, and quality of feedback) for a reason which still eludes me. But I think it resonated with lots of singles, who found in my words an articulation of their emotional plight.
I replayed the drama of my dating days.
Getting “fixed up” was, in retrospect, a covert quest to be fixed. But marriage only served to expose my brokenness. And that’s exactly what it’s designed for.
Like a stubborn vending machine.
Refusing to accept my bill —
The problem is not the machine.
The problem is not the dollar.
The problem is me.
I expected this machine — quite like I expected this marriage— to mend my rips, smoothen my creases, and turn my crumpled cash into a sweet pile of candy.
But the machine only serves to highlight my rips.
Expose my creases.
Accentuate my weaknesses.
“We can kick the machine,
For exposing a crease.
Or welcome the tension,
As our key to release...”
We grow via the tension of opposition.
There’s no way around this simple truth.
Part 3: The Bedroom Blues
Our great challenge is to lust where we love and love where we lust.
Sex is like a musical instrument.
Preliminary tuning allows for the ensuing tune.
Love is the tuning. Sex is the tune.
We need one to compliment the other.
But the tuning must precede the tune.
We cannot copulate on margin.
“Each one takes the others’ cue,
There’s no more “I,” and no more “you.”
Partners blending hand in hand —
The music starts to play the band…”
Part 4: Life Swapping
If Part 2 was the Queen Bee, Part 4 won the silver medal. This one hit home with a lot of readers. Presumably because it’s such a clear and present challenge in our glamorized culture of show-and-tell.
Comparing is corrosive.
Because we pin our fragile insides against their dazzling outsides. Swapping their perky parts for our jerky parts.
We see their shine.
But not their shadows.
Infatuation takes place in the shine.
Marriage takes place in the shadows.
“The picture perfect dream,
Is a fiction of the mind.
The more we chase this phantom,
The less we’ll ever find —
What inwardly awakens,
As eyes retreat within —
The life we always dreamed for,
Is the one that’s always been…”
Part 5: The Good Fight
Here we got to the root of dispute.
Fighting comes with the territory.
But some fights are gorier than others.
Surprisingly enough, we encounter the “Good Fight” not in passing drizzles or scattered thunderstorms, but in the harrowing hurricanes. These are the monumental crossroads which serve to make or break the quality of our marital journeys.
It’s a battle between being “right” and being “right-sized” — and the battle takes place within ourselves.
So we’re forced to choose between surrendering together, or defending apart. And when the pain of being apart outweighs the synthetic strength of feeling right, our egos begin to melt.
And our hearts begin to weld.
“We soon discover,
A deeper art,
When falling together,
Beats flying apart…”
Part 6: There’s No I in Marriage. Oh, Wait.
This one was my personal favorite.
Because it’s something I struggle with on a constant basis.
We need a functional life beyond our marriage to lead a flourishing life within it.
The whole is only greater than the sum of its parts when the individual parts are whole, themselves.
It takes two stable oars to row the raft.
Two stable wheels to balance the bike.
Two stable legs to travel the journey.
There’s an “I” in “marriage.”
And it’s there for a reason.
Because without the “I,” there is no “we.”
“When we learn to kindle,
The fuel of our own flames,
We forge a common artwork,
From two exquisite frames…”
Part 7: Prop in the Name of Love
This one ranked highest among family and friends, but seemed to fall on deaf ears beyond the boundaries of my inner circle. Because most of you were still drowning in Parts 3 or 4 while I ramped up my Rambo rampage of binge writing.
So let me catch you up to speed.
In life, there are two types of frames.
Wall-frames and desk-frames.
Wall-frames are promotional.
Desk-frames are devotional.
Wall-frames face the client.
They proclaim: “You Picked A Winner!”
Desk-frames face the clinician.
They proclaim: “To Thyself, Be True.”
But where do we frame our families?
Are they props to enhance an image?
Trophies to adorn our walls?
Or are they invitations inward?
Doorways to a deeper existence?
In a community that deifies appearances above all, it’s easy to lose touch with the inner whisper of emotional integrity. We squeeze our children into frames that may not suit them. We muzzle our spouses and bolster our houses to inflate the valuations of our stocks. The more grandiose a family function, the less we detect an inner dysfunction.
But the wisdom of unconditional love redirects our hearts — away from the flashy walls of promotion, back to the soul-searching desks of devotion. It values intrinsic endearance above extrinsic appearance.
“Because what do we glean
from a standing ovation,
If behind the bright scene
Looms dim desolation…”
Part 8: Fare Thee Well
If you got this far, you learned two things:
- I’m not very good at keeping pinky-promises.
- I am very good at beating dead sharks.
So let’s cut to the chase.
And seal this deal for the betterment of us all.
We began this series with a reinterpretation of Marilyn Monroe. Reframing her words into a message — from a marriage to its members. For the sake of closure, let’s circle back to this opening letter.
Dearest Couple –
I’ll make you feel selfish.
I’ll make you feel impatient
I’ll make you feel insecure.
I’ll make mistakes.
I’ll spin out of control.
I’ll be difficult to handle.
But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.
We spent this series embracing the worst.
So we sure as hell can enjoy the best.
It’s not the last time we explore marriage.
But there’s always something special about the first.
And to all who came along for the ride —
I can’t thank you enough.
You helped me rekindle an abandoned passion. The encouragement and feedback has been truly lifesaving. In more ways than you could ever imagine.
With much love and deep appreciation,