Meant to Be vs. I Choose Thee

I want to be a published author…

…I said out loud for the first time. This was just a year ago, and I said it to no one. I had been reading a book, the name of which I can’t remember right now (seriously, is it normal to have so many memory issues in your late 20s?) and it was talking about speaking your desires into existence. Since then, I’ve been furiously writing everyday. I even submitted an article to a column in the New York Times called Modern Love. It took 6 weeks for some intern to write me a rejection e-mail, but it might as well have been a Pulitzer, because in order to reject it, that meant someone had to read it! Someone at the NY Times read MY article (don’t you burst my happy bubble…that is cool!) So in honor of my first rejection letter, and just in time for my favorite holiday, I’ll share it with y’all…happy reading!

Meant to Be vs. I Choose Thee

I sat in front of my vanity, nervously applying my lipliner, when the phone buzzed.

Hubby: See you soon

I took a deep breath…here goes nothing.

I hadn’t seen my husband in almost 6 months, since I last dropped him off at the airport, headed back to another assignment. I remember that morning so vividly. It was the morning that my entire perception of love and marriage was changed forever.

I offered to drive, something I never do, so that I could talk without being distracted, and so that he would have no choice but to listen.

“You should stay here and we should work on this.” I said, for probably the 17,000th time since he’d come to visit.

“I told you, I don’t want to work on anything right now.”

“If you get on that plane, you are going to regret it. I won’t wait anymore.”

“You do what you have to do. Not leaving isn’t an option.”

Our conversation went back and forth like this for the entire 45-minute drive. When we finally made it to the gate, I had nothing left to say. All I could do was look up at the stranger before me and wonder where the man I’d fallen in love with had gone.

“Take care of yourself and my kids,” he said, as he gently kissed my forehead. It was the kind of lingering kiss that indicated hesitation, maybe even regret, but still, he left.

In that moment, I chose to move on. I had spent the better part of a decade trying to convince this man to stay in one place, to be honest with me and let me be a part of his decisions, and I’d finally reached my limit.

Since that day, we spoke only about our children, and even those conversations were rare. He wasn’t who I’d married.I felt like I didn’t know him anymore, and that made it easy to let go, because he was not the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with.

Then he called me the night of his birthday. I was more surprised by the fact that he called than by fact that it was the middle of the night.

“I don’t know what’s been going on with me. I want to come home,” he whispered.

I didn’t know what to respond. Should I yell? Curse? What came out of my mouth was the only thing that came to my mind,

“I don’t think you have a home,” I said, “because you don’t live here.”

“All I want is a chance to show you that I can be the man you need me to be.”

I could have, and probably should have, hung up on him. He’d made his choice, I’d made mine. There was nothing left to talk about. But there was something that just wouldn’t let me.

We have this idealized view of marriage and romance (and by we, I mean society at large).

According to every Lifetime movie ever made, I’m supposed to meet someone, get struck by lightning or some other supernatural force, and be inexplicably attached to that person for the rest of my life, and he to me. We are to be forever bound by this overwhelming necessity to be near one another and it will be our driving force to get through those times when life throws us lemons.

Well…I call bullshit.

Before you read on, you should know that I absolutely believe in love and romance, and I have to admit, I used to be one of the people who also believed in soul mates and the lightning-striking attachment. I do feel like lightning struck when I met my husband, and we have always had a strong bond from the day we met BUT that is not what has kept us together. Not only is it silly to believe that a bolt of lightning can tie you to a person forever, but it’s unrealistic. People change. Think about your own life, are you the same person you were 10 years ago? Uhhh I hope not!  Humans are meant to evolve, that’s just plain old scientific fact. The point I’m making is that something powerful brought us together, but we chose to stay together all of these years.

My husband and I have been together for a little over a decade, and only 4 of those years have been spent living under the same roof. Since the day we met, he’s been obsessed with going to work overseas, earning a lot of money quickly, and coming home to use it to build a stable life. When the opportunity came for him to finally make that leap, what was supposed to be a “one-and-done” job turned into a career that both excites and challenges him.

Our marriage, as a result, became a cycle of broken promises and repeated fights.

Before he left – “This will be my last contract. I’ll go, save money, and come home for good.”

When he came back – “I just can’t quit my job. XYZ thing happened that we weren’t expecting and now we need 123 amount of money to be stable.”

Each and every time, my heart would end up broken.

I know what you’re thinking – well why would you allow him to break your heart like that? You knew he was going to break his promise. You knew it as he was saying it and you were agreeing to it. 

For that, I have no logical answer, except to say that I chose to believe him. I wanted it to be true. I wanted him to mean the promise as much as he did because I wanted him. But the truth was, and always will be, that my husband is not the type of man to make promises. He is a realist to the core, and believes that life is too unpredictable to be able to make any sort of plan or promise because, ultimately and often not by choice, it can be broken. In fact, there are only two commitments I have ever seen him fulfill – to his job and to me and our children.

I, on the other hand, am a huge believer in promises and plans. Even though I’ve experienced first-hand that, more often than not, even the best-laid plans go astray, I still believe in talking about, and planning for, a future. A future that, as my husband would say, is uncertain.

And thus is the story of our decade-long battle in a nutshell: I would demand promises, deadlines, plans upon plans, and then a backup for those plans. He would agree, tell me what I wanted to hear and make promises that he and I both knew he wouldn’t keep.

Each time we fought, he would tell me the same thing:

“We are going to be OK.”

“How can you possibly know that?” I would ask.

“Because we are meant to be.” (that husband of mine…the most romantic realist in existence).

The thing is, “meant to be,” makes it sound as if I don’t have a choice. Meant to be means we are together through no effort or fault of our own, but because of some pre-ordained fate that we had no say in. To me, it is far more romantic to have a choice in the matter; to be fully aware of each other’s flaws and to, despite all odds, choose to be with each other anyway.

The sound of the doorbell literally took my breath away. I felt frozen and unprepared, even though I knew he’d be coming. This was it, I thought, once I saw his face, that was going to be the moment to decide if I did or didn’t want to try to make this work.

The doorbell rang again and I leaned into the door. I felt as if he heard me because what I heard next, not out loud but in my heart, was “open the door. Papi’s home.”

I had barely gotten the door open when he swept me up in his arms. I was resistant at first, but  I melted into the feeling of his arms wrapped around me, the familiar scent of his cologne, and the way our bodies fit together like the last two pieces of a puzzle.

“I missed you so much,” he said earnestly. So earnestly, that I knew he was talking about more than just the physical distance.

“I missed you too.” I replied.

Marriage, like life, is unpredictable. It’s complicated, wonderful, stressful, blissful…every emotion rolled into one. Yes, when we met, the world stood still. Lightning struck and left a mark on my heart that would stay there forever. But the truth is, you can have lightning-striking attraction with anyone if the mood and moment is just right. But what happens when that wears off? No amount of lightning can cover up a person’s ugly side, the heartbreak that comes from broken promises, the exhaustion that comes from working tirelessly at effective communication. There are moments in a real-life relationship that you find yourself questioning if it’s all worth it and if this is the life you want. And then you are faced with a choice:

A- Stick with it

B- Quit

The choices are harsh, but they’re simple. I chose A.

The romance doesn’t lie in what brought us together, but rather in what’s kept us together, and that is a choice. Despite the disagreements, the heartaches, the difficulties, when faced with the choice to be with him or be without him, I will always choose the former.

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