Today as V and I celebrate our 14th anniversary, I realize that my first marriage lasted exactly 14 years. Heading into our 15th year, I have every expectation that I will beat my personal best. And things look promising. So after a total of 28 years in marital experience, you would assume I've learned something about love.
I'm not so sure.
A good example is the question I remember asking my mother around age 12: "How will I know when I meet someone, if he is the right one?"
And she answered serenely, as mothers have through the ages, "You'll KNOW."
I KNEW at 28, when I married my first husband. Enough said.
My younger sister Carla asked our mother the same question and got the same answer. Carla KNEW at 15, when she decided her first boyfriend was the love of her life.
And she was right. So you tell me---how did she figure it out? And more to the point, why couldn't I do the same thing? Especially when I always got higher grades?
Or is it just what they say--that some people are lucky in love, and the rest of us are....not?
I admit I'm a little cynical. And after a lifetime of experience and observation of couples happily and unhappily married, plus a front row view of my sister's fantastic marriage to the guy she picked out at 15--I sure cannot figure it all out.
So I was completely clueless--not to mention blindsided, when my daughter came to me with the same simple question: How do I KNOW?
At the moment she asked this question, Alli was not even 21, and was involved in her first serious relationship. He was 24. He was also a soldier. And came from a very Christian background---not exactly what a Jewish mother like me would want for her daughter.
"Are you insane?!!!" did cross my mind. But fortunately it didn't come out of my mouth.
Like someone drowning whose life flashes before their eyes, I had only an instant to catalogue all the love-related data running through my head. I knew what marriage experts would say. And of course what my mother had told me. But the stock answer "You'll KNOW" seemed like taking a pass, unworthy of me, and unfair to Alli who deserved a thoughtful answer.
So when Alli asked me, "How do you know?" I told her my truth: "You DON"T know."
I admitted what she already knew. "I didn't know. So how could I begin to know what is right for you? I think the best you can do is know yourself. Look into your heart and make the best possible decision you can make at that moment." And, I thought to myself, a lot depends on luck.
Alli looked into her heart and married her soldier soon after that conversation. And although there are no guarantees in life, here is what I can report so far. After 3 1/2 years of marriage including a 15-month tour of duty in Iraq, Alli and her husband Shane are happily married--very happily married.
And there is more. I would never in a billion years have put them together as a couple, yet they are a perfect fit. They complete each other; they complement each other; they make each other better. Shane gives Alli something magical that is what every parent hopes for their child.
I sure never saw it coming. 28 years and I'm still learning about love.