We went to see "It's Complicated" the other night, TFL and I. The acting, of course, was superb. But as we left the theater we turned to each other with some puzzlement --
"Did that strike you as a little . . . weird?"
"Yeah -- like it's okay to just throw away a marriage . . . like there's nothing valuable in a long-term relationship."
We spent the whole walk home puzzling it out and came to a couple of conclusions. First, obviously, we're either old-fashioned (to our friends and fans) or fuddy-duddies. Second, we remain mystified by what people think "or worse" means when they vow to remain together "for better or for worse." And let me cut off all squabbling about abuse by saying here and now, for the record, that I think abuse pretty effectively dissolves marriage vows as fraudulent, because no one capable of real physical abuse is also capable of sincerely vowing to "cherish," a concept wholly exclusive of abuse. Now back to the point: what do people think "or worse" means? And do they leave marriages just because, as this film implies, they think the grass is greener? And when they're on the other side of the fence, they sometimes look back and think no, wait, it was greener where I was before?
I figure, average life-spans being what they are, TFL and I are heading into the middle years of our marriage. Sure, we were lucky, true love plus two pretty nice and decent people (if I do say so myself) is a good way to start a marriage. But, and avert your eyes dear reader if you fear that I am about to shatter your illusions, even true love takes work, and even we have faced "or worse." To state the obvious, it''s not a fairy-tale life we lead, wherein TFL and I are always happy and delightful people.* On the other hand, we really know each other, better than anyone else in the world. We can communicate with a look, we have our shorthand, we have our history. We are a part of each other, forever, come what may. We can still make each other laugh.
There's something infinitely valuable, infinitely precious, in being given the chance to be together for decades. It's not something to squander or take for granted. It's worth the "for worse."
There's a scene in the movie where the divorced couple is sitting on a swing together, space between them. The actors being as phenomenal as they are, you see the mutual understanding, the deep connection forged over the years of fighting and raising children and eating delicious meals together. You see the gift, flawed and wonderful, and you see them walk away from it. They just -- walk away.
*At least, I'm not always delightful. There were those 5 minutes back in 1993, and oh yeah, that entire evening in 2005...