When Chris and I first started dating, I emphatically told him that I didn’t want to get married again. At that point, it had been over two years since Shawn died, and over that time, a lot had changed. In early widowhood, I imagined that some day, I’d get remarried. In fact, this lasted for almost the entire first year after Shawn died. At that time, I wanted to get married again for no real other reason than that I wanted someone to save me from the life I was living.
Save me from single parenting. Save me from being one of a few solo parents at the elementary school auction. Save me from dating and save me from being the only person who was sorting through the bills.
But time passed, and my grief changed. I changed.
I remember exactly where I was when I first said it out loud, though I don’t remember exactly when it was. Maybe a year after Shawn died? In any case, it was a lovely night, and my dad and I had gone on a walk with the kids. They rode their bikes in an abandoned supermarket parking lot and he and I talked about the future. He was concerned about how I was going to keep thriving if he died or if my financial situation changed or if I needed to move.
“Well,” I said, kind-of out of nowhere, “I can tell you one thing, Dad. I’m never getting married again.”
He didn’t think this was strange, and concurred that he also never wanted to get remarried. I told him that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to date. In fact, I’d love another partner someday. But marriage? I’d done that. I was going to focus on raising the kids and doing new things with my career and traveling, a least someday. Marriage would tie me down and I was finally getting to where my new life didn’t always feel so bleak.
For me, healing meant that I turned away from marriage, rather than towards it. And that is where I sat, emotionally, for more than a year.
This made for a few interesting conversations early in my relationship with Chris. I told him I didn’t want to get married again, though I wasn’t really sure why. “It’s basically the same, having a partner,” I told my friends and my family and even Chris. He made sure to clarify that even if I didn’t want to get remarried, I did want partnership. I assured him that was true, and he agreed that it was okay with him.
Still, I knew he wanted to get married. But he respected how I felt and how difficult it was for me to even think about such a scenario.
Because here’s what was always swirling in my head: marriage can end, even when two people love each other. Someone can die. Partnerships can also end, of course, but somehow I convinced myself – or my subconscious – that it would hurt less if we weren’t married. I think maybe one of my therapists or friends tried to get me to reconsider my feelings at one point, though maybe not. I barely wanted to talk about marriage.
But time passed.
By the summer, I was madly in love with Chris and we were planning on moving in together and all I could think about was how much I couldn’t imagine any of the parts of my life without him. I knew he would be with me and I knew he would parent the kids with me and I knew he would love me without being married to me. Yes, I knew he wanted to marry me, but he wanted to be with me more than he wanted to marry me. It was a good compromise, I thought. We would be partners, we had already decided, but that’s mostly because I had decided that marriage was off the table.
On the 4th of July, we sat on his front porch in Atlanta, and watched fireworks. The kids were back in DC with our family and we had spent a few days without them – and without anyone else, since it was the height of the pandemic. We held hands and talked about all of the big things in life, and what it meant that we were going to move in together. It sounds like a stupid fairy tale, but it’s true: Suddenly, out of nowhere, I just knew.
I wanted to marry him.
Yes, I told him and yes, we later got engaged, and yes, we planned a wedding. But it was still scary to me to do all the things that led up to marriage, some of which I documented on this blog. It was scary to realize that I was committing myself to someone else, to someone who could – who would – die someday. It wasn’t that I wasn’t thrilled to marry Chris, but marriage itself was such a huge leap.
In fact, it was the biggest risk of my life.
It’s also the one I’m most glad that I took.
Today is our first anniversary. I’ve had so many people ask me what it’s like to get married again as a widow, and I don’t really have an answer for that. I think it depends on who you are and how you feel about marriage and what circumstances you find yourself in.
I also think it depends on who you marry. Because I know – I know – that I made the right choice by marrying Chris. Not because he wanted to marry me, and I felt like I should. Not because it seemed like a better choice for my kids. Not because it made sense to other people, or made my family happy.
No, I know I made the right choice because of what happens when (in a random moment) I feel the fear – the fear that says that Chris could die. But the other thought that simultaneously pops into my head is this: I am so fucking glad that I married him.
We can’t be together today, as he’s in Peru doing election monitoring and I’m back in Colombia with the kids. When he left a week ago, we parted on the sidewalk downtown. It was a narrow sidewalk, and we blocked a big part of it, hugging and kissing for a long while. (No one seemed to mind. I love that about Colombia.)
I told him that I was really going to miss him, and he said the same. And then I felt it, again. What if something happened to him in Peru? Right then, he turned to me and whispered in my ear.
“I’m the luckiest man in the world that I got to marry you.”
I was thinking the same thing about him.
Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey.