Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: representing the saga of How We First Met. Part One has the detailed intro that needs little paraphrasing. If you’ve stumbled across this half first, you’re doing it wrong. Click the link in the first sentence, catch up to this moment, then rejoin us with your Back button. Better reading that way, trust me.
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Rarely getting calls at work, I was surprised that, of all people, it was Randy.
Upset because his soon-to-be-ex-wife had very thoughtlessly taken his car to go running around with her new boyfriend, leaving Randy at home with his near 2 year old son and late for work, he’d had enough and called me for advice.
Having been through the divorce thing, I advised him as best as I could, considering I couldn’t leave work and knew next to nothing about babies anyway.
However, over the next several weeks, we talked more and more. I remember telling him that he needed to set boundaries and maintain his dignity.
Finally, she moved out and took their son with her. This was a difficult time.
I myself was having a slightly less difficult time — although still rather annoying — because my ex’s cousin and her daughter were staying with me because they had no where else to go. They’d been there for a year and hadn’t made any visible strides — as far as I could tell — in the direction of getting out.
Randy and I began spending more time together and finding out that we had a lot more in common than we ever thought.
So…we became friends.
We talked on the phone, went to films together, made dinner for each other.
But as I was newly divorced and he was headed that way, too, I didn’t feel that this was an appropriate time to begin a new romance. Additionally, I was daunted by the fact that he had a child (while my experience with children is somewhat limited) and by his financial situation (I’d just escaped a marriage with numerous money problems). I was fortunate in that my ex took most of the debt with him. Randy ended up responsible for almost all of their debt. Also, he had nearly no positive experiences with Christianity, while y’all know I’m somewhat of a zealot.
But still, we remained friends. Over time, attending family gatherings together. He gave me a lift to work on more than one occasion. I’m sure I must have helped him with something here and there.
We saw each other at our worst and at our best.
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As horrid as divorce itself is, the weeks, months, and years afterward are filled with enormous opportunities to learn from all your mistakes, and all your ex’s mistakes. In the days and weeks immediately following divorce, however, life will also provide you with numerous chances to screw your life up even worse. The most common pitfall is the concept of “rebound”. Fresh off of our respective divorces, she and I were both all too cognizant of that one — Anne moreso than me, admittedly, since slightly more time had passed since her breakup. But between Anne’s common sense and stubbornness, and my own (eventual) self-awareness and willingness to reason things through, we managed to pull through that shaky post-divorce period without sacrificing our friendship just for the sake of satiating all the wrong impulses.
So we remained then as we had been before our marriages — as friends. Over time, “friends” eventually became “best friends”. We not only found common interests, but also encouraged new interests in each other. I discovered Star Trek and ‘Allo ‘Allo!; she discovered Dilbert and Alfred Hitchcock films. I learned that Christians don’t all have to be complete dunderheads; she was reminded that some kinds of relationships can be a good thing. I learned more about World History; she learned that “foliage” is not pronounced “foilage”. Et cetera, et cetera.
We attended each other’s family functions. We got each other numerous gifts at Christmastime and birthdaytime. We both spent time with my son whenever possible (except, naturally, for the occasional necessary “guys’ nights out”). In 2000, we both got out of the fast-food industry and moved on to slightly more respectable (if not respected) careers, thus giving us opportunities to stop working completely opposite shifts and spend more “quality time” together. In fact, just about everywhere we went, we went together…but we continued to live in our separate abodes, and we remained “best friends”, much to the consternation of just about everyone we know, In Real Life as well as online. But our relationship (we agreed on the surface) fulfilled our needs.
Just as if life itself were a literary work, though, one theme recurred quite often throughout our ongoing intertwined plotlines — the question that screenwriter Nora Ephron once posed to moviegoers nationwide: can a man and a woman really remain “just friends”?
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The answer of course is…yes.
But not without the typical frustrations along the way.
An important part of relationships is learning to accept that things are not always going to be well. Your S.O. will get sick. Your S.O is going to have family problems. Your S.O. is going to have work-related problems. Your S.O. is not always going to be happy and cheerful.
And because you are going to have these problems, too, you need to accept it when it happens to him or her.
Far too many relationships are built on good times. When the good times stop, the relationship goes south.
However, the best relationships grow during difficult times. The Bible tells us that the “trying of our faith works patience”. So, when difficult times come, we learn and grow by withstanding them and enduring them. This gives us hope because we have the knowledge that we can endure other hard times that will inevitably occur in the future.
It is for this reason that patience has given us experience and through that experience, we have hope.
In my previous post, I mentioned my trepidations about embarking on a new romance. Over the years, Randy has patiently endured awkward moments when people would call me his “girlfriend” or assume I was his wife in a restaurant. I’ve dealt with family members and co-workers teasing us and asking us when we were getting married. All the while, we’d never really made a commitment to be boyfriend/girlfriend. We just didn’t see anyone else and spent all of our time together.
This was a source of frustration for Randy. It weighed heavily on me, as well.
So, several weeks ago, we decided to just throw caution to the wind, and after six years of friendship, we are now boyfriend and girlfriend officially!
It has made Randy a much happier person. It has also lifted a heavy burden off of me.
No more awkwardness…just warm affection.
8 years after my divorce, I am finally ready to embrace the spectre of Relationships…with a Capital R.
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This collaboration was our coy way of announcing our status change to our online friends from “Divorced” to “In a Relationship, YES FINALLY, So Stop Bugging Us Already.” Two years later we ventured one step further and, with no small justifiable invocation of the Matthew 19 exception clause on both our parts, became husband and wife. By the time we celebrated that frabjous day (Callooh! Callay!) my spiritual mindset had undergone some growth as the result of much-needed research and complete redirection, and I had assumed full custody of my son.
The ceremony was kept to a modest budget. The bride’s dress was from Kohl’s and remains her all-time greatest outfit. The groom’s jacket was from the Value City discount rack. Per the bride’s orders, the pre-ceremonial music was a mixtape of John Williams tracks. Per the groom’s orders, the non-verbal moments during the ceremony were accompanied by instrumental selections from Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade.
The day wasn’t without its hitches. Upon successful recitation of our vows, our pastor turned to the congregation and introduced us as “Ran and Andy”. During the receiving line, my son grabbed my new wife’s bouquet and began whacking her with it playfully. (We think it was meant to be playful.) Partway through the reception (held in our church’s gym), the power mysteriously went out for three minutes, prompting most guests to take off as if we were trying to give them a hint. The most heinous crime committed against us that day: the helpful relatives who took over cake-serving duties manned their station with such blind zeal that they carved and served the entire cake, up to and including the top portion that’s supposed to be the happy couple’s property in accordance with ancient wedding law. We left that day for our honeymoon with not a single morsel of leftover wedding cake to call our own.
Regardless: here we remain today, having recently celebrated our ninth anniversary and, Lord willing, in no danger of turning sour on each other anytime soon.
Of late, we’ve found ourselves surrounded by other families who are no longer in a position to say the same. Over the past year we’ve watched from afar as close relatives, longtime online friends, and old classmates have all opted for divorce. We learned last Friday that a once-cheery couple we knew from our defunct Bible study group has separated. Over the weekend my wife spent some time trying to comfort a heartbroken young girl whose family is self-destructing on her.
Call me a sentimental fool, or just damaged by my own experience, but every time we learn that someone we know is ending their marriage, it takes me hours to shake off the ensuing wave of sorrow. Every. Single. Time. My own divorce was one of the absolute rock-bottom events in my life. We’re mutually agreed on no encores in that area, but when one happens within our social spheres, the memories of that era surge and start stabbing at me from the inside, as if I somehow needed an unwelcome reminder.
This time I decided to counteract that maudlin mood by reprinting this piece — partly for newer friends who’ve never seen it before, partly as a reminder to myself that I should stop and recount my blessings, and partly as a testimony to what can be accomplished through introspection, faith, tremendous patience, and the support of others in the face of emotional devastation.
And if your darkest hour ends with you in the company of an extraordinary woman who doesn’t mind your dozens of longboxes’ worth of comics, then hey, unbelievable bonus.