Dennis Prager, one of the most influential men in my life, spoke on his talk show recently about the impact of a first year on marriage. He asked if an easy, successful first year or a difficult, hard first year were indicative of the long-term success of the marriage? He didn’t take a position either way, allowing callers to offer their stories, which were both positive and negative about the impact of their first years on their marriages.
As I’m about to survive, I mean celebrate, my first year of my second marriage, it raised some questions for me, worthy of thought. Our first year has been both wonderful and rough, in many unforeseen ways, and I’ve wondered what it means for our future.
Second marriages naturally have their own challenges, as we tend to be older and bring more history (aka “baggage”) to the union. Ours was no exception, as we came with a trove of differences as well as some important commonalities. On our honeymoon, we met another couple that also had some pretty inherent disparities and we enjoyed a friendly debate about which of us was the most dissimilar couple.
I met my wife online and the first sentence of her profile asked, “Do you ski?” That I do, and it became the basis for our introduction. In fact, we were pretty matched as skiers, since Loren had grown up in Vancouver and had skied her whole life. I may be a bit more aggressive, a bit more “go for it” in my approach, but there’s no doubt that she’s a more graceful and elegant skier. However, beyond skiing, we discovered many other shared interests and values along with some substantial differences.
Though our religions were different, the common values we shared from our respective religions were actually more compatible than had our political views been different. I learned that irony in my former showbiz days when I became good friends with a Christian writer I was working with and we discovered we really shared the very same values and, as it turned out, political views. Our only difference, really, was in the role of Jesus in the world. I’ll save that discussion for another time, if at all, as I’m no religious expert.
So, my wife and I had skiing and basic values (e.g. The Ten Commandments) in common. Those basic values included our political orientation. Our differences were racial and religious, as I’m a Jewish white guy and she’s Christian Chinese. On the surface we were from different religions and different cultures. However, two similarities that our cultures and religions share are love of food and education. Different foods, but love of eating, cooking, and sharing a meal couldn’t be more identical. The same can be said of our belief in the value of education, though I’ve actually become more relaxed about the value of a college education than I used to be.
As to our differences, let’s say like real estate where the mantra is “Location, location, location” our main difference is “clean, clean, clean.” Loren is quite organized, neat, and dare I say obsessed with cleanliness, while I maintain a decidedly relaxed attitude towards it. Since I was a single dad, with two boys and two dogs, that relaxed attitude became more ingrained as keeping clean became less a priority than our emotional survival during the initial period of we three boys living together, without a female in our midst.
Our first year of marriage was complicated by the stresses of several outside events, beginning with the death of my mother, shortly before we married, and including the emergence of my older son into full teen-dom. For Loren, there were several health problems, including several minor surgeries literally all in the first year of our marriage, plus two more severe scares relating to the health of her parents (both of which have been resolved well). And, Loren has had to deal with her profession being at the center of the storm of recession, as she’s a real estate agent.
Love may conquer all, but there are still large hurdles that we’ve both faced in this freshman term of our marriage. This is especially true for her, as the sole female entering our male world. There were some tight bonds formed during the years we were just “we guys.” And, to top it off, Loren had to adjust to moving from the center of the city to the outskirts of suburbia, where we lived. Since her future stepsons were entrenched in their schools and social lives, she understood and graciously made that change as well.
All these factors made for an interesting and challenging first year. Our saving grace was the willingness to acknowledge that we occasionally needed help. We’ve gone to a wonderful therapist who has both sternly counseled us on our respective childish behaviors and given us feedback and useful tools, which we’ve tried to implement. I emphasize, “tried,” as teaching old dogs new tricks is a challenge.
While I’m writing this from my point-of-view, I know that Loren will agree that we’re equally stubborn and set in our ways. However, we’re both equally willing to work on these issues with our therapist and recognize that this second marriage is no picnic. But, it is completely and absolutely worth the effort and compromises, and the resulting joys that we share. Don’t tell her, but I lucked out!