On paper, everything about it led to a classic fairy tale ending. I married my high school sweetheart. We bought a house and an adorable dog. We were happy. Or at least appeared to be. So much so that I even started to fool myself.
Which is why when I made the excruciatingly hard and supremely unpopular decision to leave my marriage, the court of public opinion began to erupt. Turns out that it didn’t matter why my marriage wasn’t working for me. What was more important was that it was working for everybody else.
Swimming in the irony, I moved forward regardless of the opposition, aware that I needed no one’s blessing but my own. I fought to keep the relentless criticism in context, as I absorbed accusations about my intentions. It was as if my unhappiness was some sort of disease that needed to be diagnosed.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was what would happen next. When I would fall in love with another man when I wasn’t looking, at a time that would naturally be dubbed “wrong.” That I would find myself in a situation that on paper would seem senseless. Because on one hand, I was still legally married. And on the other, he was, for me, too young.
That was, of course, according to everyone else. Eyebrows raised, they would ask – sometimes without words even being needed – how I ever thought such an age gap could possibly work. Seven years was the discrepancy. He in his 20s, me in my 30s. As if we were two different species roaming around this earth.
With every defense of our love I found myself blinded by glaring stereotypes. Ones based on nothing more than the years we were born. He was dismissed as being inexperienced, non-committal, unable to support me. I, of course, couldn’t be right for him either. My expectations would be unrealistic. I’d force him to settle. I’d be too focused on the future as I talked about my ticking clock.
Suddenly I found myself feeling like I was speaking another language, wondering when the universal truth of love became something that was to be put in a box. I searched for words to explain that my heart does not comprehend discrimination. Nor does my soul think in numbers when it’s talking to the one it loves.
Yet with every exhausting explanation, something beautiful began to happen. I realized that every word was an affirmation, passionate proof of just how right our relationship felt in my core. I realized that without having to fight for it, you can never really be sure if it’s love that you are experiencing. And, for the first time in my life, I felt how incredibly amazing it feels to actually be fought for.
Yes, on the surface we may look a little a-typical. But as I’ve learned the hard way, even those perfect-on-paper scenarios have pitfalls too. From where I stand, I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude for having found something that actually works for me. Which is why I will not offer a word of apology if it does not work for anyone else.