Jen's Story

Some folks think that when it comes to marriage, you have your besties on one hand and your spouse on the other—that each fills a bucket, and rarely the twain shall meet—yet from being little, I knew I wanted my future husband and best friend to be the same person.

 

#Pipedream? Maybe. But throughout my dating years I enjoyed several loving, longterm relationships with exceptional men who easily checked the friend box. We were buddies as much as loves—80 percent similar; 20 percent comfortably different—and in each relationship, they were my first call and more than emotionally equipped to handle the range of feels I cycled through on the regular. 

 

When I met and fell in love with the man I wanted to marry, however, I changed the formula and chose my husband in hopes that though I felt we were 80 percent different, we'd grow 80 percent similar through a relationship rich in respect, stability, companionship, and love. You can imagine the aching sadness for a dreamer like me to ultimately wed and leave this same exceptional man twice (true story), after realizing that it wasn’t enough to hope our marriage would deepen. I felt we were missing true, deep compatibility. And not compatibility on just one side of the I-do equation, but both. 

 

When we divorced (the first time) after 10 years (3 married), we were each a C-level officer in a partnership rich with supportive independence and space for each other to succeed—him as a political strategist; me as a writer and editor. I’d said “yes" because I believed our marriage would flourish on admiration and mutual respect, and that our differences were a good thing. We worked well for years…until I experienced the slow-burn awakening that I had ignored the needs of my future self. Even though we rarely disagreed and never argued, I had disregarded the persistent pre-marital red flags suggesting our opposites-attract connection might not be sticky enough to bind us for all time. 

 

Fulfillment comes when two souls feel served, and while he remained as kind and dedicated to our future as he was when we met and wed, I outgrew our marriage when I finally admitted that our loving relationship lacked compatibility. He was shattered that there was no convincing me of our capacity to change. I’d felt empty and lonely for too long. And I left. It was a dark time for us both.

 

In the years that followed, we kept in touch while exploring people we, perhaps, could've one day married. We sought individual therapy. And when our respective relationships ended, we reunited...dipping our toes in a massive pool of what-ifs: Had we needed divorce to reunite stronger? Did therapy deepen his empathy and my realism? Had I learned to accept our compatibility at face-value and not expect more? Had time apart made us more alike? 

 

The love hadn't disappeared; so when we remarried—strengthened by our earnest belief in second chances—we did everything different...and I mean everything: new city, new work, new friends, new focus. Less independence. More connectivity. But it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t overcome feeling that we’d always be too different in the emotionally deep places I craved sameness. And after a 2-year honeymoon period, we split for good as two good people who weren’t the right kind of "good" for each other.

 

I learned more from my marriage's ending than its beginning because I had to face something everyone should nail before they enter a partnership: advocating for your own needs before hitting a point of no return. In my newfound singledom, I embraced my solitude and returned to my childhood’s core value of hoping to partner with a proverbial best friend whose spirit and life purview wholly aligned with mine. And into my life walked Parker Corwin after a nary a conversation for 17 years…my other half; my soul’s listener and caretaker; my 80/20 rule, personified; my purpose.  

 

Today, I don’t believe in mistakes. Even though we’ve all felt those prickly skinned, SHIT-whathaveIdone moments, I try not to categorize results as “good" and “bad” because every choice leads to an outcome that helps us better navigate the world. Instead, I try thinking about things simply going this way, or that. I think it opens space for exploration and self-awareness and shuts the door—even if only a smidge—on the unnecessary self-flagellation we often do for being the works-in-progress humans we are.

 

I won’t lie: The loss of my first marriage(s) is second to the ache of not having my next one with Parker for longer. For as much that lies ahead for him, me and the girls, we’ve faced some painful answers to several of the topics we dive into throughout Cohabimates™. Lots of hellyeahs, but several tearful no’s, too. Yet if I’m to walk my talk in this world we sure as shootin’ will ask questions that will help outcomes go in our favor knowing that in the end, there are no mistakes.