To Have and to Hold

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I've just finished another in the Real Vampires series by Gerry Bartlett, Real Vampires Say Read My Hips.  In this installment, our heroine, Glory, has decided to marry her vampire sire, Jerry, and live together as forever lovers. Yippee. About freaking time. However, there are those who don't want Glory and Jerry to get their HEA, foremost among them Glory's family. Woe is Glory – and Jerry. Thus, the couple must jump through some pretty major hoops to get to the altar. At several points along the way Glory is sure that Jerry will abandon ship and leave her to her solo fate, seeing her as more trouble than she’s worth. But, as our HEA demands, Jerry never wavers, forcing Glory to confront her fear and let it go once and for all. I can relate. I think many of us can. Who hasn't felt that we were unworthy of love and steadfast devotion?  Or maybe we wouldn’t be if we let our partners see all of us—so we hide and sublimate. But there are guys out there who mean it when they say, "To have and to hold for better or for worse."  It's easy to stick around for better, harder to hold on when it's worse. 

Two years ago a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer after only six months of marriage. It was so unfair. She is still struggling with many of the after effects of her treatment and she remains quite sick and debilitated. Her husband has stuck with her, being supportive and steadfast. She feels bad for him, claiming, "This isn't what he signed up for." When I told my husband about this conversation, he corrected my friend (to me) and said that actually, this is exactly what my friend's husband had signed up for when he married her. Those marriage vows are pretty comprehensive and they are very explicit about the "in sickness and in health" thing. 

I have another friend whose husband lost his job resulting in a serious financial reversal. She stayed with him and is helping him rebuild.  She is proud that they kept their family together. Yet another friend has never considered leaving her husband, who suffers from a mental illness that manifested after the wedding. For all of these loyal spouses, it can certainly be said that this isn't what they signed up for. But it is, and it is the luck of the draw that they got fewer good years to offset the more predictably difficult "golden years" that come when we're older.

My own husband survived years of my ill health —years that were no fun for anyone.  At one point I begged him to leave me. He refused to even think about it.  He told me he'd meant his vows. On the other hand, we have the 48-hour rule for him: he gets to be sick for 48 hours, during which time I will play Florence Nightingale, and after which time, he needs to get the hell out of bed. Just kidding. Mostly. But I can only hope I would be as loving, patient and supportive of him as he was of me for such a long time.  I definitely felt that I was more trouble than I was worth.  Thank God he didn't agree.

I had no real idea when I married—late, too (I was 30)—what a lifetime commitment meant. I had no idea how important my choice would be to my happiness and general contentment with life. Probably a good thing. But 20 years into it, I have a better sense of what it means to have a forever lover, like Glory, and I can even sympathize with her that it took her 400 years to make a decision.  Not a choice to be made lightly. 

On the other hand, marriage and divorce is so ubiquitous now that it doesn't seem like such a big deal. There is always an easily accessible escape hatch and many avail themselves of it. Many don't want to do the work of marriage. It's easier to scrap the old model and start fresh with a newer version. Moreover, there are some who just keep rotating their stock on a regular basis—like Donald Trump. Yuck. So in theory, there shouldn't be such a thing as more trouble than he/she is worth. In practice that is a tough road to hoe and not everyone makes it. There is also something to be said for the idea that if we aren't happy in our union, life is short and death is long; why not embrace the chance for future happiness by letting go of that which no longer serves us?  Oh, boy, another of the "should I stay or should I go" dilemmas. I write about them a lot. Because discernment is so freaking hard. Marriage vows should mean something. But carpe diem means a lot too.

I have no answers.  Only questions.  I think Glory's reticence to marry may have been a tad excessive, but I get her perspective. I have one more book in the series to find out if she's developed buyers remorse.  I hope not. I'm so grateful I didn't and neither did my guy. We're having and holding, together against whatever comes for better or worse.