I just finished Into the Fire by Jeaniene Frost; the continuation of Vlad (aka Dracula) and Leila's (modern, young wife) story. As is always the case when a centuries-old vampire falls hard for a sweet young thing, Leila has some special talents that recommend her to the ancient Impaler, so I guess it all makes sense. Yet I am haunted by the little voice in my head that questions why such an old, hardened creature like Vlad would fall irretrievably head-over-heels for a 25-year-old carnie. I questioned their supposedly unbreakable bond. And whether it could ever be true, and not just a fantasy, that couples can share a mutual mindset that says, "No matter what, we will work it out." Which leads to questions about my own insecurities and trust issues, but let's not go there – at least just yet – shall we? As I was reading about Leila's unshakable conviction that nothing could threaten the connection to her beloved, I remembered an exchange with a colleague many moons ago. I wasn't even out of my teens when a slightly older office mate at the law firm where I worked started talking about a fight he'd had with his fiancée. It sounded like a doozy, and when I asked him with trepidation whether this conflagration signaled the end of the relationship, as it would have for any of mine at that time, he looked at me with incredulity and no small amount of pity. "We'll work it out," he assured me.
"How can you be so certain?" I wondered.
"Because we love each other. No matter what. We will work it out, whatever it is. No matter what," he responded with all the confidence of the Mooch in front of a presidential lectern.
I was floored. I could not conceive of such faith. I had never experienced it. It awed me. To the point that I have never forgotten the conversation and have always aspired to a similar standard in my own relationships.
I realize that I have some serious abandonment issues. I think that many of us do. Unlike a majority of urban dwellers, my colleague and his then-fiancée/now wife were of a similar heritage and shared a community, culture and religion. Perhaps that homogeneity contributed to their mutual certainty. Divorce was simply not an option for them.
I love authors like Jeaniene Frost and books like Into the Fire. They portray immortal relationships between fiery supernatural types as tempestuous and passionate. What they are not is easy. Or tranquil. Or boring. But rock solid nonetheless. Once again, I like my fantasy with a healthy dose of reality. Because in both truth and fantasy relationships work when we work them. When we fight for them. When we refuse to go along to get along and when we don't back down when we have to remind our spouses again and again not to take us or the marriage for granted. When we acknowledge and accept that while we might want to do two separate things, the marriage demands that we do something together instead. When we accommodate our partner instead of doing it our way. When we compromise instead of doubling down on a position of, “My way or the highway.”
Relationships are fucking hard.
Sometimes, being in a marriage and working it out no matter what feels like a particularly convoluted game of Twister. We're sure the torsion in our spines will result in permanent scoliosis. Or the crick in our neck will leave us forever looking up and on a diagonal slant forever. But rarely is the contortion enduring. Usually our efforts to bow and buckle with our partners result in the strengthening of our relationships and the knowledge that something we worked to achieve has great value. Imagine that: we value what we work for. Each time we "work it out," we make our bond more precious.
Which is why working it out, no matter what, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy of fulfillment and happiness. Working through the tough times and coming out the other end is hard and commensurately rewarding. If it takes Vlad the Impaler to teach us lessons in perseverance and tenacity, then so be it. I'm down with that as I enjoy my lecture with a healthy dose of entertainment. Like Vlad, I will always work it out with my honey. No matter what.