It was a gorgeous breezy October morning in Houston, and I was on a walk with my 33-year-old daughter. It wasn’t just the two of us; her husband had the baby in the stroller and my husband was lagging with them, momentarily.
Actually, Alexis is my stepdaughter. My TaeKwonDo instructor and I began dating on her fourth birthday, when he’d off-handedly invited me to join them at Disney World for a few hours. When I showed up at Fort Wilderness, I discovered that he was there with, not just Alexis, but also his parents… in a camper… for three days.
Todd likes to tell the story. “Alexis took one look at Joryn, wrapped her arms around Joryn’s neck, and never let go.” You might think that’s a somewhat romanticized version of the truth, but it’s not far off. I can still feel her hot little arms (it was June) clinging to me as we walked Main Street in her Cinderella dress with matching socklettes. And I did stay for the entire three-day visit. And drove to Miami every weekend after that for a year, before the two of them relocated to Tampa, where I lived.
So, there we were, strolling along, when she said something that first startled me… and then gratified me. “I finally figured it out. I thought Dad was tired of spending time with me… or mad at me…. or I don’t know,” she hesitated, but I waited. Then she concluded. “But that’s not it at all. I knew that you two were really in love with each other, but I don’t think I really understood… he would just rather be with you than not!”
With that, my husband sped up and joined us (proving her point?), and she fell back to walk with my son-in-law. I wanted to say, well, a lot of things. Being married is a lot of work, after all. Especially second marriages, when people couple up despite all the baggage they carry from an earlier meaningful relationship. Often including children. Although the statistic that 50% of first marriages fail is alarming, an even higher percentage of second marriages end in divorce.
Growing together isn’t easy, but failure to do so will inevitably lead to divorce. My husband and I have been to marriage counseling on three separate occasions, either tweaking our relationship or solving a problem that we couldn’t seem to solve alone.
We each of us participate in events or hobbies that might not otherwise interest us individually. For example, I took up golf to keep Todd company. When I injured myself (don’t ask!), he gave it up, too. When I started walking regularly, so did he. One year, when I binged on garage sales, he accompanied me (half the time – he really hates that, so I finally gave it up).
Since the inception of our marriage, we run errands together. Initially, I was appalled by the waste of time. “After all,” I argued, “If we each take half the list, then we’ll be done in half the time and can enjoy the rest of the day relaxing together.”
“No,” he responded. “I’d rather run errands with you and take twice the time.” He won that “argument” and I’ve never looked back.
He has always grocery-shopped with me, although I’m the one who enjoys it. And we both attend dinners and workshops for the other’s profession.
We appreciate the same genres of books, movies, and television shows. We talk to each other about the books we are reading, and often read the other’s book when s/he has finished it.
I’m not sure which came first, that we’ve always enjoyed the same activities, genres, etc. or that we’ve shared everything and therefore grown together. But it doesn’t matter which road you take to get there. Suffice it to say that, if you work hard to grow together, you’ll live happily ever after.
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About this week’s author, Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed in the United States Supreme Court upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.