31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Don't Allow Your Faith In Love To Falter

Single With Children: Promise of love keeps hope alive for lonely hearts

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 07/28/04

A few days ago I was invited to see a movie that is playing in a theater near you.

I was a bit leery about the whole thing. Even though I read mostly positive reviews, I don't easily buy into the whole "happily ever after" storyline.

That's partly because I'm not 20 anymore and also because I learned firsthand that things don't always work out that way. The fact that 52 percent of all American households are headed by single parents lends a certain legitimacy to my perspective.

Now, even though the author of the book the film is based on has said the two main characters are loosely based on his wife's grandparents, I am sure Hollywood has taken creative license with the facts and polished the whole thing up to increase box-office take.

This is the kind of movie that lingers in your mind. It has got all the components that make life interesting: love, passion, heartbreak, tough choices, second chances and growing old with the person who knows you almost as well as you know yourself.

It's the last part that piqued my curiosity and elicited some deeply buried fears. Gather two or more divorced/single folks together and the conversation eventually turns to love and relationships and the fear of growing old alone. I have yet to meet anyone who strives for that outcome.

After a divorce, it seems those among our ranks can be divided into three groups: those who go out and get it right, those who go out and get it wrong and those who go out and just don't get it.

Some people seem to have absolutely no problem finding the next love of their life. They remarry, settle down and live what appears to be a very satisfied life. They manage the blending of families and everyone turns out remarkably well-adjusted and, from all appearances, happy.

There are others who go right back out, remarry and find themselves in the same unhappy situation, dealing with the same unhappy circumstances and facing yet another heartbreaking divorce. What these men and women swore they would never do, they did, and it resulted in the very thing they wanted to avoid - another dose of pain and suffering.

And then there is the third category, the one I count myself a member of, which is something akin to a state of suspended animation. It is a Petri dish in which things such as cynicism, self-doubt, confusion, detachment and fear can flourish.

Most of us in this group have been single again for a fair amount of time, and we've probably been on more than a few dates and maybe even had a couple of significant relationships that felt promising at one time but could not entice us to take the plunge. We are sometimes labeled commitmentphobes and we may even look as if we enjoy being single, agreeing to nothing more serious than dinner and a movie.

I wouldn't begin to speak for anyone else, but, for me, it's not such a great place to be. It's not necessarily painful, but it is certainly not fulfilling. When we hear of friends who has found someone with whom they can finally use the "L" word, we feel infused with hope and cheer them on, hoping they got it right. When we are told that another friend is dealing with a great deal of turmoil and things don't look good, most of us feel our chances slipping.

Fear can be a useful commodity. It can save us from repeating behaviors that have brought us pain. It can protect us from situations that are unsafe and prevent us from making huge mistakes. Unrealistic fear, however, can paralyze us to the point we become unable to make good decisions and trust our judgment. It can chase away opportunities and talk us into playing it safe.

In the movie I saw the other day, the final scenes are of a couple in their final days who have known some heartache, experienced some pain, made some hard choices and committed to the work required to make a relationship. The husband has a heart that no longer beats quite right, and the wife has a mind that can't hold a memory for more than five minutes at a time, but the love they have shared refuses to be diminished.

It's just a movie, but I see the same thing every day when I look at my parents and some of their friends. Age can wither a body and confuse a mind, but it has the most wonderful, fortifying effect on real love, the kind that lasts forever. Maybe it is living examples and the occasional sappy yet endearing movie that gives "the ones who just don't get it," the hope that someday we just might.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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