Today, like so many times before, I pass by our wedding place, that wonderful, old manor house that stands in the midst of the Sintra mountain, surrounded by the dark green of centennial trees. Again, I see the whitewashed walls and the imposing gates and at the bottom the small chapel where we were married. We were among the last couples to be married there, remember, as soon afterwards the Church decided all marriages had to be celebrated in the Parish church, rather than in that romantic, private chapel. So, we were lucky that we could exchange our vows there. Not that it gave us any luck or blessed our marriage.
This place holds so many memories. A few hundred metres further down the road, I see the corner where we parked our car for a few minutes to get rid of all the cans our friends had tied to the back of it. And the cans were nothing compared to what they had done to the car! They had sprayed it all over with shaving foam, writing the craziest sentences about the wedding night and others of that sort…after the initial shock we could only laugh, of course, and in the end it was fun to see the surprised faces of the other drivers passing us by and having no doubt we were newly married; on that day we were positive nothing could spoil our happiness and, after all, we had done pretty much the same to our friends on their weddings so no wonder they sought revenge…
I would not say it was the happiest day of my life but it was definitely a happy one. I had been so anxious about my divorced parents meeting again after so many years but, in the end, it was all very civilised, and I could relax. The weather was perfect (well, it would have been expected of July, but in fact it had rained until a week before, making me an even more stressed bride), the setting just beautiful. The little chapel was decorated with pink flowers – my favourite colour – and the courtyard outside was the perfect meeting place for all the guests, not too many as we had wished. Only those we really wanted to accompany us on that day, no concessions to our family’s friends or distant cousins (although I later came to regret some harsh positions, thinking I might have made one or two exceptions). Then the outside terrace where lunch was served, under the trees and with a magnificent view over the mountain and the valley below, down to the sea.
We had so many dreams! We were passionately in love with each other. We had been together for more than two years, and had already faced many problems, due to our many differences, but still we thought our love could overcome all. We were ready to face a lifetime together, and that we promised before God and men on that day. We truly believed our vows, and our words. We promised to love each other for the rest of our lives. But in the back of our minds we knew – I suppose we all do – that, given some circumstances, our love would not last forever. And it didn’t, as much as we wanted it to, as much as we tried to make things work between us.
Looking back, I see we were too different; we also made many mistakes. But we were young and didn’t know better. In the end we simply didn’t know how to make each other happy, or was it that the word “happiness” meant different things for each of us? We faced many crises, jealousy, financial difficulties and even infertility – somehow, we overcame them all, and our best moments were definitely the birth of our two much desired sons, undoubtedly the greatest loves of our lives. We lived through great happiness together, such as that unforgettable moment when, after trying so hard for a few years, the pregnancy test was finally positive, and we knew we were going to have a baby! We laughed, and cried, and kissed and hugged each other, and even if we had not had any other happy moments – which we fortunately did – that unique moment would have made it all worth the while. But we had our happy times, and I have no doubt we loved each other very much for a time, and then somehow it died away; although we refused to accept it at first, one day there was nothing left but to face the truth – our love was no more, we were just two people who had once been in love and were only united now by the love we felt, not for each other but for our children, and that was not enough to make our marriage work.
Life after divorce
A divorce is always painful, for it means the failure of a life project. Somehow, we managed to stop being a couple but we we’d always be the parents of our boys, so we decided we’d continue to do that together. And we did it well, I think. Over the years there was never an argument about them, only teamwork, supporting each other in the difficult moments and also sharing the joys, our pride in our boys’ achievements. And they will bind us together for all time, because they are ours – mine and yours.
So, in the end we could not keep our promise made on that long-ago day of our wedding, or at least part of it. We could not love each other forever, yet we have always respected each other, and this will never change. As for our decision to go our separate ways, I have never regretted it and I believe neither have you. We were too miserable together. We both found other loves. Are we happier than we were together? Have we found the love we were looking for? The love of our lives?
I can’t speak for you, only for myself. You were not the love of my life, but certainly one of my great loves. But I am so grateful that I met you, and married you, because you have given me those who are, undoubtedly, the great loves of my life: our sons. Of course, I wish we had been happy together, I wish we had made our marriage work. But it was not to be. We can never have it all, not at the same time, not forever. I keep what I have. The life I have lived, with all the choices, right and wrong. A full life, with so many lessons. And, going back to that long-ago day, thinking of that wedding place I have once again passed by, I cannot feel sad, or sour, because in the end love has won. The great love I had dreamt about came to my life, only in a different way. But I would not change it for the world.
As I drive on, our wedding place, the old beautiful manor house with the whitewashed walls and the small chapel at the bottom of the garden, fades in the distance, as did our love.