On second chances

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My photograph was published in Friday’s edition on a page where you’d prefer to appear just once in a lifetime: the weddings page.

That both my bride and I have been there before, though, doesn’t diminish one iota the joy we’ve discovered together as newlyweds.

We contemplated foregoing a public “announcement” for the same reasons that our July wedding ceremony was a low-key, private affair: Pomp and circumstance are overrated when it comes to life-changing events. Plus, there was the certain knowledge that a newspaper announcement would bring a fine from Rotary Club Sergeant-at-Arms Robbie Purvis for shameless self-promotion. Indeed, he got me within hours of the paper hitting the street.

But after weeks of persistent nudging by staff members — especially Community Editor Cynthia Britt, whose task is to get more “people news” in the newspaper — we caved in and submitted our announcement for publication. Now everyone can share in our excitement. Perhaps those who’ve tried marriage and failed can gain some inspiration from Rhonda and me — for ours is a story about the blessing of second chances.

I grew up in a culture that frowned on divorce. When my first wife and I parted ways in 2004, it was the first time in at least three generations that a marriage in my family had ended for any reason other than death. The Stewarts and the Clines take their vows seriously, and I was no exception.

For a dozen years, my first wife and I struggled mightily to make our marriage work. Infidelity, alcohol and the other common culprits in failed relationships were never issues for us. Ours was a problem perhaps even more fatal: We were never really in love. We were young and immature and married for all the wrong reasons. We mistook a lot of emotions for love.

Career success for both of us partially filled the void of a dead marriage. We hoped against hope that things would get better, that love would develop over time, but it never did. Swallowing our pride and admitting it after so many years was difficult.

On one level, I regret not reaching the conclusion sooner. On another, the timing just might have been perfect, for it set in action a chain of events that led me to Rhonda, the love of my life. She can tell her own story of having married and lost out, but the plot, if not the details, sound very similar to mine.

I won’t debate in this space the notion of soulmates, but if indeed it’s true that each of us has one true love in life, whether we find that person or not, Rhonda is mine.

Much is said about the importance of compatibility in relationships. It’s very true, except that compatibility is not just about shared interests, likes and dislikes. It’s well and good — and a heckuva bonus, I must say — that Rhonda and I both enjoy college football and the beach, but those shared passions have little to do with why we’re a good match. Our compatibility is emotional: She fills my needs, and I hers, with no expectation of change.

To be loved for exactly who you are — and to return the same — is the foundation of a long, happy marriage. I envy those who find that kind of love the first time around. The rest of us can thank God for second chances.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is steve.stewart@tidewaternews.com.