Thursday, 27 June 2013

Second time around

Once upon a time when the sitcom and soap opera were still alive, a local TV network created a tiny window period known as "Open Time". Between the hours of 5 and 7pm, M-Net would open its airwaves to the general public (a.k.a the plebs and working class families too sensible to afford the luxury of South African cable), allowing them limited access to complimentary viewing pleasure. Although its main target was to convert the masses into larger sales statistics, it managed to bring us classics such as Loving, Perfect Strangers, Full House and my own personal favorite, Step-by-Step, a comedy series about a divorcee (Patrick Duffy) and a widow (the statuesque Suzanne Somers) who decide to give love a second chance.

Everything about the opening sequence was conceptually brilliant, from the rock-a-billy theme song to the massive beach side roller coaster. Not only did it set the tone for this hilarious, well-written show, but it also served as the perfect metaphor for love and marriage. The excitement, the fear, the free fall, the ups and the downs, the round-round. It's a joyride that feels just as exhilarating as it does nauseating, one that could end just as quickly as it begins. It got me thinking about second marriages and their subsequent success rate. Do second marriages succeed because of the all the lessons learned from the first or do they simply have a greater, more realistic understanding of what it takes to make commitment work?

Anyone who has ever gone through the big "D" will tell you what an emotional rollercoaster it is. Not only are the mixed emotions of blame, loss, anger, liberation and devastation overwhelming, but the exhausting exercise and heavy cost of red tape and admin is enough to swear one off love and commitment forever. It has the potential to breed bitterness and discontent, to lure low self-esteem and create jaded man whores. To make matters worse, the dissolution of a marriage is legally formalised by terms such as"irreconcilable differences", "adultery" and "constructive abandonment", buzz words printed in black and white that serve no other purpose than to remind us of how badly we sucked at making someone else happy, and even though most of us make it out alright, I couldn't help but wonder where there really was life A.D (After Divorce)?

The greatest success story of all comes from an older couple whom I admire, love and adore. Pippa and Liam were once both victims of a terrible first marriage. Pippa was an aspiring artist whose husband abandoned her whilst pregnant with their second child while Liam was a highly successful entrepreneur who came home one evening to find his best friend boning his first wife in their bedroom. A few years later, after the scorn and anger had subsided, they were introduced at a jazz concert through a mutual friend. What started out as a simple friendship had somehow blossomed into a twenty-three year marriage with five beautiful children to show for it.

What was the key to their success? Were they simply a better fit for one another or did they share a much stronger desire and determination to make things work in their second marriage? Did their starter marriage give them the upper hand and expertise required to overcome the challenges of modern-day unions or was there some greater sense of gratitude in a second marriage, a mutual sense of appreciation that can only come from experiencing a certain kind of failure? Was it their shared sense of self-awareness and soul-searching that came after a long trial of pain and heartbreak that did the trick or were they just lucky?

They say that practice makes perfect which is probably why second marriages work out so well. Third, fourth, fifth. It doesn't matter how many bands of gold you pick up along the way as long as you remain courageous enough to open your heart to the possibility of loving someone else again. The trauma of divorce can leave a serious dent on the heart (as well as the wallet) which is why one should always take it slow when it comes to take two. There aren't many sequels that surpass their debut but when it comes to love, perhaps round two is all it takes to find what you were looking for all along.

 When it comes to the dissolution of one marriage, can we maybe make it better the second time around?   

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