Sacred or Sinful?

By Janey Womeldorf

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that, for the first time in U.S. history, traditional married households are now the minority. Sssh! Don’t tell Grandma.

I met my soul mate 19 years ago. His parents followed the politically-correct marital path. Mine did not – well, not at first anyway. They chose to start out their partnership walking hand in hand down the road less traveled. The formal description is cohabitating out of wedlock; most people know it as “living in sin.” I always loathed that term. Whether I agree with it or not, it takes something as pure and beautiful as love and cheapens it. Decades later, both sets of our parents are still together, still in love and still committed. Neither love is more sacred or sinful than the other. They are as proud of their children, conceived both in and out of wedlock, as we are of them.

So, what is really important? Is it which path you choose, or who you choose to walk it with?

In 1969, Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman, a photographer from New York. By all accounts, they were devoted to each other. In their entire 29 years of marriage, the total number of days they reportedly spent apart from each other was less than one week. Her life, and their love story, ended in 1998 when Linda McCartney died after a prolonged battle with breast cancer.

In 2002, he celebrated ceremoniously once again by marrying his new love, Heather Mills. Less than four years later, the magic had vanished and their public break up became ugly and bitter in the worst ways imaginable. Would either story have been different had they chosen a different path? Or is it the people, not the path, that seal true love? Because when you meet your soul mate, you know. It’s as if two people become one – forever. For some it is instant, for others, it is a journey.

In the beginning, fear of losing your identity holds you back, and you cling to your independence for dear life. Then one day, you wake up (with or without them depending on who you are talking to) and realize that you are not losing anything, you are gaining the opportunity to spend the rest of your life with this incredible person.

Suddenly, you can’t wait to tell them the joke that made you laugh so hard, you peed. Couple-hood has embraced you, and the desire to share becomes intrinsic. Every new experience – your first day on the job, the new restaurant or recipe you discovered, or the view that left you speechless – leaves you aching to tell, to laugh, to share. Or you go out with a group of friends and indulge in a dessert so delicious it makes your head spin. As you roll your eyes, purse your lips and murmur infantile groans of pleasure, thoughts of your beloved pop into your brain. You find yourself thinking how much “they” would have loved it, and in a sad way, feel a sense of loss that they were not there to share it with you.

And then one day, it’s there – unspoken commitment – and you know with every ounce of your being that you are in it for the long haul. There is no other person on this earth you would rather be with; no one you would rather live, love, laugh, or cry with; no one you would rather grow old with. You have found your soul mate and no one could ever replace them. Not even Heather Mills. Your relationship has become “until death do you part” whether you signed up formally or not. You find security in the years and magic in the moments. Even the unofficial “for worse” moments strengthen your commitment and deepen your love: the injury that reduced your beloved to such agonizing pain, you cried too; or, the weeks apart when nothing could ease the searing pain of loneliness.

Some people believe that marriage is the only true measure of love and commitment. The reality is, however, there are no guarantees. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have never married yet they still resemble love-struck teenagers, even after almost 25 years of non-marital bliss. Her daughter, Kate Hudson, on the other hand, chose to marry her beau. It lasted six years. And what about Oprah? She may never have jumped on her sofa, but does that mean her relationship with Stedman is any less worthy? They have endured through thick and thin, in every which way, without legal commitment.

Nothing is as heart-warming, however, as a life-long marriage. I was on a cruise once, and the emcee was asking couples in the audience how long they had been married. One grey-haired gentleman raised his hand. “68 years,” he whispered in a shaky voice. The emcee asked them both to stand. He turned to his frail-looking wife and gently helped her up out of her seat. It took them both a few seconds before they stood together, married, proud and hand-in-hand. Within seconds, the audience of over 500 rose to their feet in rapturous applause. I saw the couple a few days later. I shook their hand and told them how much I admired them. The power of a good love story is undeniable. Just ask anybody who has seen the movie The Notebook. Rent it, but keep the tissues handy.

So, 19 years later, which path beckoned us? My initial thought would be this: we would still be together, regardless. Why? Because he is my soul mate and I will walk by his side to the very end. But, if you really want to know, I confess, we did both – the naughty one and the legal one – just don’t tell Grandma.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf is a freelance writer who drinks too much coffee, loves elastic and can no longer wear high heels. She scribbles away in Orlando, Florida.

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