Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Second Chances

Second chance romances are perennial favorites in both the contemporary and historical romance genres. It is human nature to want to go back and correct our past mistakes. In a way, second chance romances are both time-travel and alternate-history stories. We revisit the past with our knowledge of the future intact, and we enact our "what-if" fantasies. What if we were both ready to settle down at the same time? What if we were able to truly understand our loved one's needs and priorities? What if we had not allowed that bitter argument to fester?

Nearly a decade ago, I helped two friends move from their shared apartment near campus to a split-level house that they bought together. She was a young professional; he was still in grad school. They were both good friends to me and my husband. We had gone on trips together and shared many interests.

A little over a year later, I helped him move out of that house, alone, and depart for another state. Their relationship had not survived the pressures of different responsibilities and priorities. We were sad for both of them, but we understood. Our own marriage had weathered some serious storms over the past decade, and we knew very well how difficult it can be to stay together when it seems like your wants and needs are diametrically opposed at times.

We remained friends with both of them over the subsequent years, although it was never the same. We saw them both strive for happiness with other people. She and I bonded over tears and alcohol after the break-up of her rebound relationship. I tried to lend a supportive ear to each of them, as she dealt with some health issues and he dealt with the death of one parent and the increasing frailty of the other, while completing his degree and struggling to build a career in the current economy.

It was a relief and some consolation when the drama of their break-up receded and they rebuilt a friendship. We no longer needed to avoid mentioning one around the other, and we were occasionally able to socialize with both of them at once. She was able to share her own experiences and knowledge about long-term care to help advise him with his own family situation. They even started sharing rides to visit mutual friends out of state.

A few years ago, he confided to my husband that his current relationship was dying, a casualty of his changing life circumstances. My husband mentioned that his ex had not found anyone she could stay with long-term, and that he should consider getting back together with her. The advice, I must admit, was given for partly selfish reasons. I am reminded of an old episode of Roseanne, where the eponymous character laments her daughter's break-up with boyfriend David, because she already loves them both. "No new people!" she insists.

Last year, there were hints that their occasional ride-shares to visit friends were not merely to save on fuel and share the driving burden. By the time they finally, somewhat sheepishly, admitted to their friends that they were dating again, we had long since figured it out. They seemed to worry that we would disapprove or advise them against revisiting old mistakes.

On the contrary; we not only understood the appeal of a second chance romance, we firmly believed in their ability to make it work this time. We watched them both grow and change over the years, and we realized that they are now in the same place.

Several months ago, we helped him move into the new house that they bought together, and one of this Autumn's highlights for us was attending their wedding.

I am a sucker for a good second chance romance.

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