Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I was a teenager when I noticed the majority of my relationships in my surroundings were unwed parents in tumultuous relationships that didn’t display affection, respect, growth or real partnership. The mothers were typically the primary custodial parent, struggled financially, while raising multiple children on a single income. The fathers were in and out of the apartment; at best they were one-third contributors and showing face long enough to get their offspring excited before he’s off again carrying no responsibility.   The children practically fended for themselves, which generally resulted in all types of abuse, poor grades and low self-esteem. I wondered how my life going to be different.
In 1997, I met a person who would become my last best friend. We were sincere friends with no sparks between us. We enjoyed each other’s company on a friendship level and shared stories about our upbringing. We had a lot in common and guaranteed that we would not repeat the actions of those before us. Maybe sharing conversations about the lives that we didn’t want unconsciously drew us together, which resulted in a courtship. We dated for a year and discussed how we wouldn't become ‘products of our environment’. 

Then it happened - we became pregnant at 21-years-old.  At this point we thought what now?  If we brought a life into this world of unwed parents then we are surely continuing the cycle.  So we thought, let’s just get married and figure out the rest later.  I was five months pregnant wearing a plum colored business pants suit and he was wearing a sweater vest with khaki pants.  We arrived to the courthouse and the judge said to us, “You two look like you’re going to a barbecue”.  We were not dressed for the occasion, didn’t have rings to exchange and didn’t tell our families that we were married until 22 days later during Thanksgiving dinner.   Understandably to most this appeared to be a shotgun marriage, but to us, it was the beginning of a new world.

In our ten years of marriage, we were living a life we never envisioned, yet the complete opposite of what we grew up in. Working together, we created a conformed lifestyle for us and our three sons. We did it – we made it – we beat the odds, I thought. Then another thought came to me, ‘Did I marry to play it safe’?  I mean, I loved my husband, but if I didn’t get pregnant or if I grew up like Denise Huxtable, would I have married so young, had children, and would I have married him? These questions continued to surface and made me wonder whose life was I living? I literally looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the reflected image.  Furthermore, I couldn’t remember how I became Clair Huxtable.

Did I marry to play it safe?

Sure, my husband and I got along well with hardly any disagreements, our bedroom life was active and we often had date nights. My relationship with my sons was like a scene from “Leave It to Beaver”.  But for some reason, I felt this life was too good for me. How did I deserve such a life with a man who respects me, provides for his family and would rather be at home relaxing on the sofa, instead of hanging out with his comrades? Out of nowhere I felt like this was a manufactured life. So I became detached from my husband and our sons. My husband quickly noticed the changes I displayed and we sought marriage counseling. After having months of marriage counseling our therapist suggested one-on-one sessions with just me. This is when I discovered more about myself and how much I was suppressing about my childhood. This is when I realized that I was born into a life out of my control and was not to judge the decisions of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. I had to respect others’ standards and choices while knowing that mine were simply different. 

In counseling, my husband explained to me that what drove us to get married was not just about defeating an urban stereotype, but giving ourselves and our offspring a life that we are pleased with. He explained that what we have accomplished was because of our conscious decisions and efforts and we should not feel guilty for it. He assured me that as excited as he is to live comfortably, he’s just as excited when we embrace and caress each other. Our therapist asked me to visualize what type of life I would have wanted and I said there’s no way I can visualize life without my husband and sons. My husband asked a simple question, “Was I happy”? I took a moment to really think about the definition of happiness and then responded, “I couldn’t be happier”. He said, “Well don’t think this relationship was built entirely on us getting that picket fence and two parents under the same roof, because those are the things we work hard for and what our sons deserve. But also know that we did all of this because we love each other and more importantly we love ourselves”.

A few months ago, we celebrated fifteen years of marriage by renewing our vows with 103 family and friends at one of the best wedding venues in the area.  We even had the original judge re-pronounce us as husband and wife. It wasn’t intended to be a wedding do over, but we did dress the part and we finally cut the cake! 

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t know what life I wanted, but today I’m overjoyed with the decisions and the motivation that lead to the life I have.  

Ciejea Lopez


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