Can U Really Rekindle the Flame in Ur Marrage?

In a way, his affair, the revelation of all his sex secrets, was the best thing that could have happened to her. When he left, those years of trying to be the good girl, to keep a low profile, to fit in—all that was gone. At last she could be her own person. She filed for divorce in November, and it was the most euphoric day of her life, better even than her wedding day. "I was free," she says. "I could feel the sunshine again." But then you have to wonder: If it was such a joy to be rid of the guy, why did she take him back? With the answer to that question comes a rare opportunity: to look inside a marriage that was bound for the rocks and see how it was saved.

At the beginning it was an opposites-attract kind of thing, says Gina, age 35. They met during their sophomore year of high school. Bryan was a clown, a kidder, a cutup. Picture a young Nicolas Cage, handsome in a dorky way, always yapping, full of wisecracks and noodley little movements.

"I was the shier kid," she says, "the quiet one sitting in the back of the classroom who people would cheat off of because they thought I was smart."

Of course, she was smart. She just wasn't loud about it. She sheltered herself behind a wall of propriety, and she could tell he found this provocative. He was always teasing her, hounding her, secure in the knowledge that, bound by that politeness, she wouldn't strike back. Eventually, though, her dry wit would snake through, and he liked that too.

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Despite herself, she liked him as well. Sometimes you need a clown in your life, someone to make you laugh, to relieve you of the weight of your intelligence and bring your buried nature into the light. It was Bryan who challenged her to a race that day, through an undeveloped area on the outskirts of Plano, Texas. Even today the memory is bright. Hair churning in the wind, speedometer clocking 124. She even slowed down once to let him catch up. Then the turbo on her Chrysler kicked in, and she smoked him all over again.

Everyone dreams of the perfect match. The One. It's an idea as dangerous as it is appealing. Appealing because it suggests the possibility of a tidy solution to the staggeringly complex challenge of finding a worthy mate. Dangerous because it reduces us to static quantities, like a foot size, awaiting the perfect fit. You step into it and voila, your troubles are over. But weall know that relationships don't work like that. Not even shoes work like that.

Even with all their differences, after graduation it seemed natural for Gina and Bryan to go to the same college—him for business, her for English and journalism, both of which she loved. By junior year they were already discussing marriage. True, they were young, and research suggests that the younger women marry, the greater the likelihood of separation or divorce. But by 21 they'd already been dating for five years, and it was hard to imagine that another five would change anything.

She still has the cheesy video somewhere, shot by an Olive Garden employee hiding in the bushes. A waiter sets a Dr Pepper before her, and as Bryan descends to one knee, she notices the diamond ring casually hanging on the soda straw. Another video preserves highlights from the wedding, including their departure, wearing Mickey Mouse ears, bound for a Disney World honeymoon. Never guessing the pain that lay ahead.