Marriage is not a Mary Poppins musical. It takes work, patience, clarity, curiosity, forgiveness. Not just love (unless your definition of love is expanding to include more virtues:). The following reflections are by no means a perfect prescription for marital bliss. They are pearls I’ve picked up from personal experience, needing a good polish every time I forget.
Are you still holding on to the good ol’ days when your partner was a perfect gentleman, lady, or person? Have they suddenly turned into someone you barely recognize? Ah, dear one. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but things change. People change. It doesn’t mean he/she/they stopped loving you. Like you, they are a beautiful being growing in the direction of what nourishes them most. The challenging part is that you both may be growing in different directions.
Once you can see this clearly, with curiosity and without judgment, it’s possible to make space for who you both are in this new chapter of your lives. Certain life events (the birth of a child, the death of a parent or other loved one, major illness, career change, big geographic move, etc.) can blast any deep subconscious discontent out from the landmine of living. Suddenly, you’re so tired of the struggle, and there’s no place left to hide. Arms up and out in surrender, what can help you pick up the broken pieces, make a mosaic of healing out of suffering?
Begin by defining who you are, what matters most to you. Engage with people and practices that support your growth. But be careful! Who you are isn’t better or worse than your partner. He/she/they are growing, too. Get curious about what feeds them. Be patient with their response. This doesn’t mean you become a doormat or a punching bag in the relationship. It’s called a relationship for a reason, implying healthy connection, not disabling connection or hanging on by a thread. You will find the balance between shouting vs. whispering to be heard, between taking the backseat or insisting on being the driver.
Make time for this new dance you are choreographing together. It’s easy (and tempting) to fill the calendar with work, social engagements, the children’s activities, caring for aging parents, and time for self-care. Sometimes you both will fall into bed after a long and tedious day with nighttime silence as a welcome reprieve. Eyelids drooping, the lips can barely formulate a Good night honey or I love you. Please don’t make yourselves the last priority! You are the sun and moon of your family planet. You will each take turns shining warmth on a joyous day or being that third eye in dark times to calm restless tides.
The poet Mark Nepo said, “To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
When I listen to my partner by leaning in softly with a willingness to be changed by what I hear, I am no longer the Wise or Gentle One. He is no longer the Logical or Tough One. We are simply one man, one woman, Braveheart and Tenderheart, trying our best to live in sync with Earth’s eternal heart.
Chances are we'll be the combination
Chances come and carry me
Chances are waiting to be taken, and I can see
Chances are the fascinations
Chances won't escape from me
Chances are only what we make them and all I need
Let’s take a chance. You be you and I’ll be me. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s grow. Let’s dance. Let’s be the sun and moon for our family. Thank you for taking a chance on me.