Reframing Marriage: A Commitment to “That Which We Are”
In my last post, I told the history of my marriage to my husband Jamey and ended at a crux moment: the moment our marriage almost ended. This was not, however, the end of our story. We stayed together and are very happily married today. So why did I decide to begin my series on marriage by talking about this difficult moment?
One reason I did this is to try and alleviate some of the stigma of difficult and failing marriages. When I was struggling in my own marriage, I felt a lot of shame. When I did talk to others about it, however, what I found is that there were many other people dealing with the same issues and emotions that I was feeling.
I’ve read a lot of research on shame and vulnerability (shout out to Brene Brown) and shame and secrets cause disconnection, pain, and suffering. Marriages fail. It’s a fact. I don’t want to idealize marriage. It does not come easy, and even when it lasts it is often not as good as one might hope. If by saying this out loud I can help one other person to say “Me, too” or “I’m not alone, and it’s ok that this is happening” then I want to do that.
I also believe that seeing how bad it gets and then knowing that it can get better is life and marriage affirming. Couples can go through the lowest points, and come back from it and be better and healthier than ever. It happens. It happened to me.
“Marriage is Not a Love Affair”: The Shadow Side of Committing
This was the worst moment:
After telling the kids we are going on a date night, Jamey and I sit in our car staring out at the Olentangy River glistening in the dark. I am trying to hand him a very long letter; he doesn’t want to take it.
He reads part of the first page and crumples the papers in his hand, “I can’t read this. You are making the worst mistake of you life.”
The letter tells him I want a divorce.
This was another bad moment:
A week before, I sit in another parking lot, this time by myself. I am in the middle of panic attack. My head might explode, so I hold it between my knees and try to remember my meditative practice. My hands are shaking. I felt like I might be going crazy. I feel like I might die. How am I going to do this, and why? How did it come to this?
I need to get out. I need to breath. I just want it all to be over.
This was the antecedent to these other two very bad moments:
I am sitting in my therapist’s office and I am telling her: “I feel very clear about this. Things are not changing. My feelings are not changing. I have to make a change.”
“Sounds like you know what you need to do. Our next appointment is in two weeks. Why don’t you tell him before we meet next? You are ready.”
Marriage is one of the most profound and deeply complicated commitments one can make. I believe firmly that regardless of who you are, it is impossible to know and comprehend the truth of it until many years into the experience.
Before I go to into what I mean by this, what I think I have learned after a decade of marriage, I think its important to tell part of our story, my husband’s and mine.
Giving Up Conditional Love: Don Miguel Luiz on The One You Feed
I have been listening to a podcast called The One You Feed after a friend recommended it to me. In a recent episode, the host, Eric Zimmer (one of the podcast founders who also lives in Columbus, Ohio), interviewed Don Miguel Ruiz, most well known as the writer of the book Four Agreements.
While listening to the conversation, I was incredibly struck with a statement about love from Miguel Ruiz that rang true in my own human experience. It is as follows:
“We learn to love the same way that everybody else loves… the way they love us is with conditions. We can say that with 99.999 percent of humans, they love with conditions… And that’s how we love everybody, but everybody also loves us the same way. They love us if we do what they want us to do. It’s the reason we want to please everybody in the world.”