Thursday, July 24, 2008

9 things i have learned about marriage

my wife and i celebrated 25 years of marriage week before last. i've been thinking about that. i've been thinking about what i've learned. i've decided to pass some thoughts along. some of these are what i've learned in my own marriage; others are things i've learned through friends' marriages. and divorces. and heartbreaks. and joys.
these are in no particular order.

1. do your own work. figure out your own shit. your spouse is not responsible for how insecure or angry or lost you feel. your spouse is a friend and partner. not god. not in charge of your emotions. if you're angry, it's about you. if you're sad, it's about you. if you're toxic, it's about you. if you're empty, it's about you. do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
2. do not do your spouse's work for him/her. you're not the judge. in fact, in some ways, because you've got so much invested in how you feel about this person to whom you've given so much power in your emotional life, you're unable to see this person clearly. give input if they ask you for it. otherwise, just shut up and let them figure out their path. if they're in big big trouble, that's different; that's an emergency. respond accordingly. but otherwise, do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
3. listen a lot. shut the hell up and listen. don't fix anything. just listen. it may be that this will drive you insane. that's about you, of course. do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
4. if your spouse is so toxic, so mean, so angry, so deflated, so codependent, so addicted, or so skewed that s/he cannot or will not figure out their own shit, problems, toxicity, then don't stay if you can't be well. don't be bullied. don't be manipulated. it's not worth it. if you've tried and tried, possibly for years, and the other person just won't cooperate, you're not a doormat - and you're not getting any points from god for staying. get on with your life. it's your life. don't be a victim. do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
5. find your own joy. if you're joyful, it'll rub off on the other person. if you're not, that's okay too; you're not stuck forever. life moves. believe it or not, your joy can be alongside the other person's joy and it can be beautiful. but don't delay joy because you don't think you deserve it, especially if the other person isn't following her/his joy, bliss, path, whatever. this doesn't mean that you have an excuse to just leave the other person in the dust. you're attached. your destinies are intertwined. walk alongside the other person. but find what gives your life meaning and your heart joy. and do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
6. celebrate. play. don't work all the time. stop talking about household management all the time. have some damn fun. not having any fun? why not? what are you so afraid of, or angry about? figure that out. do your work. learn about yourself and what you're afraid of and angry about. and then celebrate where you are, right now. take a walk. see a movie. play a game. make love. take a nap. whatever. celebrate that you're here, now. where else could you possibly be? it's a freakin' miracle. so do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
7. work it out and listen to each other. figure it out. talk. listen. open up. pay attention. what's the purpose of your marriage, of your being together? i mean, seriously? what's the point? what are you trying to achieve? surely it's for a reason that you've woven your lives together, had children or not, made money or not, learned lessons or not. why do you live where you live? what's the purpose behind that? maybe a lot of what you've done, you don't even know why. but you chose it. if it's the right purpose, then stick with it. if it's not, then grow and evolve. but do so on purpose. is your marriage about making the world a better place by being together? is your marriage about making money? is your marriage about having friends? is your marriage about power or prestige? be honest. and look in the mirror - together. decide. keep deciding over and over and over. do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
8. respect. the person you are married to is a child of god. a broken child of god. a hopeful child of god. she deserves to be treated with respect. he deserves to be treated with respect. stop holding power over that other person. they're not your servant. it's not their job to fix it for you. and it's not your job to fix it for them. you'll want to kill them sometimes. that's probably because you feel inadequate deep inside. just do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.
9. trust yourself and god and the universe enough to be patient in this moment. be patient. slow down. breathe. nothing is a crisis even though it feels like it. no decision - other than a life-threatening one - is an emergency. breathe. be patient with the other person. they're fucked up, right? so are you. be patient. keep breathing. and when it's time to act, to decide, to speak, not to speak, to take a step or a leap or to be still, if you're being patient, you'll know.
you will make mistakes. you, yourself. you will screw up. you will lie, or fail, or cheat, or miss something, or speak inappropriately or at the wrong time, or lose sight of what matters. give yourself a break and the other person a break. this isn't a sprint. it's not even a marathon. this life is one moment. then another. then another. maybe. be in this one. trust. breathe. do your work.
i have been good about this sometimes and terrible about this sometimes.

come to think of it, these are pretty much rules for life in general. so, there you go.

7 comments:

Chiron' said...

You...

are a VERY...

Wise Man.

It is my privilege to watch you grow.

You HONOR us with your sage council.

We HONOR you, by listening, and learning.

Thank you.

Love Chiron'

KellyLawson22 said...

There's a lot of wisdom here, friend. Thanks. And congrats on 25 years!!

Anonymous said...

Cherish, practice and protect your intimacy. There's a lot that goes on that is not in either spouse's head. Remember how the attraction feels, those times when you can't think about anything else -- the magic that the two of you share only with each other and with God.

KJ said...

thanks.

Laura said...

Man, if we could just get that stuff when we were young and stupid and running like chickens with our heads cut off. Okay, maybe it's just me. But it took me a very long time to begin to "get" what you're talking about. My divorce was final two weeks after what would've been my 25th wedding anniversary. If I had understood and given myself permission to embrace #4 I wouldn't have made it near that long. Still, no regrets... it came down the way it came down. Congratulations to you both - A silver wedding anniversary is plenty to celebrate, especially when you're still in love! I agree with your mantra, "Do the work, do the work, do the work." That will indeed make all the difference in how things turn out in the long run.

Laura said...

P. S. I appreciate that you didn't round it up to a 10 point list. Nine is a nice odd, prime, awkward number.

nonprofitprophet said...

some reason green M&M popped into my mind - but I digress. Seriously good post Holy Dude. Giving people permission to be just that - people - without the b.s. now whatcha gonna do with all that freedom? work on it... ~npp