Nothing placed my marriage under the spotlight more than when I stood on the trembling ground of my mid-life crisis. When the question, ‘Can a woman remain true to herself in a committed relationship?’ fiercely fought for my attention.
One of the frequent adverts on our television screens shows an actor running around with a bottle of spray cleaner. He energetically rushes from one surface to another spraying the contents of the bottle while excitedly yelling, ‘Spray and walk away’, and miraculously, the surface cleans itself – no effort required. If only it were that easy to remove the overlooked dirt and grime that squeezes through the gaps in long term relationships – I would have bought bucket loads of the stuff. But the advert does remind me that the life-changing lessons learned throughout my marriage have indeed required me to ‘walk away’.
In my last blog I wrote how commitment and love are intrinsically woven, yet individually apart. The commitment part is a journey of togetherness, and love is a journey of self. To walk together and to walk alone. Remaining true to yourself in a long-term relationship belongs to the journey of self. It belongs to love – self-love. Without self-love, all other relationships, are fractured versions of what is possible in love. To heal my many fractures, I began, what was for me, a very noisy process of walking away.
Walking away from imageries belonging to parents and society, walking away from perceived ideas, allocated by myself and others, of how a wife should behave in her role of ‘wife’, and walking away from the expectations of how love should behave. Walking away from all, as author Sue Monk Kidd describes, that blisters my spirit and muzzles the voice of my soul.
Let me tell you, it wasn’t as easy as the, ‘Spray and walk away’ advert. Years of dismantling old mask and patterns lay in front of me before I could meet, and love, my True Self. And to be honest, the ‘walking away’ is still ongoing.
When the truth hits, it hits hard. In her book, The Real Boy, Author Anne Ursu describes this moment of truth beautifully. She says, “There is a way the truth hits you, both hard and gentle at the same time. It punches you in the stomach as it puts its loving arm around your shoulder. During some of my lowest moments, when the urge to literally walk away and not look back beckoned, I felt that loving arm around my shoulder.
The first loving arm reminded me that love is not something that can be found on the outside. It is not fashioned out of rules and roles to comfort our egos. The thing is, love is already in you, so it can only come out of you. The whole spiritual journey, the experience of life, is about unearthing this love within us. I know I mention this a lot in my blogs, but in my defence, this revelation was life-changing for me. I stopped feeling a failure at not being able to love according to my perceptions. And I stopped expecting to be loved according to my expectations. It lifted a burden I was unaware of and was instrumental to me letting go of the boxed-up notions of love I held. It showed me a glimpse of Divine love.
The second loving arm, and a much-needed practical piece of advice, was the understanding I am not responsible for my partner’s happiness or unhappiness. I can be concerned, but I am not responsible – he is. Nor is he responsible for mine – I am. It is so easy in a long-term relationship to shift the burden of our unhappiness onto our partner. This is where many marriages end. My sister reminded me the other day it was not our role to stop the landslide. We must allow the landslide to fall, regardless of what happens. This is how we grow.
If only I knew then what I know now. I am quite sure I would never have jumped into marriage with the cavalier attitude and naïve expectations that I did, but I read somewhere that you cannot separate living from learning. Every experience is another lesson learned. Every lesson learned requires an element of walking away from an old way, and into a new way of living.
Author Sue Monk Kidd says, “Walking an isle can be a marvellous thing, as long as we acknowledge that the isle doesn’t end at the alter but goes on winding through life”.
It is through these life lessons that we discover a woman can remain true to herself in a long-term relationship. Yes, I believe it is possible, but first, she must unearth, and love, the person she was created to be. This has nothing to do with commitment but everything to do with love. And if we are to explore the question fully, we will, without a doubt, walk into Divine territory. And this by itself, makes the walk worth walking.