Tag Archives: marriage

Marriage and walking away

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.

When you get that tap on the shoulder

Acrylic montage of human shapes floating in space. Freedom feels like floating in space - falling, rising, and discovering - free to be you.

Sir Winston Churchill once said that to each one of us there comes in their lifetime a special moment when you are, figuratively speaking, tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to your talents.

If I could pinpoint the time I first recognised my ‘tap on the shoulder’, it was when I was invited to speak at a wedding.  My relationship with the engaged couple was through the mother of the bride, and I assumed I would be sharing a few prosperous wishes to cheer them on their future journey. I was astounded, when my friend said, “I want you to talk about love.”. Tap, tap.

Onto my second marriage, I was hardly a shining example of marital success. Nothing has thrown me more curveballs and challenges than the issue of love, or one of love’s many threads, marriage.

Weeks of worry preceded my putting pen to paper What was I going to say?  What could I tell this couple about love that might break through the glorious fizz-pop mix of youth, success, lust, and the feeling of being in-love when my own track record seemed so dismal?  My inner critic had a field day. ‘Hypocrite’, ‘Charlatan’, ‘Phoney’, it screamed. Tap, tap!

So, I did what is now a familiar pattern in my life when life gets tricky – prayed, read, journaled, and reflected.  Technically I was researching for my wedding speech, but in hindsight, the seeking belonged to my own heart as well.

During my research, I was struck by how, when we talk about marriage or long-term relationships, we use the words ‘love and commitment’ as though both words have the same or similar meaning, when in fact they are completely different. They have surely got to be one of life’s greatest contradictions. Little or no thought is given to the paradox that occurs between the two.

Whether a civil union, a de facto relationship, or marriage, everything about commitment suggests togetherness – a partnership, a binding of two people who commit to a relationship. Commitment is where plans and decisions are made that best serve the relationship – the doing part of the relationship; a conscious choice, the ‘outside-in’ framework. And when you feel deeply ‘in-love’, commitment can feel remarkably, albeit mistakenly, like love.

Now here’s the paradox. While commitment has everything to do with togetherness, love, is about letting one another go. Committed to being together while at the same time, as German Psychoanalyst, Eric Fromm says, “preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality”. The ‘being’ part of the relationship.

Acrylic montage of human shapes floating in space. Freedom feels like floating in space - falling, rising, and discovering - free to be you.
Falling, rising, and discovering – free to be you. Artist: Louise Taiaroa

Traveling with Pomegranates is a lovely story where mother and daughter authors, Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor chronicle their evolving relationship on a trip to Greece.

Ann, soon to be married, recalls a recent event when her mother gifted her a small box – a wedding gift. Inside the box lay three linked pieces of chain with a card that read,

“Years ago, your father and I adopted this piece of chain as a symbol for our marriage. The two outer links represent each of our lives, and the center link, our marriage. It reminds us that we have independent lives, dreams, and journeys, but at the same time, we are joined in a center space where our lives are one.”

And that was the message I delivered to the young couple on their wedding day. Commitment and love – intrinsically woven, yet individually apart. To walk together and to walk alone. One a journey of togetherness the other a journey of self. I stood that day and hoped that what I shared would be as liberating for them as it was for me.  What I did not know at the time was just how tough ‘liberation’, is to attain.

Which brings me to my next question(s). Can a woman remain true to herself when she is in a committed relationship?  The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. But how do we live independent lives, dreams, and journeys? How do we walk alone, the journey of the self, amongst the committed togetherness of a long-term relationship? How do we stay single, AND be married? Tap, tap.

Tough questions I hope to explore in my next few blogs.

Love in 3 minutes? Crikey!

 

While commitment has everything to do with togetherness, love, on the other hand, is about letting one another go. (MC)

Not long ago I came upon an article about English couple, Bill and Dorothy, who had just celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.  When asked the secret to their happy sixty years of marriage Bill said they were as much in love today, as they were on their honeymoon.

“As long as you agree with a woman, you’ll be all right. I know the best answer is always, ‘Yes, dear’,” quips Bill.

Dorothy replied with, “Bill makes me laugh and we definitely enjoy each other’s company.”

Really! A funny and compliant husband is the secret to a happy marriage?  Is it that easy? I’m sure when Bill and Dorothy made those comments it was tongue in cheek, but their story did remind me of a wedding I was invited to a few years ago.

My relationship to the soon-to-be married couple was through the mother of the bride. We were running buddies. Weeks before the big day we would meet for our daily jog and discuss the wedding preparation trials and tribulations.

One day she asked if I would say a few words to the bride and groom during the church service. Not knowing her daughter or her soon-to-be husband very well, I assumed I would be sharing a few prosperous wishes to cheer them on their future journey.

“I want you to talk about love,” she said in a tone that suggested this was as simple as filling a glass of water.

I was both gobsmacked and horrified. Me, talk about love? Crikey! Last year I published a series of articles about my ‘curveball’ moments in life. Writing these memoirs provided me with the opportunity to think, ask questions, to make sense of life and my relationships with others. And, let me tell you, none has been more challenging for me than the issue of love or one of love’s many threads, marriage.

Thinking about my past failures on the love scene, I enquired as to how long she would like this ‘few words’ to be. I was allotted three minutes. Three piddly minutes, 180 seconds to talk about one of the most sought-after emotions in the world.

Added to my own feelings of inadequacy, were the young couple about to be married. Radiantly in love, they sizzled with energy and anticipation. In their youth, and because of their youth, they knew everything, and displayed a confidence untainted by hindsight. On paper, they did everything the ‘right way’. They were both well educated, had a new home to move into, great careers and were well supported by family.

And that was my dilemma. My conundrum. What could I tell this couple about love that might break through that glorious fizz-pop mix of youth, success, lust and of being in-love? What a heady mix! I thought it’s just as well I didn’t feel as though I had anything to say because they wouldn’t be listening anyway.

Weeks of worry preceded my putting pen to paper.  I did some research and found  8,001 couples were granted divorces in New Zealand in 2017. There were 8.4 divorces for every 1,000 estimated existing marriages and civil unions. But in the context of this article it doesn’t matter whether this figure is high or low, but it does suggest promises of love and commitment made on the wedding day, are a lot harder to put into practice as the years go on.

During my moments of reflecting I was struck by how, when we talk about marriage, we use the words love and commitment as though both words have the same or similar meaning. Little or no thought is given to the paradox that occurs between the two.

Love and commitment are surely one of life’s greatest contradictions. The marriage ceremony is a public statement of commitment to each other. When you are deeply in-love, commitment seems remarkably easy. Whether it’s a civil union, a de facto relationship, or marriage, everything about commitment suggests togetherness – a partnership binding two people who are committed to working together. Commitment is where plans, hopes and dreams are born. It’s the doing part of the relationship; the ‘outside in’ framework.

Now here’s the paradox. While commitment has everything to do with togetherness, love, on the other hand, is about letting one another go. to be true to who they are meant to be.

Twentieth century psychologist/philosopher Erich Fromm explained the ‘love’ part of relationships as love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self.

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one yet remain two,” he says.

Love scoffs at rules. Love is not a role to be played by either partner. It does not come bedecked with rights and expectations. Love cannot be earned nor can it be measured by success or achievement. It is not the role or responsibility of one partner to ensure the other’s emotional and physical needs are met. We can be concerned, but we are not responsible. Love lets go.

Real love does not always follow our natural inclinations; it is not an impulse from feelings.  It is not about doing something for the other, but about being. Love just is – and that itself is a life-long journey for all of us. Thank goodness, there is the odd moment of exquisite joy, because most of the time love is just plain hard work learned over a lifetime of experience.

Yes, marriage, and its counterparts, is the union of two partners in a relationship. Committed to being together, but as Eric Fromm suggests, retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self.

Commitment and love – intrinsically woven, yet individually apart. To walk together and walk alone. One a journey of togetherness the other a journey of self. How would you explain this to a young couple in just three minutes?