Sigh. In the past few weeks, I have encountered four families facing really tough situations in their marriages. Friends have cried on my shoulder, and many, many prayers have been lifted up. I’ve only been married seven years; I’m not a marriage counselor or anything close to an expert on the subject. I can’t put myself in every woman’s shoes or say I have all the answers. But because this is heavy on my heart, and because I always feel better when I write things down (it’s like therapy; a way to digest what I’ve considered and been exposed to), I am going to write down a few thoughts that have helped make my marriage stronger and more joyous.
First, I will say my marriage isn’t perfect. We dated for two weeks and eloped (you can read about that story in this post); we barely knew each other and we come from very different backgrounds. What a learning curve! There are still areas where we don’t seem to mesh, and where the river gets rocky. Here are the principles that help me navigate…
My marriage is a blank canvas ready to be formed into a work of art. It is only limited by my own ideas of limitation. When I think that either my partner or I are stuck, or always going to be a certain way, or never going to change, well; it probably will be so. When I believe that the soul is capable of amazing metamorphosis and anything can happen- mountains can move! That said, the only change I look for is within myself. I don’t seek to change my partner, because changing my partner is never going to bring me the peace or marital contentment I seek. Peace comes from inside. As my friend cried sorrowful tears today, saying that all she wanted was some peace, it seemed so clear to me that our peace comes from a place inside and without that, even if current circumstances change or problems shifted, new ones would come up and threaten that fragile peace eventually. Peace comes when we stop trying to please the other person out of insecurity or guilt, and instead, willingly seek to please them out of a confident and grounded soul at ease within itself, that simply seeks to love the other person unconditionally and without expecting anything in return. I am enabled to do this because I know my husband doesn’t meet my needs; it may look like that on the outside but, he is merely an often-used conduit through which the Spirit meets my needs. My well-being is in the hands of God, who provides a rock solid, ever-reliable stream of need-meeting! Do I need comfort? Do I need a listening ear? Do I need someone to just encourage me without judging me? Do I need someone to be on my side? It is wonderful when my spouse can do that for me, but when he doesn’t have those emotional resources, those needs are always met in the spiritual realm and physically manifest in ways that continually surprise me and remind me not to expect it from my mate, but simply be delighted when it does come from him.
So many women I’ve spoken to lately have told me “I’m just so tired of … trying, fighting, accepting this about him…” you fill in the blank!. It does seem sometimes like if you just got away from it for a while, when the going is really tough, that things would be better. Better for you; better for the children who are witnessing the friction… and yes, maybe a day to yourself or even just a consistent 20 minutes a day for inner work and time to reflect and offer yourself compassion for the stress you are experiencing is called for while reaffirming what is TRUE about you, about God, about the universal laws that ever seek to bring Goodness your way. A bit of renewal to regain that energy that you lack, without which you just find it hard to muster up the desire to even want to keep working out the differences or dealing with the raw emotion. If you aren’t doing anything to support yourself – spending some time in the light of Spirit to wash away the grimy emotions and restore a sense of emotional equilibrium, fatigue and weariness will set it in at the least; bitterness or resentment at worst! And those last two are perhaps the greatest enemies of our soul, cancerously eating away at us and at the possibility for goodwill to prosper our relationships. And then they begin to manifest phsyically as illness and dis-ease.
Seek goodwill. Whenever I’m frustrated, disappointed, angry, or generally discontent with an aspect of any relationship, I know it’s time to do the work to come to terms with how to restore Goodwill. Nothing is needed on the part of the other person; this is a process just for me. I’ve learned how to do this using the transformative principles of Non-Violent Communication, and the process never fails. I dig deep to find: what are the unmet needs behind my hurts, angers, or resentments? Is it a need to be taken more seriously, a need to be better understood, a need to be treated with respect, a need to be cherished and spoken to kindly? I can’t demand or expect these things of my mate; these are things, once again, that are given through the spiritual realm and are certainly incredibly appreciated when offered by my mate. But if our love was based on him meeting my needs all the time, what a precarious relationship that would be! I certainly don’t want that expecation on me– too much pressure! Yes we strive to be that for each other, but when we are not or cannot be that source, their is a Source that always comes through, even if your partner experiences “emotional handicaps”. Sometimes that kind voice I am yearning for when his life is frought with challenges and stress and it comes through in his tone, is met simply by listening to the heavenly voice of the Divine in times of prayer. It clears away any discordant notes and cleanses the chambers of my heart. Clarifying what needs I have, what hurts I have, what insecurities I have; these help me ask my Source for exactly what I need. Then, out of a place of knowing that through Source all my needs are met, I can let go of error-filled emotions that blame or condemn the other person. I can ask that in the same way I desire my spouse to be a well-spring of support and love for me, that I can be empowered to do that for him. With my emotions in their proper place, I can objectively look at my mate with love; compassion for him floods my being. Without guilt or pressure, I can seek to be who and what he needs with Goodwill, within the bounds of my wholeness and acceptance for his and my shortcomings and areas of immaturity.
Committment. I have an incredible model of committment. There is a Being in my life who will never ever cease to follow me with Love and Compassion, no matter what I do, where I go, who I become. The second I call, Spirit is there. This is the model I have for showing love to my spouse, and nothing he does can go beyond this love. Infidelity, abuse, or any other horror could certainly impact how close I can be in physical proximity to a person to preserve my safety; but it can never impact the love and compassion I allow to flow from me to my partner. It is this love, compassion, and constant lifting up of the person in prayer and meditation to the healing hands of the Divine that are the most essential aspects of my marriage. I have a picture in my mind of a beautiful gift I was given the moment I said “I Do.” This gift is the ability to call upon the very power of the heavenlies and work for the good of my mate in a way no other person can. The ear of God is inclined to me; His hand is at the ready to perform miracles in the life of my loved one on my behalf. But this only works when there is an absence of desire to manipulate, change, or benefit from Divine working due to self-serving motivation. It works when called forth out of pure unconditional love and desire for my loved one’s well-being.
I could go on and on about why marital commitment is so important in our society and for our children. But that is not the real impetus for me. We don’t love people for the sake of society or our children; we love people because it is who we are, what we were created to do, and the only thing that will allow us to realize our full potential as a human being! When we fail to pursue our mate with our love to the ends of the earth, we are saying that love isn’t worth it; you have to “deserve” love; love is not enough. IT IS WORTH IT (and the more so the harder we work for it!); NO ONE CAN DESERVE LOVE, it is better than anything we can ever merit and yet our supreme inheritance; LOVE IS ENOUGH.
What about those who feel that they are now “a different person”, or that their mate has become a different person or is just “not on the same page” anymore? What if you don’t feel like you are in love? The kind of love that requires people to stay the same as they were when they initiated love, the kind of love that requires warm and fuzzy feelings- hmm. Does it deserve to be called love? Is that the kind of “love” the Divine offers me? No, it is an imitation, an emotional trap! Knowing what I know of the universe and what I have accomplished with the power of God and the will I was gifted with, I think “emotions” need to be measured against objective truth and discarded when they don’t reflect it. These error-filled emotions will take you on a slippery slope of discontent and disillusion. Make the truth your breath, your life; eventually, the “romance” will return and it will be ten times grander than the infatuation ever was.
My friend was telling me the other day, “I just think some people have limits to what they can handle and accept, and I’ve reached mine.” Yes. People have limits. But the Divine has none in terms of seeking us out and loving us, and we have access to the very mind and heart of the Divine. We can channel that and be a vehicle for it, when we are connected to our Source. When my friend said this, I knew that she needed more connection, more vision for what the scope of the Divine Power makes available! I asked her, “Do you believe your God is all-powerful?” She answered yes, without a doubt. I asked her, “Do you believe you can access the heart and mind of your God and be given all that very power to love as He posesses?” She answered yes, without a doubt. I agree. So the work that needs to be done is strengthening that connection to the Divine.
And what about the nitty gritty? The times where your heart is pounding, you’re tired, you’re upset, you feel motivated by your pain or hurt? Take a moment to yourself if you need to. Then listen to your partner. No, not the words spoken in anger, but the hurt or unmet needs behind those words. I imagine all the frustrations, anger, and hurt as swirling clouds of Error that seek to deceive us and push us off our true course. I look past those, I give them no credence. Instead I wrap my loved one in truth; he is created in the image of perfection, the image of the Divine. His needs are met; his well-being is secure no matter what conflicting information is trying to present itself in this physical world. We are more than physical- we are spiritual, and the spiritual takes precedence and can beat out any mere molecular component of lack or danger. I hold these spiritual realities tightly, my heart weaves a web of truth and light and love around him as the physical world begins to dim and the glowing light of the spiritual realm becomes obvious around me. Here I stand with God, for him, working on his behalf, battling for these clouds of Error to fall away from his consciousness. Maybe it won’t happen immediately, but I want to be there ushering it in whenever it does occur!
We are spiritual, but we are physical, too… and there are very real physical needs to be met. I can remember, after the initial passion and honeymoon era, I felt dissatisfied with the hum-drumness of being a responsible wife and mother. I remember thinking that love-making was reduced to the state of having your daily cup of coffee or reading your newspaper; just something to be done to damper the cold hard realities of the world out there and get a small fix on pleasure. I became disinterested; I wanted more, and I guess I was expecting my partner to provide that excitement again. I actually became very resentful that he didn’t read my mind and try to be more exotic! But my perceived “lack” was only a call for me to grow and transform into a more exciting, exotic partner myself. To translate the ever-growing river of our love in new ways with every physical sense. And the other physical aspects of partnership I offer- meal prep, housekeeping, laundering- well there are great books on how to imbue those with spirit and take joy in them… Homemaking and Personal Development, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, and The Quotidian Mysteries come to mind.
I hold the keys to this art gallery of love, and I am painting the strokes every day. When I am done, the strokes that I have contributed will be beautiful and breathtaking. As long as I have given it my best, followed the prompting of the Divine, and never given up on love, I will be able to say that. Even if physical circumstances separate, even if tragedy strikes, I can rest in the confidence that I passionately pursued love and never gave up. There is a little plaque in my kitchen that reminds me, “It is in loving, not in being loved, that the heart is blessed”. I think that really sums it up, and when we focus so much on the ‘being loved’, we set ourselves up for great heart-ache. The ‘being-loved’ is the gift of the Divine; whose love will always find a channel to us when we are open, even if not in the way we expect. 😉 Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox… and may my words only encourage, and not ever strike anyone with guilt or judgement. I can only judge my own situtation, and the personal convictions I hold are my own unique instructions for my individual life. I can’t hold anyone else to them, but you’re welcome to gain inspiration from my well!