Hello dear readers,
I have been so anxious to continue the conversation about marriage that got started right before Christmas (Are You Working Away at a Hard Marriage?). The comments to that post just warmed my heart (and they did again, just now, as I reviewed them). Thank you so much for all of your words. They are SOOO insightful and good. You readers are wise and full of inspiration. If you haven't seen the comments, you may want to take a look.
We had some more thoughts about the subject of "marriage being hard", but we're always trying to trim down our long windedness so instead of putting it all in the last post we reserved some for later. Today I wanted to share some more of those thoughts. I certainly realize there are so many ways to view marriage - and so many of them are valid and worthwhile. So I don't want to say that the way someone else views it is wrong. But I just wanted to share with you some more thoughts about how we view it. It's the reason behind a lot of the happiness and peace that we have now and ALSO the peace that we had before our previous marriages even ended.
|(Summer 2010 in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland. We spent our first married summer backpacking Europe!)|
The bottom line is.....we feel marriage is one of the most beautiful experiences of this life. And we're not just talking about the marriages that are good ones! :) Yes, we're even talking about the marriages that face really steep challenges such as cheating spouses, porn addictions, infertility, mental illness, ETC. And we're even talking about the marriages that end in divorce (including both of our previous marriages.) You see, marriage offers a place to grow. A place to be face to face with your own weaknesses. A place to become a better man or woman. We think ALL of it (good and bad) should be treated & viewed as a sacred experience. Yet sadly, "marriage" gets blamed for a lot of unhappiness that people feel. Maybe it's because they feel stuck in a relationship that isn't loving or satisfying. Or they feel abused, neglected, unwanted, etc. I just see tons of people pegging the marriage or blaming the spouse for their unhappiness or difficulty, which is why I felt so compelled to write this post.
You see, when you rely on your marriage or your spouse to fulfill your needs & determine your state of well being.....and they don't come through for you.....wellll, the marriage begins to feel really hard. And it begins to feel like a lot of work dealing with that disappointment, worry, fear, anger, neglect, etc. And it's likely that you may start to house your spouse (and/or yourself) in a pressure cooker until your spouse starts fulfilling your needs more & meeting what you deem as your expectations for a marriage .
So how does one prevent that cycle?
For us, instead of blaming "marriage" or the "spouse" as the reason for all the hard work, the real work Danny & I prefer to talk about & make the focus of our energies is the work we need to do in OUR. OWN. HEADS.
The real work is tackling our OWN weaknesses in the way we react & handle things that come up (including even the most dysfunctional of situations.) Keep in mind, one situation may be a challenge to one person and yet not to another. So we really can't blame the actual trials. We can't blame marriage or ANYTHING for our never ending pain and unhappiness. We can only recognize that we don't yet have the adequate amount of strength, experience, tools or preparation needed to handle those situations. I just feel that marriage wrongfully gets a bad name...when it's actually just providing us opportunities to see what we need to work on IN OURSELVES.....
(We climbed to this peak. )
(A view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Swiss Alps.)
For example, my Father-in-law climbs mountains and rides his bike up and down mountains....daily. Most people would look at what he does and say......uhhh.....that mountain looks hard. But for him, it's easy. He has mastered it. He has put in the work, the personal training, and preparation that he needs to climb that mountain. The mountain size didn't change over time (trying to change that mountain suuure would have felt like a lot of work). Instead, HE changed & put in the personal work to make that happen. And so climbing the mountain became easier and doable. For someone who hasn't climbed the mountain & hasn't done the preparation and still thinks that the mountain needs to change in order for things to go smoothly, you bet it will feel hard. And sadly, sometimes people will resist that personal training and it will feel hard their whole lives.
Just like a mountain, we can't ever plan on a spouse changing. A spouse or marriage will be there - perhaps offering challenging situations & heights that stretch us. But WE can change, prepare, and be ready to face it... WE can learn how to climb those mountains better if we practice, do the personal work and learn how to better react and better handle situations. I learned this as I transformed within my own first marriage of 7 years. Things that were once extremely difficult for me later became easier to handle because I started to do the personal work. And I've seen it applied to even the hard core stuff: spouses addicted to porn, cheating spouses, cheating spouses with STDs that get passed to you, abusive spouses, unemployment, infertility, mental illness, gay spouses, bad temper, drug addiction, imprisoned spouse, etc., ETC. I know people personally that have experienced each one of these (and worse) in their marriages but have done so with the utmost strength. They did the personal training. They took accountability for their own reactions to these situations and how they felt. They chose to make climbing that mountain a personal triumph, instead of letting it destroy them. They learned to not blame their spouses or their marriage for their unhappiness.
Want more nitty gritty? Well, when you are focused on strengthening your inner self, you will not have to rely on the whims and moods, compliments, attention, or loving or helpful gestures of your spouse in order to feel whole and secure. The PRESSURE COOKER you house your spouse in will be removed. And when challenges come along, no matter how great they are, you'll be in a better place to handle them with love, charity, strength, confidence and security, instead of pride, selfishness, insecurity, anxiety, anger, doubt & blame. Letting your marriage be a vehicle for reminding you what you need to work on IN YOURSELF will have the most amazing & lasting effects, you just couldn't believe it. AND....one really cool result......as you continue to master your inner self, things will always work out in the best way possible for you, no matter what state your spouse is in....no matter if your marriage ends.
And is there joy in climbing a mountain that you are prepared to climb? You bet there is. More joy than you could possibly ever know. I have felt it. I have felt that joy climbing my own mountains in situations that could normally be characterized as the hardest moments of my life (such as the days leading up to my husband's departure, or the day I was home alone for the first time after my spouse left, or the days I had to tell friends and family that he wasn't coming back, the days I found myself single & infertile at age 32 and having to face dating, the days I wondered if I would ever meet anyone, and loads of other situations that I am not able to share here.) They were the moments when I had to rely on my own strength, my own character, my own preparation...because those mountains weren't budging. Were there tears? Were those days "hard"? Of course. BUT, I felt triumphant. I felt like I knew what I was made of. I felt love. I was sitting on the summit. And yes, I felt joy.
P.S. We realize some people get thrown into Mt. Everest long before they ever could have been prepared. And some people are even born on Mt. Everest, right? So to all of you....we don't want anyone to feel weak or inadequate after reading this post. We send all of you love and encouragement to start your personal training now, no matter if you are on the cliff side or on some gentle rolling hills. And if you climbed a mountain already and ended up getting brought out on a stretcher (ha!), well......that's ok, because there are always more mountains coming. That is the beauty of this life. There are allllwaaays more opportunities to train and climb and reach the next summit.
Have any of you faced a trial that became easier, not because the trial changed but because you decided to do the personal work and change the way you handled it?