The only marriage that lasts forever is the marriage with yourself. I wrote a book called “What is Love?” which discusses this in depth. No matter how hard you may try, you can’t divorce yourself. However, if this relationship isn’t strong enough to survive the changes that inevitably come while you are married to someone, the relationship with your partner can’t last. The relationship with yourself is the foundation for the relationship with your partner. If it is shaky, the whole structure will collapse eventually. The old saying is “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. Well, the truth is “if you ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.
The starting place for a happy marriage is making sure that you get married for the right reasons, including love. Many people believe that they have met someone compatible and that they love each other. People get married for many reasons other than love, but none of them last very long. They marry because they are sexually attracted to their spouse, because they want security, because they want to control someone’s life or they want someone to control their life, because they don’t want to be alone, because they want to improve their life, because they want to have children and they are willing to hope that love will come eventually. The truth is none of these things will lead to a happy marriage. We have been told that marriage, by itself, will provide these false ideals; yet marriage provides none of these things.
The first misconception about marriage is that it will change the person you married. It is a myth that you can change the person you married. After all, you have committed your life to that person, you would do anything for that person. They ought to have the same perspective, shouldn’t they? Wrong. They are who they are. You are who you are. Just because you are willing to change everything for them, that doesn’t mean they will change anything for you. If you married someone expecting that they would change in some way, you will be in for a quick and painful surprise. You assumed, hoped, expected, and pushed them to change, then when it doesn’t happen, everyone suffers.
The second misconception about marriage is that it guarantees sex. My second wife and I had an interview with a preacher before we were married. He asked a very enlightened question, which was “are you willing to be married without sex?” I thought that was the most radical and crazy question I had ever heard. After all, why get married if you couldn’t have sex. Many people I have counseled have similar ideas about marriage and sex, but the truth is they have nothing to do with each other. A favorite saying I have heard many times is “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” This simply illustrates the problem society has with the institution of marriage. Many states have laws that allow marriages to be dissolved if not consummated.
The third misconception about marriage is that everything will be wedded bliss after the ceremony. The truth is that marriage does not guaranty anything. If you go into a marriage thinking your life will change, you will be disappointed. If you go into a marriage thinking your life, spouse and relationship will stay the same, you will be disappointed. Guess what? LIFE HAPPENS. Constantly. Your relationship, marriage and everything else does not exist in a bubble in a time capsule. Your spouse will gain weight. You’ll gain weight. You’ll wish they would lose weight. You’ll wish you would lose weight. They’ll have to work late; the kids will frustrate you. Parenting styles come into play. Your spouse’s family member wants to borrow money. Your spouse’s mother gets cancer. Your spouse loses interest in sex. Your spouse becomes depressed. And so on. How do you navigate that? Depending on whether you have lived together before you are married or not, life will get very different if you marry and start living together. As far as being happy or blissful is concerned, that has nothing to do with marriage. I once was talking to a very enlightened being and asked him about marriage. All he said was it screws up a lot of good friendships.
The fourth misconception about marriage is that it is required for a happy family. There are many people who get married because they want to legitimize their children. John Snow REALLY put bastards on the map. What an antiquated illusion! In today’s day and age, there are definite financial advantages to getting married if you are having children, but there are no emotional, mental, or spiritual reasons for that. The only reason the term “bastard” has any significance is because we make it mean something. From an objective viewpoint, who cares whether your parents were married or not? A more important question is “were your parents happy?” If they were unhappy and married, most kids would prefer that their parents were happy and unmarried.
The fifth misconception about marriage is that being dependent on someone is better than independence. So many people trade in the single hat for the married hat because they think they are moving up in life. I have to ask, why do married people fight, especially if they don’t even know why they are fighting? Why do people who are married ignore the other or disrespect the other? Why doesn’t marriage make all disagreements go away? The obvious answer is that marriage has nothing to do with how we relate to each other. It does place a sense of duty on the participants. My experience is that if you don’t particularly like someone, the duty of marriage isn’t going to change that. The biggest hurdle to a happy marriage is the belief that your spouse owes you something. We think that we paid for a big ring, a big wedding, we gave up our virginity or freedom or career or our bodies for children and the other person owes us. WRONG. The energy is totally going the wrong way on this.
SO, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
The best way to save your marriage is to reboot and look at why you got married in the first place. Whether it is one year or fifty years, things have changed. You are older, look different, act different, believe differently and may discover that the person you once idolized is a total stranger. It is a matter of perspective. What used to work to attract each other doesn’t work anymore. People are white knuckling their relationship hoping that something will happen to change the other person.
The most important thing people need to do is to agree on what they expect from each other and what they are able to provide the relationship. This will be a wild ride, I assure you. This requires total honesty and integrity, which may be your biggest problem. Both people in the relationship need to list on a piece of paper what they want out of the relationship and be willing to share it with the other person. If you can’t do this, you need counseling. Do this routinely, weekly or monthly, depending on your life circumstances. I have a friend that calls this State of the Union meetings. And it’s smart to continuously check-in. Be courageous in what you want. Most people just get into a boring routine or quit caring. Sharing a list of expectations or wants can wake you up to what you need to give.
So, let’s suppose you have the courage to put down on paper what you want. The first thing is to look at whether you can offer the same list to the other person. Honesty, loyalty, trust, commitment and attention are hollow words if you can’t give that. You can’t do conditional relationships. You are either in or out. A good marriage is an equal balance of giving and receiving. Are you giving as much as you are receiving? Would your spouse say that?
Focus on the positive. Sometimes our minds will kill a perfectly good relationship/marriage because we get into our hearts and that is not what our mind wants. Or, we get into our minds and that’s not what our heart/Divinity wants. The romance wears off because our ego is undisciplined and we make stuff up. You must give your spouse respect. You must respect their ideas, their desires, their needs. If you don’t, then you can’t expect them to respect your ideas, desires and needs. If you treat them as less than yourself, you will never respect them. One of the most important seeds of respect is that they agreed to marry you.
It is up to you whether you are happy or not. Don’t wait on them to be happy. There is only one universal law. When you get happy, they get happy. If you want to empower yourself in the relationship, get happy. Meditate and chant. Together. Okay, this is where it gets weird. Have you ever taken 20 minutes and sat with your beloved and meditated? Back to back is the best. Contact with each other while you are meditating is awesome. It takes a great deal of focus and integrity to enter into a space of sacred meditation with someone. Hopefully you will remember that you wanted to spend a lifetime together, but if not, at least you can spend a few minutes together.
Children…oh my. Children can either bond you closer or drive you apart. Men tend to be threatened when their wives have something that distracts them from the man. Men need to understand that this is the natural order of things and the consequences of pants removal. If men have a problem with this, then they need to grow up at least as fast as their children. It has always been an interesting therapy to determine where people got stuck in their developmental process. Most people who have relationship problems got stuck in their childhood and need some guidance how to grow past that early trauma.
This is a long way of saying, enjoy each other. Relax, grow and breathe. You are with the person you are supposed to be with, at least for the present. Perhaps you are supposed to teach them something, perhaps they are supposed to teach you something. As I have said before, happiness is a state of being, not a result of fortuitous circumstances. Decide to be happy with yourself. Happiness begets happiness. If you aren’t happy, the relationship will not survive.