How Serious are You, About Working on your Relationship?
Being in and working on your relationship is the most challenging thing you will ever do. Why? Because all your feelings and memories are going to get stirred up, and emotional pain is more disruptive over time than actual physical discomfort.
A relationship is supposed to throw you out of love and into the fire of your own feelings. Author Sam Keen’s description of marriage tells us this: “One part of love is sweet and easy, something we fall into and are swept away by. But the other part is hard: it requires discipline, willpower, and opening your heart again and again to someone with whom you are angry, can’t stand, and do not like” (Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening The Spirit In Everyday Life).
Try Sitting Alone to see If you are Ready?
Many of us are simply not ready to allow our old feelings to come back up. I completely understand. It is much easier to look outside of ourselves, to use our partner, parents, kids, boss, the weather, our ancestors’ failings, astrology, our age or health, our bank account, etc. as the reasons for our regrets, longing and marital woes.
It is immeasurably harder to slow down and look inside ourselves, to sit quietly alone in a chair for instance, in a dimly lit room and just listen to our inner world. Sitting alone, which slows the body down, will begin allowing everything that was forgotten or avoided in you to be felt again. It takes courage because there will be nowhere else to turn. I recommend doing this in order to answer the question; How serious are you about working on your relationship?
To Love is to Destroy?
How can something so commonplace like a marriage, that begins so reasonably, comfortably, passionately, and innocently become so unruly and disruptive? What did we miss early on that could have prevented it from unraveling? Nothing. You had no way of knowing.
The muscles of your marriage were supposed to break so that they could build back up. That is how we learn, gain insight and emotional intelligence, through the uprooting of everything that lives inside.
“To love is to destroy, and that to be loved is to be the one destroyed” (Clare, C, City of Bones). Carl Jung agrees with Cassandra Clare when he said that “everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”.
I wish there was an easier way to work on our marriages besides opening ourselves up. Our marriage though, and the work we do on it, always comes back to self. “There’s no coming to consciousness without pain” (Carl Jung, again). And even if the priest or person that conducted your wedding told you that your marriage was designed to break you open and undo your sense of self, you would not have understood.
It is through the exercise of marriage that our feelings are supposed to unravel, unfortunately often within the belittling and disagreeing stare of our partner. But at some point, we realize that our marriage will evolve because the dynamics and our feelings towards it will change. We will learn what it means to embrace, celebrate, and exercise behaviors and all the forces around us that create change and growth.
You and your marriage are in the universe. That is a pretty basic fact. What we forget though is that because we are ‘things’ in the world, we and our marriage are subject to all the same forces that press against every other object in the universe, “both violent and creative, destructive and cooperative” (Swimme, B, The Universe Story). Marriage, like the universe, is a destructive force.
All the painful reactions within you and your spouse are simply part of the path and process of being in union. Things break in order to grow. Swimme further explains that these challenges are just part of living, that “these obstacles, these boundaries, these limitations are essential for the journey of the universe itself”. Everything must undergo this process.
How serious are you then? It will not be easy. It is OK not to be ready though, not to be serious. You can come back to the work later.
At some point though, whether we believe it or not, this lifetime or another one, we will have to jump into the fire of our inner world. Why do so many marriages fail? It is because this leap is so difficult. So many would rather avoid it. Leaping in means owning everything that is ours in the relationship, everything that we have said, done, not done, forgot to do, etc.
Every relationship is 50/50. Each partner needs to fully own his/her 100% of his/her 50% of this marital equation. That is not easy because we will have to go back and admit mistakes and misunderstandings, and all the times that we thought we were right but we were not. Owning all of our 50% is called maturing and maturing is painful.
The great physicist Niel Bohr hints that the solution and answers to the challenges in our marriage are in the marriage. “Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it”.
Changing our thinking and getting us to look in a different direction (self) in our marriage holds the answers. That is what Bohn is recommending. That is what good therapy will do. That is what sitting alone will do.
Carl Jung continues to remind and urge us to make that leap, work on self, to embrace the challenges of our marriage so that we can grow and mature. “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed”. How serious are you? There is no better time to keep asking this question.