Imagine what would happen to the current dynamic of your relationship if both of you were to find yourselves suddenly stranded on a desert island. You would be completely out of your comfort zone. Yet, you would need to struggle against the elements and any scary beasts that might be lurking behind a crevice looking for an easy meal. Those feelings of mutual dependence would most likely be highly aroused. Of course you would cling together.
Only you don't live on a deserted stage. You inhabit one teeming with people looking to fulfill their own desires. Combine selfish drives and a state of boredom with your routine and it would be very easy to deceive yourself that the false narrative that the grass is greener elsewhere. How many married people seek pleasure without responsibility, lust without conscience. But, you didn't marry just so that you would blow with the wind. On the contrary, you struck roots so that you could withstand adversity.
Each day that you awaken beside your beloved you are faced with a choice. Do I want to make their day great or should I run after my eyes today? For the most part, we balance our actions. We commit a little to the home, some to the office but spend most of our effort looking out for ourselves. And this makes sense. We are only awake inside our own life. We share with our spouse, but we aren't them. So, despite the empathy that our mirror neurons provide and our hopeful acceptance of the poetic majesty that is the idea of two souls that are really one, your spouse's stubbing their toe still doesn't hurt as much as when you do so.
What then happens with your day and with the rest of your life? “Me, me, me!” can't be replaced by “we, we, we!” as much as you try. And yet ironically, even if it was, a marriage isn't about the negation of the self to some theoretical collective. It's about you, with all of your warts, developing yourself while your partner does the same. It's just that you develop by giving. The more you give, the nicer you become and the better your marriage is as a result. Yet, you can't deny your own needs or you don't develop, you disappear.
We play out this delicate dance of giving yet ensuring our own well-being day after day. But, because we do so habitually, we forget why we married. We become caricatures of ourselves instead of the lofty couple who can float above it all.
Let's take a look at some modern models of marriage:
- The evolutionary model: We behave as though our relationship is just a vehicle to ensure the passing on of our genes. What were our love and the romantic desires that fueled our passions? We rethink our actions and conclude that we were fools instinctively performing mating rituals just like birds on a beach. So, now we can justify our temptations! What came before wasn't real. It was all a delusion. Life isn’t lofty. This complex social programming and the mirage that my personhood has meaning are merely hooks to ensure that my genes spread far and wide. Guilt? Why confuse biology with morality?
- The power model: “I want, I want, I take!” If giving you helps me, I'm all in. It's all about me anyways. How can I amass more? And if I find myself without a lot of power, I will strive to influence you to do small gestures for me, like buying my favorite snack.
- My understanding of the liberal model: If what I do doesn't hurt you, it's all cool. Now, let's see what I can get away with. Just because my needs don’t fall within what is acceptable, am I forbidden to seek what I want?
- My understanding of the conservative model: There comes a point when I have to deny my own wants so that society is strong and healthy. But there is also a point at which I have to say that enough is enough and I have to take your rights away. I will certainly treat you with respect. But, please pass the butter. Or else.
- The “I don't want to think about this too much” model: Let's have some fun. If it's good, then I'm in. Otherwise, it was nice knowing you.
- The religious model: If we serve God, He will bless us. Maybe not now, but at some point. So, get with the program.
Which is true? Maybe to a lesser or greater degree, they all have truth in them. Perhaps, that's why we're so confused. And, just maybe, it's OK to be confused. What isn't OK, is to forget the basics. That means that each morning as you awake and lie in bed you have a few moments to:
- Be thankful to God that you woke up.
- Appreciate the blessing who is your spouse.
- Focus on giving to your spouse what they need but without forgetting that your own needs are also very important.
- Remember, that our eyes are not more intelligent than our souls. That precious person who shares their life with you is a gift from God. Cherish them. Love them.
At the end of one's life, there have been just so many mornings. How many of yours are well used? Can you make tomorrow’s a morning you can be proud of? Appreciate, love, cherish, give and enjoy.
- Speak to each other.
- Rediscover each other.
- Remember why this is the one you chose.