Sunday, March 15, 2009

Forever Marriage

“Marriage should be forever, is that true?”

That's what I believed in my twenties and thirties and halfway through my forties. But then reality hit like a monsoon, washing away that belief in the awakening storm.
And I am left to wonder....

Throughout my life relationships flowed in and out like the ocean tide. Even family (I have relatives scattered across the globe; in Germany, Florida, Georgia and Utah). So what about marriage?

Relationships in general start out strong, the discovery-of-another-human an intriguing and intoxicating journey. Some people in our lives become constants, steadfastly with us like the North Star, while others move on like constellations (okay, I know it's really the earth that is moving) weaving in and out of our lives like the seasonally shifting night sky.

Sometimes they reappear, other times they just disappear. But often they just move on. Reasons vary; relocation, illness, divorce and death. Our family moved a lot growing up because Dad was in the military, but even when we stayed put friends drifted in and out as people developed new interests.

What this means for me is, I don't need to grieve so deeply over the losses. Which was a struggle for a very long time because when my 'forever marriage' transitioned to divorce, it seemed complicated because children were involved. And I held strong beliefs about keeping a ‘together team‘ of husband and wife raising the healthiest children possible.

As things changed I struggled with the dissolution of what we had created together. Would we tear the family we had created apart? How would we help them navigate the stormy seas of adolescence and young adulthood? How could we continue to parent while pursuing separate lives? If our children couldn't count on us to be their constants in this unpredictable world, who could they count on?

I used to believe God was the answer, but my experience was that he didn't protect you from 'bad things' happening either. So I'm thinking they need to learn to count on themselves to be able to handle whatever life brings them and trust that they are okay, because they are LOVED -- by us, by God and the world at large -- and therefore safe.

When I joined the LDS faith, I was ready to start a family. I wanted to raise healthy, happy children; spiritually, emotionally, and physically. For me that meant within a religious framework, a sort of protective life-support network.

And I loved the way it felt in the early years of the marriage; the security of our religious practices, the guidelines providing a sweet, safe arena to raise children. But as our relationship stumbled and I found myself living with an increasingly unhappy husband -- blaming me for his unhappiness -- eventually I began blaming myself until I was drowning in self-doubt.

For a long time I had leaned on my faith for strength, but eventually felt betrayed not only by my partner but by God when things got worse. And in the process, lost faith in myself.

So this is where I find myself today. Bobbing back to the surface of life’s currents, unwilling to waste any more precious energy looking for blame. Still navigating the seas of parenthood, I want to instill in our children a deep abiding faith in themselves, so that no matter what happens in this uncertain world, they will know that they are fine and loved and protected, just as they are, with nothing to change. Unless they want to.

So, is marriage forever? My answer is yes, if it works out that way. And no, if it works out that way. Reality sort of comes first, because as Byron Katie says, “When you argue with reality you lose, every time.”
And when I drop the arguing, I am free to take the best of what is left and move on.


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