Relationship implies relating, relating implies connection and connection requires vulnerability. No wonder most of us find relationships challenging! Vulnerability is not high on my list of easy to do. Yet research shows that it is the essential component for connection and joy.
Then there are all the different genres of relationships:
Family - of which one has no control over and in which the dynamic of relating is set up within the first three years of life. More often than not we spend our early adult life unravelling those formative years in order to reset patterns. That one takes these patterns into the outer world is another story, another blog...
Love - of the romantic kind, which more often than not begins as lust, only to reveal months down the line that your person of enamour, is merely another human just like you and I.
Marriage, well, now that's interesting and perhaps where I'll idle my pen a little longer. Here you have the fusion of family and love, the longevity of daily routines, children, (in my case dogs too) thrown into the mix, work routines, financial pressures, laundry, hobby timetables and most likely a shared bond. It's extraordinary that we even contemplate such a feat never mind succeed in making it a healthy one.
When I was 34, I directed a play called "Two To Tango" by the distinguished Mike Van Graan. It was a two hander with the fabulous Bo Petersen and delicious Bruce Young as actors. It centred on a couple, who had been married for 16 years. Sex was timetabled and routine, and communication was administrative. Both parties felt unseen and unheard. For the woman, an affair almost begins...
At the time I was single, Bruce was newly married with one tiny baby and another on the way. Bo was married and had a toddler daughter. How I directed this story without any insight to the actuality of marriage is a miracle, but I did and somehow the play resonated with 100s of people, travelling and returning to the theatre again and again. Fast forward to today and I've been married seven years and have a five year old. I want to laugh out loud at how little I knew.
Marriage is a collage of collisions and decisions. It is vulnerability personified as two people attempt to create harmony out of deep complexity.
Marriage is a collage of collisions and decisions. It is vulnerability personified as two people attempt to create harmony out of deep complexity. With marriage we navigate each other's family paradigms and invisible histories. In some cases as in mine, one navigates different cultures and faiths on top of that (here I might add that owing to the lack of previous expectations, one navigates this terrain with rather useful conscious awareness). Kindness is required when you're angry and a sense of humor when you're tired. Owning one's stuff and eating humble pie are all par for the course.
Sometimes I'm growing, sometimes he is, seldom do these leaps in self-awareness happen simultaneously. Our five year old, the apple of both our eyes, takes up an inordinate amount of our time rendering couple time alone, a rare treat. Babysitters are an expensive addition to date night and friendships are not only fun but ensure that the night won't slip away into admin.
There is of course also the deep friendship, family rituals, family laughter, intimacy – 'into-me-see' to quote Linda & Jim Brooks, and inexplicable moments of synchronicity and magic. There is love always, and lust sometimes.
So what am I saying? Perhaps marriage is the ultimate modernity. It requires navigating a multi-faceted, often fragmented and constantly evolving terrain. Its boundaries are chosen by the bound parties. It can be limiting or limitless depending on who's married to who. For it to thrive it relies on creativity and flexibility to keep up with the changes that are inevitable within people as they grow. Marriage is an ancient tradition but an evolving concept. It's certainly the most surprising of relationships. I mean who in their sober mind would commit to another 'till death do us part'. Perhaps that's it. Marriage is a commitment of hope. To travel with another meaningfully is a modern feat.
So in this month of love I'm going to be grateful for marrying someone who is committed to grow and I'll accept red roses with delight as a moment of reprieve amidst the many more moments of, well, the business of living.
Mediating human continues...