We all want to live” happily ever after”. Many of us are raised on the fantasy of it and we enter marriage (or committed partnership) with the idea that that is the way it should be. And the first blush of new love furthers our belief (false, I assure you) that Love and Happiness is the norm that we should expect right out of the gate. The inevitable challenges, disagreements and general unpleasantness that most often unfolds in early partnerships results in people “running for the hills”; stepping way back from committed vows, often resulting in divorce.
I spent the early part of my adulthood living in a spiritual community—single. And it turned out to be a wonderful training for marriage. It was a very structured environment-up early; prayer; meditation; more prayer; assigned tasks; more prayer and meditation, etc. I was often living with several thousand people— Lots of opportunity to interact and bash heads in relationship with others. We were encouraged to always look inward when confronted with a challenging situation or disagreeable person: why had I drawn this situation to me; what was it bringing up in me that I needed to look at; what could I learn from it?
And in this community, we all had jobs. I was assigned to pickup pebbles from a very large hole in the ground; wash poop from bathroom walls; sweep leaves from wooded pathways—often very unpleasant tasks and seemingly stupid ones! One could never rid that hole of all those small pebbles; leaves would always fall on that wooded path; how disgusting that people left poop on the walls and I was supposed to clean it! Over time, I became acquainted with my judgments, my angers and my resistances. Gradually, I learned that these reactions were all mine and that they clouded my hopes for a loving heart.
Those years in a spiritual community taught me that life brings us what we need to learn about ourselves to grow. If we are committed, each life situation is an opportunity for expansion.
I brought that commitment into my marriage at age 36. Without that commitment, I would have “run for the hills” early on. With that commitment, I held firm and used each situation of married life to learn more deeply what dwelled in the dark crevices of my own heart and soul. It has been quite a journey of healing and transformation for both my husband and me. We soon will joyfully celebrate 30 years of marriage. And we’re still learning.
I look forward to sharing more of life’s teaching with you in this column. Thanks for reading! Chris