There are a lot of ‘chronics’ – chronic arguments, chronic indigestion, chronic indebtedness, chronic sleeplessness…
Marriages are dissolving in the fifty percent range and while that may have been a sign of hope thirty years ago when many marriages were simply ‘duty dances’ it is no longer hopeful. Chronic dissolution and the pain of children who experience it call for a fresh look at what we mean by ‘marriage.’
When ‘chronic’ becomes viral it’s time to step around the familiar and re-engage a capacity that we seem to have lost. In a media saturated culture imagination atrophies. It may be time to focus our energies on deepening and expanding our capacity to imagine marriage. At the top of the list of things that needs a new angle is our marriage paradigm.
Marriage, in an age of fifty percent failure, looks more and more like ‘relationships for dummys.’ We marry by means of a ‘wedding.’ The wedding is chronically and inexplicably a very expensive affair that offers no foundation for what’s ahead. The wedding focuses on appearance and photo ops. It in no significant way involves community, the conscious presence of the feminine or the masculine or the ancestors or the extended family – except as props for a projected ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ (groom: a keeper of horses).
We may think we launched the couple into a life of bliss but in fact we abandon them to a kind of ‘sink or swim’ philosophy. The couple usually does not know what it is doing and the family and friends (their ‘immediate’ community) turns them loose wishing them well.
What would a descent into our imaginations look like when applied to the idea of marriage? How would you invent, create, picture marriage if it was in your power to do so?
We approached the challenge after we discovered that our way of looking at marriage was based on friends and family and culture. Our parents’ marriages though easily seen as limited, closed off, and rather dutiful, were still a model we unconsciously referred to. Our conflicts were circular and repetitive. Our intimacy based on old ideas of love between a man and a woman. We began to see that our challenge wasn’t close to that portrayed in the self help literature, though we looked at all the books, attended workshops and eagerly worked with our individual therapists.
What is missing?
In order to understand something of the plight of many marriages today you have to look at how many couples evaluate the success or failure of their relationship. Many simply focus on ‘communication.’ “He doesn’t listen,” or “she’s not interested in sex.” Their arguments are chronic but offer little real opportunity for changing the rules of the game. If you think of communication within marriage as a board game, for a moment, the rules are obscure, the map (the purpose of the game) is muddled and the parameters unstated.
Look at it this way. Within marriage there are conversations that take place around a specific focus. We noticed that conversations about money, use of space, and time management – schedules, planning, negotiations – could be seen as one domain. So we called it ‘roommates.’ It soon became the first journey within marriage because that’s where we all start post wedding.
A second journey ‘informs’ or energizes this first journey. It is the inner journey that we all embarked on at birth. It answers the life long question: “who am I really?” This journey involves your dreams, aspirations, spiritual life. In it you look at the impact your own childhood has on your capacity to be a loving partner.
This inner journey makes a third journey possible. Without conscious attention given to your own inner work, the journey into intimate relating will soon fail. The journeys of course are inter related and interwoven. They depend on each other in the creation of sustainable enthusiasm for relationship.
Without conscious exploration and the creation of ‘roadmaps’ that guide you in your own ‘marriage conversation’ the marriage game soon disintegrates into chaos, blame, depression and resignation.
With These Rings (first released in April 2007) offers a philosophy of marriage and a grounding of your love. Together with the Three Journeys you can begin to re-imagine your own relationship, give your marriage a voice and move from being marginally engaged with each other to a full embrace of the possibilities within your love. It is an offer to fulfill the promises you made together the day you decided to spend your life together.
If you don’t, every day will look a lot like yesterday.
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