At Night I Wonder If

 In What is Marriage

Marriage, as we know it, will make it. Here’s what I know. If I ask you to tell me three things you cherish about your partner, you’ll pause. If, on the other hand, I ask you to tell me three things that are wrong with your marriage, you’ll answer quickly.

We are simultaneously asking marriage to carry the fulfillment of our dreams and at the same time working towards increased celebration of our individuality. We ‘post psychologicals’ (a term I coined when I had trouble describing my parents to a group of P.T.A. parents. I finally said that my parents were, you know, ‘pre-psychological’ meaning they didn’t have the advantage of the books, media exposure, education or psychotherapy that so many of us in the last 30 or 40 years have had.) are an interesting and sometimes aggravating group.

Now if you got through that last sentence you rate applause.

Individuality and partnership over time is a tough combination. Many people can be ‘individuals’ while they experience hardly any depth of partnership. Others can be such good ‘partners’ (we call them the ‘matching sweatshirts’ couples) that all impulses toward individual self expression are muted or gone.

Marriage, you may be surprised to know, is meant to celebrate the possibilities of individuation within partnership. All kinds of partnership. There aren’t any ideals. The partner you chose is the one who chooses you. You get to claim your choice or.

You get to complain about her/ him. Complaining is easy. Our culture feeds our complaints. Do you agree? Our culture offers – through various media, articles, movies, books – an ideal based on a romantic paradigm. We who don’t critically analyze our culture accept more of its images of perfection than we admit.

The possibilities of partnership are many. Take a look at the recently released With These Rings, Volume I. There’s lots of information including a new, fresh, inviting way to think about marriage.

At night I wonder if the way we talk about, imagine, live in, or think about marriage – has anything at all to do with what’s possible. I think – I’d welcome your views – that marriage now is meant to take us to new places. Is meant to invite us to deeper levels of intimacy than those we’ve known. Marriage is supposed to challenge us and more importantly, to help us discover the possibilities of our love.

To grow up is to face the possibility of loving. It’s possible that we’ve been seduced into thinking that marriage is about ‘how well we’re loved.’ It’s also possible that we dumb down our passion because we think our partner isn’t up to it. Tough idea? I think so.

I know and have worked with many couples. A common challenge is developing the capacity to love your partner. Notice that I didn’t say agree with, adapt to, serve (although serving is a profound way of loving), be in fear of, manipulate, over power, control and so forth. I said love.

Many concentrate on being loved. Magazine articles concentrate on how to get what you want or how to trick your partner into thinking they are loved. But the mark of a mature person in partnership is loving who you love. There’s a nice little piece on this in the New Testament. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, still has immense value in the marriage conversation. Take a look at it.

So. Does marriage have a future? The short answer is yes, certainly. But a few changes are required. First, we need to take a critical look at the paradigm we work within. Second, it might be smart to update our paradigm and create relational vitality that supports both individuality and partnership.

Third, we all need to let go of our preoccupation with being loved and start focusing on how loving we are. It takes a grown up to love and its fully part of the realization of your mature masculinity or femininity.

If we don’t, every day will look a lot like yesterday.

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