Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Marrying Type

Once again I find myself inspired by one of Sam de Brito's blog postings. In his post on doubt he raised the very good point that the common thread in all of our relationships isn't the other people, it's US! And generally all the excuses and euphenisms we give for the failure of our relationships; "we drifted apart," "we fell out of love," "a clash of differences," etc. etc.; they all boil down to an "unwillingness to change."

de Brito argues that "commitment is a switch you flip on." There is certainly some truth to that. There just comes a point in your life where the wild oats are sown and you're ready to settle down. Heck, sometimes the difference between a break-up and a marriage proposal is just a simple matter of timing. It's when that switch clicks for both parties in the relationship at roughly the same time.

Before that commitment switch clicks many of us have a tendency to cut and run when the going gets tough. We see arguments and fighting as signs of cracks in the foundation. Rather than spackle the cracks and strengthen the foundation we put the house on the market and start checking the classifieds to figure out where to start laying a new foundation.

After that switch clicks there's more of a willingness to weather the storms together. We come to realize that arguments aren't signs of weakness, but opportunities to better understand one another; opportunities to grow closer together rather than drift further apart. Getting mad at one another from time to time is natural. Because the opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy. It takes just as much passion and energy (if not more) to hate as it does to love. And if you still have the energy to hate, you still care enough to feel enough negative energy for that other person it means you still have the same capacity to love that person. Would you really expend the energy to argue with someone you didn't care about or care for or would you just walk away?

The old adage, "what doesn't tear us apart will only make us stronger" is true. And in realizing that arguments can strengthen relationships rather than tear them apart.

Inevitably, the question shouldn't be, "Does (insert name here) make me happy?" Happiness is fleeting it will come and go multiple times in any relationship. There are going to be bad times when you're not too keen on that special someone. And if you think otherwise, you're lying to yourself.

Instead, the question should be, "When the chips are down, if everything is going wrong in my life, is there anyone else I'd rather have my back than (insert name here)?" Because a relationship shouldn't be based on something as fleeting as happiness. The happy times are easy. A relationship should be based on dependability, knowing that person will be there for you not only when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all is well in the world but also on your darkest and dreariest days. It should be based on knowing that you're not always going to get along and that's okay. In the end it's not about getting along all of the time, it's about realizing that those times when that special someone is driving you up the wall it's only because you're emotionally invested in not just the other person but in the relationship itself.

I'll concede much of this is based much more on observation than personal experience. I have five siblings, all of which have been married over twenty years and my parents have been married over fifty years (not to mention they were high school sweethearts before getting married). Personally, I'm a tenderfoot. My wife & I have only been married four and a half years. We're still learning as we go. I'm just putting this out there as I've seen people I care about making the same mistakes over and over in their relationships. I may be wrong but I chalk up those mistakes to cocktail of two parts bad timing with a shot of unrealistic expectations of what a relationship is supposed to be like.


classicrockforthesoul said...

Fabulous post. Very insightful considering I don't know much about marriage, or love for that matter.

And congrats to all your family marriages! That's great. My family (and extended family) is quite similiar. In fact, I can't think of a single family member that's been divorced.

Perplexio said...

classicrockforthesoul: Thank you for the kind words. It's amazing how much you can learn not just from your own experiences but from the observations you make of the experiences of those you love.

Life is about the journey, not the destination and learning by observing the actions of those you care about provides a road map that will allow you to miss at least SOME of life's potholes. Some potholes you have to drive through yourself before you can learn how to avoid them yourself though.