This week Steve and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.
And if I can invoke a dreadful 80’s song – Steve really is the wind beneath my wings.
True story – I initially turned down his proposal. In my refusal, I believe the words ‘marriage oppresses women, and is a tool of the patriarchy’ were uttered…(lol, I was very young, and it’s also not not true). We met and were married within a year, and these past 30 years have been the making of my life – in a large part because we defined what marriage would mean for us, and not do what was expected.
In honour of these 30 years, I offer 30 reflections.
- Don’t worry what other people think about you and your relationship. Don’t live other people’s ideas – live your own.
- You don’t have to like the same music. You really don’t.
- Don’t fall into the trap of doing it someone else’s way (oh the irony of me sharing my 30 points!). We never did the things you’re supposed to – ‘date nights’, weekends away etc, and yet it still worked.
- Always want more for your partner than they can hope for themselves.
- Be present and loving. Touching, looking into eyes, being respectful means more than gifts and gadgets.
- I first heard Joseph Campbell say this and I believe it to be true: Staying committed and awake in a long term relationship is as difficult and transformative a spiritual path as meditating in a cave for 30 years.
- There is no right way to do a relationship. Find the way that works for you.
- Keep living your bravest life, and let that infuse your marriage. I was away a lot – I mean, a lot. I missed Steve and the kids terribly, but I was so fulfilled with the work I was doing. When I was home, I was inspired and happy because I was living my purpose and loving my life, even the messy, jetlagged, homesick bits.
- Build alignment, and do the work to maintain clarity – with this, parenting and finances are so much easier.
- Have shared values: We equally shared the commitment to The Hunger Project. Steve was with me in that village in Ethiopia in 1992. He has said that me being out there in the world ending hunger was also an expression of his commitment.
- Regularly clean up resentments – like a bathtub where gunk builds up slowly over time, marriage can be like that too. Little hurts and betrayals accumulate, and if unattended, are then too hard to clean up. Cleaning and mending your marital wounds in time can save the marriage.
- Time away worked for us. (See 8).
- Be ok with how things are. When I left to go away (again), I might leave Steve (who was working in his business), with a dirty kitchen, kids running around, house a mess, no food cooked – and he’d kiss me and say bye. He never reproached me for going away. That said, when I got home, I would walk into whatever I walked into – house messy/clean, shopping done/not done, and I gave up any right to expect anything different. I was ok with how things were and so was he.
- Time alone: Steve goes for forest walks, I read. However you play it, protect the preciousness of your aloneness.
- Don’t forever subjugate your own souls yearning to evolve. Sometimes it has to take a back seat – but it can’t be in the back seat for ever.
- Keep growing and developing yourself. It’s amazing how much better Steve became after I’d done some personal development work on myself.
- You can’t possibly have a great marriage and stay cool. Marriage demands the breaking down of facades and layers. It crumbles artifice. It breaks the individual for the expanded commitment you become. Surrendering to this is half the battle.
- Really like each other.
- Choose what your relationship parameters will be. For me, I told Steve that if we were to be together, it had to be magnificent. I wasn’t going to stay with someone in a marriage that was mediocre. When the marriage becomes mediocre – as it does when life is busy and annoyances build up – we catch it and we talk about it, and do what’s needed to have it be magnificent again.
- I’m absolutely committed to my marriage with Steve – but not at any cost.
- Endurance is meaningless if it’s just about that. Some of the best marriages knew when it was over, and they were courageous enough to pull the plug.
- Steve tells me what I need to hear. And other times he tells me what I hope to hear. And that he knows which is which is why I love him.
- We are complete and utter dags, and love that about each other.
- When I fall into too much of ‘I know what he’s going to say / do” then I’m living in an ‘I know’ kind of relationship, and there’s no mystery there. Try and keep the other person somewhat mysterious.
- On the important stuff, back each other publicly. Even if you disagree, keep that to be hashed out in private. This is especially true around child rearing approaches. Have a common front with your kids.
- Attend to your relationship first. When the kids were young and playing up, sometimes it would be a mirroring of Steve and I – sniping and carrying on. When we got aligned, the kids magically also improved.
- Obviously there are many times when a child’s needs come first, but as a principle we were intentional about being loving and respectful to each other as our #1 priority.
- Keep your personal practices. For me it is meditation and spiritual evolution. For Steve it’s music (he plays 10 instruments) and wildness. We both honour this about each other, and support this for each other.
- My primary marriage is to myself – who I can be, what my contribution in this life will be, what type of person I want to be, how I can embody love, how I show up and express that. Honouring the gift and potential of my life is my first and most sacred vow. I am married to my Self, first and foremost. And I know Steve feels this about himself too.
- Last word to the late, great Joseph Campbell who was married to dancer and choreographer Jean Erdman for nearly 50 years – “This is the challenge of a marriage. What a beautiful thing is a life together as growing personalities, each helping the other to flower, rather than just moving into the standard archetype. It’s a wonderful moment when people can make the decision to be something quite astonishing and unexpected, rather than cookie-mold products.”
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