Reflections on a 30-year-old marriage

When I said the words, ‘I do,’ never could I have imagined what I was vowing in that moment.

We use the word ‘vow,’ like it’s a casual agreement, up for renegotiation at any time – always with a ‘get out of jail free’ card in your back pocket. Peter sensed this about me, by looking at how I did life – changing my mind at a moment of convenience, not really appreciating the significance of an agreement made to last.

Many people these days question the role of marriage in the modern world, highlighting how things change, people change. It’s a great expectation to imagine that you could spend your whole life with one person and not grow in different directions. Some say marriage is a form of oppression, particularly for women. I too have played with these ideas in my mind. I cannot speak to other experiences of marriage or theories of entering a long-term commitment, but I can share my reflections – and if they are useful to you – they are yours.

When I said ‘I do,’

I was agreeing to loving someone even when they weren’t lovable.
I was also agreeing to loving myself when I wasn’t loveable and causing the other person pain.
I was agreeing to looking at my role in any conflict as a way of moving forward.
When I continued to point the finger, nothing changed until I stepped up and took ownership of my part.
I was agreeing to forging the path of forgiveness, cutting new roads on land that had never been trod. Forgiveness of – cutting words, shutting down, hiding, blaming, wishing things were different.
I was agreeing to sharing a load that got bigger by the year, debt, mortgages, running businesses, 1,2,3,4 children, pets, home, details, details and more details.
The load never flattened me, in fact it strengthened me – and together we held it well. I now have strong shoulders.
I was agreeing to stepping into and being responsible for another family, his family – not of my origin and yet of the same importance. Finding my place when the roots of connection were different, and a sense of ‘otherness’ kept me on the fringes. It is good to experience this, as it builds compassion.
I was agreeing to exploring my own sense of aloneness, even in marriage, and surrounded by people. What was this yearning for deeper connection, belonging, a sense of place. That is an inner journey that becomes obvious when you realise that no person can fill that void. It is not their job, it is yours.

I was agreeing to come face to face with my inner rage – a pathway to boundaries and knowing what is up for compromise and what isn’t. It came with some serious door slamming!
I was agreeing to accepting the expression of manhood in all its shades, expressed by my husband. I learnt to see the beauty and intelligence of these two ways of being – masculine/ feminine, manhood/ womanhood, especially when raising our sons.
I was agreeing to the letting go of feelings, vendettas, justifiable anger – the more I held on, the worse I felt and the more I became the person I was judging harshly. I learnt to recognize that whatever I was judging, I too had done that. Mmmm humbling moment!
I was agreeing to the revelation of vulnerability as the pathway to true intimacy. To long conversations unveiling our true intentions, our feelings, our fuck ups, our struggles. It always left us feeling more love, not less, when we have a safe place to struggle together.
I was agreeing to a true commitment, even through times when I would want to get off the bus. To push through and see what was on the other side. Fortunately, love got bigger, deeper, more honest, more of the unconditional variety. Never knew that was on the menu!

The result?

We have been in the trenches together for a long time. This builds true intimacy and the cultivation of fierce love.
We lock eyes across a table, a small smirk on our face, as we read each other’s minds – and reflect to each other our eccentricities, foibles, a secret language. I feel seen and heard, and truly known – what more could a person want.
I said to my husband, we are halfway through our marriage, I will reconsider again after the next 30 years whether I want to stay married. For now, it is definitely ‘I do.’

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