To spend the rest of our lives
With each other
The rest of our days
Like two lovers
Forever yeah, forever…
But how does this happen? How does a relationship evolve into a marriage that withstands the tests of time and seems, to anyone observing it, to have been destiny?
I’m certain of only one thing; that there’s not an easy answer.
Recently it was suggested to me that I write about this though, and specifically because it came from someone very dear to me I am going to give it a try. I’ve given it much thought over the years. I’ve asked other people, too.
We’ve come up with all kinds of keys to making a relationship or marriage work. There are tons of clichés, and even though the joke is, “clichés…avoid them like the plague”, people tend to respond to them.
But for now, I have to tell you that I keep coming back to a little book that I picked up years ago called The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. I didn’t always see that these were important to my own marriage, but I’ve come to realize that they may epitomize it to the core.
(He later published another gem called The Fifth Agreement which can be added to the first four – Be Skeptical, But Learn to Listen.)
Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time.
– don Miguel Ruiz
Life changes as we follow the curves in the road along the way.
When I was younger and I felt like I’d been hurt by someone, I took it to heart and it became a wound.
As I got much older I began, or I try, to consider why someone might have done whatever it was. Not literally needing to know, but just being aware that there was almost certainly a reason. Possibly they were hurting. Maybe something was going particularly badly in their lives?
But this took many years to begin to do…
And, of course this is easier to do if they aren’t close to you. The closer they are, the trickier this becomes. It’s all about not taking everything personally and not making assumptions. Agreements two and three are vitally important as core tenets.
However, I believe that doing this is essential to relationships. It’s also something we must do with ourselves; question our motives when we lash out at our loved ones. If you can put that into practice so that even some of the time you immediately question yourself and own up to what you’ve realized, you can go a long way to strengthening your bond, as opposed to weakening it.
If you mess up and speak carelessly you almost always have the chance to change that, and re-speak what you actually meant. But be aware, some things you cannot take back, some things cannot be unheard as much as we’d like to rewind and do-over…so Agreements one and four are also crucial.
My husband has seen it all from me. He’s seen me at my best, witnessed me at my worst, and everything in between. And the same goes for me with him. Rarely though in twenty plus years have we used that against each other. But we’re human and it’s happened, just not very often.
We apologize to each other. A lot. Whenever we finally figure out that we owe the other an apology, we try to do it, and sometimes it takes us far too long to get there. But even when it’s hard to muster the words. Often when we reeeaaallllly don’t want to do it. That’s probably when we need to do it the most.
And it is imperative that it’s done with sincerity. Otherwise it’s just empty words. From what I’ve discovered, empty words just lead to hurt feelings, or worse; ambivalence. Not much is worse to a relationship than that; it basically means you’ve stopped caring, or given up. Maybe you’ve become disconnected, and aren’t willing or able to reconnect. Maybe you don’t know how.
At the end of the day, it may be how you answer these questions with complete honesty, that you get the answers you need to know if you’re destined to be together, or not:
Can you imagine yourself with anyone else? Can you imagine your spouse with someone else?
Practice, practice, practice…just like your mom used to repeat again and again back in junior high, when you were in the band, playing the flute. Well maybe that was me, but it has been said by almost everyone about something and being in love is no different.
You can know ALL there is to know from books and elsewhere; about happiness, relationships, people, love, but if you never put any of the knowledge you’ve gleaned to practice, how can you really know what works? Marriage is trial and error…
…to a point. I personally believe that no matter what, some relationships simply were not meant to work out. I don’t think it is a failure on anyone’s part necessarily, unless you’ve actually broken your commitment and or vows. When this happens I personally would consider it a bigger mistake to stay in one that just doesn’t work.
Kudos to those brave souls, who move on with their lives, together or separately, in search of happiness.
Broken can sometimes be fixed, so if giving it a try to repair a relationship is worth it to you, there’s hope. Again, that’s to a point.
One thing that’s come up again and again, at least for us and others I’ve spoken to, is that being playful together is essential to marriage. When you can laugh together, tell each other jokes and enjoy moments when you both can let your guards down and be yourselves…that’s when you can truly connect.
Some of my most beloved memories are the silly moments; times when one of us said something so corny it literally had us laughing until tears ran down our faces. Also of times at play, splashing water at each other while on vacation at the beach, laughing as we made contact, again being unguarded.
Knowing when this kind of connecting is working is huge. One of the problems some people continuously seem to have is not being on the same page, so to speak. Maybe they’re out of sync with each other. One wants to play when the other clearly does not.
This happens to everyone at times, and it is very normally. But it’s like other obstacles in a relationship; you must be able to find a way to overcome it. If it happens almost all the time for months, or even years on end, I’d advise you to seek professional help for a chance at a future of happiness together.
And not to be glib, but it’s like old Kenny Rogers said in The Gambler:
“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done
Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep”
So, to sum up the Four Agreements:
When we do these with our partner, when we follow through and treat each other in these ways we are giving our relationship and each other respect. The respect that love deserves in order to be our destiny.
But then again, what do I know? 😉 I’m just trying, day by day, like everyone else. And this is not an advice column per se.
***Yes, don Miguel Ruiz has been on Oprah and you may find the idea of Toltec Wisdom hokey schlock, but maybe this article from Psychology Today that expounds the Four Agreements would resonate better for you.
— Raina K Morton November 18 2014
*Title from the obscure song Bijou by Queen