When you start to understand the inside-out nature of our experience of life, relationships get a whole lot easier.
You start to see that you’re creating your own experience with your thinking and that your thinking changes as often and as capriciously as the weather. You become skeptical of your own thoughts, about yourself, about others, about your partner.
It becomes second nature to disregard those insecure and judgmental thoughts that spring up unbidden when you’re tired when you haven’t made time for those long runs you love, or when they just do for no reason at all.
They no longer mean much of anything. They’re just transient, ever-changing, and usually profoundly unhelpful.
The real magic unfolds when you look away from thought altogether and find out that the stuff that’s actually real, the stuff you can count on, comes from a different part of you entirely. It comes from a deeper part of you that’s always there when your mind quiets when you drop into the present and leave all that insecure thinking alone. That deeper part of you offers up the opposite of an insecure feeling. Unfailingly, it offers up compassion, understanding, warmth, connection, a surprising feeling of being “OK” no matter what.
You start living and connecting from that place instead of from the transient and unreliable thinking that once looked so real. You surprise yourself with a new capacity for forgiveness, for taking the high road, for seeing the innocence in others even when their actions are atrocious.
Marriage is a whole lot easier from that vantage point.
Most problems melt away, most conflicts resolve with grace and kindness, and the occasional sticky moments come and go with no residue. Once they pass, they truly pass. There’s no holding on to that thing s/he said that you once would have thought means something and points to some deep underlying issue that needs resolving.
You tap into a lightness you never thought possible, an ease in marriage that belies the old adages about marriage being such hard work. You and your partner feel like you’re on the same team, team “us” rather than on two opposing teams protecting territory, setting boundaries, and fighting for space and for “wins.” That’s all in the rearview-mirror and a time comes when you can barely remember what that felt like or how you managed to conjure it up from thin air, from nothing but insecure thinking.
Maybe you’ve already traveled this road, and as you read this you’re tapping into that “oh thank god” feeling that you too discovered the inside-out nature of life just in time to avoid making a giant mess of your marriage. Or maybe this is all news to you and you’re having a moment of disbelief, skepticism or (hopefully) curiosity.
Either way, buckle your seatbelt because there is more.
There’s a magic ingredient, fairy dust if you will, that makes for a marriage that knocks your socks off, takes your breath away, and takes you right back to the early days of being madly in love.
This is not hyperbole. I really mean it. So here goes…
When the understanding sinks in that our thinking comes and goes, that there’s nothing real or true about it, then we inevitably start looking more and more to that deeper part of ourselves that is real, that we can count on in ourselves and in others. And when we get in the habit of looking for it, rather than being so mesmerized by our thinking, it surprises the hell out of us. It surprises us with what we’re really capable of, what we’re really made of.
We discover that we’re unfailingly capable of love and forgiveness, of unbounded joy and delight, of peace and wellbeing in the midst of the greatest hardship. And we discover an extraordinary capacity for creativity and insight.
It’s this last part that holds the best-kept relationship secret on this planet.
If we’re capable of infinite creativity and insight, it inevitably means that we’re always capable of change and growth, capable of new insight that changes how we see the world, and therefore how we live our lives and how we connect with others.
This is true until we take our very last breath.
Which means that we aren’t a fixed self, stuck in our ways, getting more and more rigid and entrenched as we get older. On the contrary, it’s absolutely an option that as we get older, we see more and more, become increasingly free of our limitations, tap into more and more creativity. It’s an option to become less of our “little self,” defined by limitation and insecurity, and more of our “big self,” defined by possibility and creativity.
And if this is true for us, then it’s true for our partner.
And that’s the secret: letting go of your certainty of who your partner is and what limitations define them. Let go of who you think they are and even of who they think they are. Look instead to what they’re actually capable of and how they might still grow and change, in ways that might surprise and delight you.
Here’s another way to say this: you can choose to be married to your spouse’s “little self,” or you can choose to be married to his or her “big self.” The first choice is known, seemingly familiar, and safe. It might feel “safe” to cling to certainty that you know exactly who your partner is and what he/she is capable of. But safe and familiar can also be lackluster, uninspiring, even dull and boring over time. It’s a lot like putting your partner in a prison of your own making and then wondering why he/she isn’t more free, why your relationship doesn’t feel very exciting. It’s a recipe for disappointment and dissatisfaction.
The second choice is an unknown, which can be misinterpreted as scary. It’s anything but. It’s the choice to be less certain and more curious. It’s the choice to take a wrecking ball to those prison walls and wondering who might emerge from the cell. No one can tell you ahead of time who it might be and how it’ll all turn out. It’s a risk you have to take, knowing it’s by definition an uncertainty, but an oh-so-delicious uncertainty. And it’s a recipe for the opposite of disappointment and dissatisfaction.
It will point you to a marriage that remains interesting, surprising, exciting, enduring, and wonder-full beyond words.
And who on earth wouldn’t want a marriage like that?