Although I don’t remember the exact day that I pulled the one foot that I had out the door back into my marriage, Today, celebrating 24 years of marriage, I can’t remember the last time that it occurred to me that I would ever leave. It seems like I should remember when that change took place as it so profoundly changed the very fabric of what we were doing together, but like most things in life that are daily, we don’t see them as they are happening. They are clear as we look back.
We never had a fairy tale marriage, and in fact anyone who claims to have one is probably either not really present or honest. Our love for each other was uneven and the common issues of attraction and initiation- who wanted who, first and more, plagued our ability to connect for years. The classic, “I am not in the mood” or “I am tired” responses create a cycle of defensive and offensive reactions that is almost like a pre-patterned dance. It’s a scenario that many couples just don’t have enough language to find their way out of.
In hindsight, I know now that there is no winning side to that argument, but whichever side is your familiar view can color your lens so completely that the other side seems like a holiday. The shame of rejection is really no better than the guilt of turning away. The pain is equal. I have read that the rejecting partner is the more powerful of the two, but having been on both sides, I don’t think its true- both sides make you unable to connect and leave you feeling equally powerless in having the relationship that you really want.
Two things transpired in my marriage to lift this issue and allow us to experience sexual desire without the burden of fear and unmet longing. The first one was choosing my relationship without reservation. Being in my marriage with both feet in the door,
I had a lot more balance and flexibility that gave me more room and ease in dealing with the issues that kept me distant and disconnected. When I gave myself permission to truly stay, to not be looking for the reasons to leave, it changed my relationship to both the issues and my husband.
True forgiveness is when you have no memory of how it was before. The past loses its grip on your memory and suddenly there is room for a new way of relating. It’s an odd phenomenon because it isn’t an experience that you can will to happen, it is something that happens to you, seemingly without you- when you have an open heart and a true intent to find what there is to stay for. Choosing to stay in a relationship is tied to the belief in the power of forgiveness to change life completely. It is the singular pathway we have at our disposal to make things new between people. Having an excellent memory and needing to be right are not helpful in developing this quality in your life.
The other important agreement we made was to stop saying anything mean or disrespectful to each other. Couples often have subtle sarcasm, jokes that aren’t really jokes that pepper a conversation and slowly but surely eat away at the positive feelings between them. Taking note of how often we might say things to our partner that we would never utter to a friend or even a stranger might surprise you. Becoming conscious of the words we use in our daily relating is the door to making a partnership safe. With practice, the hurtful ways we communicated were planted over by the two of us actively trying to stay. Over time, even the negative unspoken thoughts we were trying not to say were replaced with small kindnesses. Connection happens by itself when we feel safe.
Then seemingly suddenly, we began exploring our intimate life with a whole new curiosity and openness. Our sex life became the glue to hold the rest of the more challenging places together. The safer I felt in the relationship, the more risks I could take in the bedroom. The more our physical love flourished, the more that our relationship thrived. There are still times when one of us, might not feel in the mood when the other does, but now it doesn’t mean anything more than what it is, bad timing.
Although it took us years to get here, sharing the kind of deep intimacy which is the reward for all the communication work that you put into years together is an extraordinary blessing. There is nothing like the “take your breath away” power of loving someone who loves you back, with their eyes wide open. There is no place in life that is more satisfying, healing and trans formative.