Why did you get married? Or if you are not married, why bother? What is the point? (I asked this on facebook recently and got about 200 responses that were all over the place) Does it really matter? These are all very important questions I asked myself when I publicly stated over and over, “I’ll never get married, ever.” If most businesses are set up to maximize profits while serving an ever-greater number of people, what then is the goal of a marriage? We can answer this important question using the business metaphor. Notice how the business example has two components, serving self (profits), and serving other (solving a problem the consumer needs). So, let’s build on that. For most people the goal of marriage is to be happy. While I understand that, it’s an impossible
goal. Why? Because it’s impossible to be happy all of the time, so that goal is narrow, simplistic, idealistic, and yes, unrealistic. Moreover, if I depend on you for my happiness, I’m pretty fucked, because you can never be the sole source of my happiness. Example: When you struggle or suffer, which you inevitably will, what happens to me if my happiness depends on you? That means, when you start struggling, I too will struggle because I have made you the foundation of my okayness. This is the basic form of co-dependency and gets set up between parent and child very early on in childhood. Because most people purchase the “happy fantasy,” they end up very, very frustrated, resentful and angry because their partner isn’t “making them happy.” But, if you read this post, The core philosophy needed to prevent divorce and succeed in marriage, you now understand where that view of marriage gets you. However, there is some wisdom in the co-dependent stance most couples find themselves in. Allow me to explain… In my experience a “successful” marriage, where two people continue to grow, learn, and deepen over time, has one main goal at it’s core: This goal of marriage is actually twofold:
- To grow
- To foster an ongoing secure homebase
Sounds simple right, but what do I mean? People who fail in marriage are most often people who don’t want to grow or change. They perpetually try to “feel good” and never aquire actual tools to get a different result. These people are destined for divorce or stuckness. Stuck people are also fearful people. Fearful people tend to contract. Close your eyes and think of a scared person. What do they look like? What does their body look like? Are they available to life, love, and to expansion and growth? No. They wear a mask and are closed off, shut down, or entrenched in avoidant patterns. You get this way too sometimes. It’s pretty common, and pretty normal. But what about those people that want to grow? What do they look like? In my experience, married people who are open to growth have their head up, they are looking for the next challenge and they are willing to face it, even if it means they have to face a lot of discomfort and conflict. The strongest people are keen on growth because they can adapt, overcome and improvise when things get hard. Ever hear of the highly successful person who came from nothing? It’s in that kind of adversity that awakens your strength. You probably have done this in your business or elsewhere in your life. You had to “dig deep inside yourself” to overcome something or get a better result, yes? At some point you probably had to overcome adversity and rise up to a challenge in which you overcame it, yes? Okay then, same deal here. Smart couples grow in an ongoing way, for as long as they choose to stay together. Not only do smart couples grow, they have “growth” as a core agreement in their marriage. If you are contracted around your spouse, stuck in blame, or can’t get over a current or past “fight” or issue, that typically means you’re stuck and unwilling to grow in a certain area inside of you. Sure, you might point the finger at them with the story, “If only they would _______, my relationship would be better.” But that’s a losing game. Instead, I’m going to ask you to take a smarter approach, but only if you really want to live inside of a fulfilling marriage over time. The smart approach means you are willing to look in the mirror, change, and grow. Do that and I’m certain you’ll get a very different result. Okay, now that you are more open to the concept of “ me grow = better result,” the second half of this main goal of marriage is even more crucial, but it’s more subtle and it comes back to the co-dependent style most people fall prey to during their long-term partnerships… Check this out… The smart couple also learns to cultivate a solid foundation built upon principles, guidelines, agreements, and a deep, deep understanding of one thing: the core connection between them. This word “connection” is key here. Your level of connectedness is EVERYTHING in your partnership. I’m not talking about trying to get the warm fuzzies of the honeymoon back. However, those are nice, right? What you want to return to over and over in your marriage is the chemistry and energy of the space between you. I call this the secure homebase. It’s what kids need from their parents while growing up. The secure homebase is what allows kids to grow and develop in an optimal way, and it’s what allows YOU to grow in an optimal way within the confines of your marriage. When you feel safe with her, or him, you relax, soften, and are available to expand and learn new ways of being. In other words, you feel safe to grow (our first principle discussed above). When you feel safe, you can risk being you, more and more. When you feel safe, you don’t need to keep defending yourself, your view, or your values. Why? Because instead of feeling judged, you feel welcome. Think about it… Have you ever judged yourself for a particular trait you don’t like in yourself, and a close friend just accepts you there in that very same place? It feels really good, right? Example. Let’s say you judge yourself as overweight. It’s pretty common that your spouse will also judge you there, which adds another layer of shame and hurt. So, imagine them accepting your weight instead. You might feel more safe and free to transform that part of you. This runs counter to what most people think, that them accepting you is them giving up on you. Remember, when we feel accepted, we feel inspired from within to grow and change. It is also true for some of us, that when we feel judged, we get motivated to prove someone wrong, to overcome the judgment, and to improve ourselves. But typically, in a marriage where you live with someone day in and day out for years, the former is a much more helpful approach. The other helpful point is to know your contraction (the place of judgment) is pointing you to the area in YOU that needs your attention, the area that needs growth. So, back to the example, you judging your weight creates a contraction which points you to go work on that part of you. You most likely don’t love yourself there, so it’s an opportunity to do something about that part of you until you can love and accept yourself. It’s very straightforward. You following me? Okay good, When we learn to accept each other over time, we create more and more room for the secure homebase. The secure homebase is akin to some kind of attuned flow state between two people. From this fertile connectivity, anything is possible. From the well of your connection, you can do twice as much as individuals. This is why we humans can accomplish more together than we can alone. It’s why it’s amazing to watch a successful sports team in their flow. They run like a well oiled machine and can overcome huge obstacles or perform at a very high level. It is why it “takes a village” to raise a child, but these days more realistically, it takes both parents to raise a child. To raise a child “successfully,” that child needs a secure homebase from one or both parents. You are simply stronger when you collaborate with your spouse, when you are both on the same page (around some key core agreements etc), and when you both feel safe, secure, and relaxed in the marriage or co-parenting arragement. Without the secure homebase, you are like most couples in your neighborhood—putting on a smiling face outside, but tense and uptight on the inside. You slowly agree over time, to “not go there” thus avoiding the very material that could take you deeper. You are fearful of fighting, upsetting them, and conflict in general, so you quietly betray your truth, integrity, and voice somewhere along the way… I notice that when my wife and I have a day or two of disconnection, everything is harder in our home. There’s more tension, more struggle, more angst, and less is possible. We fight more. We disagree about our kids more. We struggle more. I struggle more. She struggles more. And, ironically our kid’s behaviors are more challenging to deal with. It sucks. You’ve noticed this right? It’s normal to disconnect though… In fact, it’s even necessary. No couple can stay in the secure homebase place all the time. Disconnection in marriage is normal and even okay. However, it’s how return to the secure homebase that makes all the difference. In other words, how you talk, how you fight, how you repair, and how you re-connect… When you don’t have this kind of connection as a ground to return to, and you don’t make it THE primary issue to focus on, you will not get what you want. You will unknowingly settle for a mediocre, disconnected marriage and call it “normal” and even justify your partnership as “okay.” You’ll become stagnant roommates with your spouse. You’ll lie to your friends and tell them things are “fine,” when deep down, you know you know there is more… Trust that little voice. It’s important, because there is more…much more. Remember, you are smart, you are capable. And, most of all, you deserve to get what you want relationally. Read that line again. You deserve great love, a great marriage, a great life. So, You’ll need to start with my two-fold goal of marriage.
- Learn about you and start growing.
- Make it a top priority to establish a secure connection, a secure homebase.
And finally…. The fastest way to build the secure homebase? Learn how to fight, argue, & disagree. Because, as you already know, a long-term partnership is a rigorous path and you will come to places that confront you and have you wanting to run away… So, will you learn now, or keep hitting the snooze button on that one and watch your relationship deteriorate over time? Learning how to fight well is what will have you and your partner feeling safer and safer. Trust me. Get this, and your entire life will transform for the better… …it’s only going to help your relationship improve. And, finally, if you are married, or choose to get married, the ongoing question to ask yourself is this: What am I doing or not doing (how am I growing?) to help foster the secure homebase in my marriage? In other words, if I decide that I’m willing to find the “sweet spot” between us in an ongoing way, then I need to grow and learn how, over and over again.