Marriage…it’s just different
Recently, a friend asked me if there was a big difference between simply living together and being married. I thought for a moment, but I knew the answer immediately. I think it depends on age, maturity, psychological development, etc. but the simple answer is YES. Though it’s not as easy to explain.
If a couple that has been living together for a while decides to make a formal commitment, at first the shift can seem minuscule. Wearing a ring, or having a certificate, or displaying some other sign of union doesn’t change much, right? You’d be surprised.
Let’s think about what marriage or any kind of formal union entails. In the most mundane sense, a couple is agreeing to share space, expenses, possessions, and time with each other. On a (hopefully) meta-physical level, they are vowing to love one another completely; to be there at the best of times and to stand their ground at the worst; to sacrifice part of their egoistic self for the betterment of the relationship; to merge in a beautiful and harmonious union. Of course it doesn’t always work that way for many reasons. The point is that when they say the words, sign the contract, and look into each other’s eyes to make that promise, things change.
Why things change
I submit that in many marriages that fail within the first two years, there is a fundamental lack of awareness in one or both people regarding this change. When you say, “I do” or “I will” or “I promise,” the two parties are no longer just roommates, best friends, lovers; they are one. Think about that. In a healthy union, there is an understanding that while both people are still individuals, they are simultaneously one entity. When the vows are made, there is an intrinsic subconscious awareness of this fact.
If one or both members of the relationship are lacking in presence, then understandably, there will be inner-resistance. It is resistance to the feeling that one is giving something up. It is this resistance that becomes very dangerous if left unattended. Realize that it is perfectly natural to experience these feelings. What’s important is acknowledgement and acceptance of their presence.
For example, in a worst-case scenario take two people who have been living together for two years. They are well acquainted with each other’s quirks, pet-peeves, habits, routine and general desires. They fight occasionally, sometimes explosively, but always move past it. They know how to manage each other. They understand the path of least resistance. And they are good roommates. In everyone’s eyes including their own, they are a happy couple.
So they decide to get married. At first things seem very similar. They continue their habitual patterns. All of a sudden a few months down the line, they start fighting a little more frequently. In a few more months, their fights are very frequent and explosive. A while longer, and they are seriously considering separation.
What went wrong?
It’s impossible to say exactly. There are an enormous amount of variables that come into play, but at the core of the schism, there is a lack of real understanding and presence; a lack of true union. These people wanted to continue with all of their egoic, unconscious routines without acknowledging the impact of the promises they made to one another.
Marriage is not about finding the path of least resistance or ‘managing’ one another. That may work when the commitment is still informal, but when you bind yourself for life, it begins to feel very threatening. As if you are giving up a large part of yourself and your desires to manage this other person. This behavior indicates a true dearth of presence and a tendency toward blaming the other person.
It’s about you
Being in a relationship is first about attending to oneself. When you make the vow “to be here through thick and thin,” it’s about you! You are promising that you will be present. If you read the first part in this article series, then you will recall the pie metaphor. If one is lacking in presence and has issues that have not been attended to, then those issues crop up in the form of unconscious behavior: anger, sadness, neglect or even abuse toward one’s partner.
On the other hand, if one can learn to acknowledge one’s own psychological intricacies by embracing the eternal present, he/she will begin to see the relationship in a true light. They will realize what needs work, and more than likely both parties will come to an understanding on what they really want for their relationship. It may not be marriage. But if it is, they are on a much clearer and honest path.
In the last part of this article series, I will talk about my personal experience with marriage and how it applies to the necessity of being a wholesome half.
By Terence Stone
Read Part 1…
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.