I recently read an article on marriage that asked spouses to dismiss the idea of equality in partnership. Its author called for couples to stop tallying points, stop having power struggles and just love and honor their significant other as selflessly as possible.
Well, the majority of the many comments posted about the article were surprisingly hostile—most people didn’t agree, to say the least, with the author. They felt his advice was not practical and some women readers took it as chauvinist. But I took a lot of good from its words.
Now... first, let me say, as an ex-wife, my respect for an article that preaches selflessness in marriage didn't blind me to understanding the commenters points of view. I can see how spouses, who are feeling a lot like I did in my marriage (resentful, angry, lonely, unseen, unheard and underappreciated), wouldn’t find too much to latch onto in an article that asks couples to “surrender to love”, urging them to happily pick up the slack where their partner has gone lax. That probably feels very frustrating-- it can make someone feel that their loneliness (which is a horrible experience on its own), is shameful and wrong to have. However, I saw a clear and beautiful message in that article, one about the real definition of love as a verb.
What if we, as a society, could see marriage like a third entity, like a child two spouses were raising together? Would we still be stuck in power struggles? Do we, as parents, say, "I'm going to support and nurture this baby when and only as much as my partner. And if he/she does less than me to help with this kid, I'm going to abandon this baby"? Most mothers and fathers would never dream of saying that.
What if a husband and wife could love and honor their marriage as if it were their child? EVEN when his or her spouse is not holding up their end or is trying to have the power? What if we could see the union as separate from the person and trust that our spouse is as dedicated as we are to that union, but as an imperfect human, can make mistakes. This concept always helps me in my relationship-- it makes me feel more loving and caring and forgiving and trusting to speak my feelings and needs. It also makes me feel empowered, because it makes me feel responsible to the relationship and what it needs of me.
Now... Do some mothers/fathers feel like they do more than their spouse does to help raise the children? Of course. Are they entitled to be upset? Yes. And same goes for a marriage-- we are all entitled to our negative feelings surrounding a lazy or controlling partner! But what if you could communicate about those feelings in a way that STILL supports the relationship and the respect and love you have for it? What if we could share in proactive, loving, patient and understanding talks instead of bicker, act out or sulk?
What if "our best interest is in the children" was true for the BOND between husband and wife?
Surrendering (which was part of the message presented in the article I read) is a beautiful concept in spirituality, and when you love in the truest form, you surrender. To surrender is to TRUST and to selflessly love. Everyone wants to love their spouse and show that love, but most of us are afraid that we'll feel slighted or resentful if we make efforts that go unappreciated. Surrendering is the holy "letting go" of the attached negative feelings -- the dropping of the bitterness and hurt that comes with being result-oriented. I call selfless acts the product of ‘love-based giving’, and this form of giving is the ULTIMATE act of love. The more I do it in my relationship, the more love I feel, over time, for my partner. However, sometimes, it's hard. Sometimes, I need to be appreciated! I ain't the Dalai Lama, for Christ's sake.
So, as wonderful and healing to the heart as love-based giving can be, surrender is not always a realistic choice. As humans, we can't help but feel upset about a one-sided relationship... or a one-sided parenting team, for that matter. But if we can learn to honor and respect the connection we have with our partner (a worshipping of the space between, if you will), we might be able to stop yelling, blaming, arguing and victimizing ourselves (I did all these in my marriage) and start working together to 'raise the child' (develop and strengthen the blessed union). After all, a marriage is bigger and more sacred than the sum of its two human parts. It is like the blessed child-- the holy product of imperfection. It is a true miracle-- a divine bond born of two flawed creatures (which we all are). For these reasons, it deserves our humanly best.
How beautiful is that idea-- a commited partnership being more than me and having needs of its own? I'd say it's profound, and more importantly, it makes me want to call my man and tell him that I'll do my best to dutifully honor and serve the love between us.