I’ve been listening to an excellent audiobook about marriage this week. It’s called Committed and is written by Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love.
Having been married for coming up to two years, it has been interesting to hear Liz’s sceptical views about marriage and see some of the worries I had leading up to the big day reflected in her thoughts.
You see, dear one, I was really excited to commit to my husband and declare our intention to remain faithful to each other, but I was acutely aware of the tension between committing forever when I had no ability to see what was going to come the next day, let alone the next week/month/year/decade.
Something else was playing on my mind too. In the lead-up to the big day, I had become a tad obsessed with wedding shows such as say yes to the dress and don’t tell the bride. If it had weddings in it, chances are I was watching it. And I became anxious about how these women in the programmes expressed their feelings for their husbands-to-be; describing them more often than not as their soul mates. Don’t get me wrong, I dearly love my husband – he makes me laugh, has endless patience with me, is so kind. But I didn’t, and haven’t ever in our relationship, feel that he was my soul mate. And I started to question whether there was something wrong with me, with him or with us.
This anxiety was never enough to doubt the commitment we were making to each other. But it did play on my mind so much that I brought it up with Gregg.
And with nearing 2 years of marriage under my belt and a bit of perspective from spending less of my life watching wedding reality TV shows, here are some of my thoughts:
In terms of saying “yes” forever, it was Gregg who calmed me (as he always does) by stating that if we didn’t work out, we’d get a divorce. And that we’d be ok. It might sound strange to have my husband-to-be consoling me by talking about divorce even before we made our vows, but it showed me that he was willing to explore everything I needed to explore and to put my needs above his, even if it meant discussing difficult things like divorce. And it put the wedding vows into perspective of being intentions, aspirations, hope for our future together as much as they were promises.
And two years on, I can see the beauty of this commitment. That when things are hard, we’ve promised to move through them together. That when he does things I’m not happy with, he knows I’m not going to walk away. That when I’m a hot mess, I know he’ll stand by me. And I think these promises give us energy to make us work – to keep spending quality time together, keep on falling in love with each other, keep growing and developing together.
The commitment and promises bring a stability to us.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a marriage is always needed to bring this stability, but I think that’s what the promises we’ve made bring us.
Now, onto the problematic pickle of the soul mate declarations that I couldn’t make about Gregg and that he couldn’t probably make about me.
Now that I’m not as wrapped up in these programmes as much, I don’t care what these other women say or feel about their spouses. Whether they are soul mates or not has no bearing on my relationship.
I still don’t think that Gregg and I are soul mates. But I’m ok about that. We’re not soul mates because we’re so different. As much as we love time together, we need time apart. We need our own friends and hobbies of our own too.
And now I’m more comforted in knowing that our relationship is one based on honesty and truth, seeing each other with all our flaws and accepting each other as we are instead of expecting each other to be something we’re not. I think it places less stress on our relationship in not putting the label of soul mate on each other.
As a society, we have a tendency of expecting that our spouses will be our all – best friend, confidante, missing puzzle piece, completer. When in reality we’re just people who can never be someone’s all. And, as Liz explores in her book, people entering marriages in the past were never subject to this level of pressure or expectation. So why do we have this expectation?
So I’m not going to put any more pressure on my marriage and just enjoy it for what it is – two imperfect people who love each other and who are committed to trying to make the relationship be the best it can be.