Written by Terri Crosby for In Care of Relationships
Marriage is popular, but it’s not easy.
In a recent video blog called “Why Most Marriages Fail” (1 min 30 secs) I talk about how losing ourselves in a relationship makes it go downhill.
If you’re looking for a little hope with an extra dip of practical information, check out “Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers)“ by Daniel Jones.
He is the long-time author of the NY Times “Modern Love” column.
In chapter 6 of his book, he gives practical tips for maintaining healthy individuality in marriage.
Thousands of people have written to him over the years about every possible aspect of love, one of them being the downside of living in the same house with the same person forever! For some, this long-term commitment can feel smothering. Others might describe the trouble with marriage as, “Somewhere along the way, I simply lost myself.”
And goodness! “Losing yourself” has so many variations.
You love freedom, but over the years, you feel like you’ve lost it. You love exploring the local countryside on weekends, or taking day trips or spontaneous Saturday morning excursions, and you stopped doing that. Maybe you used to hang-glide, take photographs of nature, or sing. But with the responsibility of children and schedules, you got talked out of it.
There are solutions to feeling like your individual flavors have melted into blobs of too much togetherness, where nobody’s really getting what they truly want. You know – those times when you go along with your partner, even when you don’t really want to. You go just because it’s expected or because you think they want you there — to keep the peace or to keep up appearances.
A friend of mine just came back from a very good vacation. He got a little divorced from his mother. Before he went on vacation to visit his parents and family, he warned his mother that he was not going to go anywhere he didn’t want to go — no obligatory visits to this person or that event — which thoroughly upset his mother. She was mad! But he said, “Mom, you really want to get over this, because you really want to see your grand daughter, right? So this is how it’s going to be. I want a real and relaxing vacation.”
ACT A LITTLE DIVORCED
In LOVE ILLUMINATED, Daniel Jones gives the example of a couple (both were children of divorce) who were especially determined to make their own marriage last. Even though they both did their best to be caring partners, they found themselves struggling in their marriage. They had also defaulted to traditional marriage roles as husband and wife, which did not sit well with the wife.
So, as they watched friends get divorced one by one, rather than getting divorced themselves, they decided to try (as Daniel puts it) “cherry-picking the benefits of divorce without actually getting divorced.”
This couple began with the idea that one ought to be as able and independent within the marriage as outside it.
So they decided to trade off leaving each other in charge of the house and children, meaning they handed off responsibilities to each other as if it was part of a custody agreement.
Then, as the non-custodial parent, they had ACTUAL free time to get out and do things — go on weekend trips, see friends, pursue a creative interest or whatever floated their boat. And when they came back to the nest, they felt refreshed, energized, and intellectually stimulated, and ready for another go at home life. It worked for them.
Interesting idea, huh? Such a creative way for remembering who you are!
On other sides of the question, what can’t you do because you’re single? Or because you’re working? Or because of money? Or because you have children or you’re a single parent?
Life will provide plenty of reasons not to do many of the things you want to do. So, make it a practice to become more conscious and intentional about consistently doing what makes your life richer and fuller, whether it’s with your partner or on your own.
There’s always a way to figure out how to do more of what we really enjoy!
Make a new choice this week in favor of you! Do something you thought you couldn’t because of your circumstances.
Act a little divorced!
I’d love to hear about it.