Like so many around me, I tend to take a reactive, if not reflective approach to life. My whole life is basically a series of reactions to situations that might arise in my life at the time.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, you can’t do anything about what has already happened and you certainly can’t be clairvoyant and react to something that hasn’t happened, but I find myself constantly on the back foot. Constantly playing catch up. Constantly being left behind. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing.
If I’m honest, really honest, there are many things in my life right now that are not the way they should be. My marriage is not as strong as it should be. Many of my “friendships” are more like acquaintances. Many of the things I should be doing here and there have well and truly fallen in to disrepair.
I often find myself reflecting on something long after it has happened. Some times it’s just a matter of days, but more often than not it’s a weeks, if not months later. Time and time and time again, I can see what I could have or should have done and feel regret, , disappointment, or even remorse, having not made the right decision, or in same cases, knowing the decision being made was the wrong one and following it through anyway.
There are fewer moments in your life that bring greater clarity than true tragedies. A death in the family. The loss of a job, or house. A knock to your marriage, or significant relationship. The sad truth, however, is all too often, we miss the lessons to be learned in these moments of clarity. I’m desperately trying not to miss the lessons in front of me right now.
Right now, my family, my marriage, faces one of these moments.
I remember before we got married, we were asked to do some pre-marriage counselling. It was only one or two sessions and in my grand wisdom that only comes from my many years of life, I figured there would be little value to them because I would have the perfect marriage. I was 27 at the time. Like so many times before, I should have shut my mouth, put aside my pride and really paid attention to what I was being told because it would be of some use in the future.
One the biggest things we were told in those sessions was this: Do not look outside of your marriage to meet a need that should be met within it. If you ignore anything else in this post, this should be the single most important take away.
One of the keys to a successful relationship, of any kind, business, friendship, romantic, is open communication. If we were to examine our closest relationships, we would recognize that our closest friends are the ones we can unload everything on and that continue to stand with us, fight for us and most importantly, love us in spite of our failures and shortcomings.
That being said, most relationships have a utilitarian component to them as well. Many friendships are forged because one or more members of that relationship have a need to be met and they find it being met by the other. For most of my life, this has been my approach to relationships. All relationships.
Many, not all, but many of my relationships are extremely one dimensional. That doesn’t mean I don’t value the friendship at all, or the person with whom I have said friendship. What it means, is the friendship serves a very specific purpose and only makes sense within a specific context. Outside of that context, things get kind of weird. For me at least.
What this does, is allows me to have all my needs met, by different people at different times. Once the need is no longer being met, or is no longer a need, the friendship naturally folds, or evolves to something different.
This model, though very unintentional in it’s development, has proven very effective for me over the years.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in a marriage context. At all.
Just to be clear, I have never cheated on my wife. Nor do I intend to. It’s not in me to cheat. The thought has never crossed my mind.
I’ve said it many times over, I love my wife very much. I don’t want to imagine a life without her in it. She has given me two beautiful daughters. For that alone, I owe her everything. And yet, I continue to withhold from her the one thing she deserves most from me. Me.
While the utilitarian approach to friendship had been very successful for me throughout my young, single, unmarried life, it could single-handedly be the undoing of my marriage.
I might not have cheated on my wife, but I have robbed of the one thing she deserved most and that’s my full attention. My full respect. All of me. I’m not suggesting that our marriage should be a closed loop. That is just as destructive. But we should be dependent on each other for all the important relational needs. I can say unequivocally, that is not the case right now and that is largely my own fault.
I say that sincerely. Not some fake, noble gesture. Trying to paint myself as the devil in disguise. My wife has all but thrown herself at my feet, begging me to love her and give her the attention she needs and quite frankly deserves from me and somehow I’ve managed to just ignore all of that.
Today, I put a stake in the ground. Today is the day for change. Today I begin to actually fight for my marriage. Apathy is the path to destruction.
Today, restate my vows, spoken six and a half years ago in Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton, New Zealand:
I promise to love you, honor you and protect you for the rest of my life. You are the missing piece to my puzzle. Without you, I am incomplete.
I offer you this ring as a token of my love and a symbol of our commitment to each other – Forever and unending.