We were married 23 years ago today. I've written about my marriage a couple of times but wanted to go a little deeper today, share more of the story.
Why do I share details of my marriage, pictures of us, or anything related to our relationship? Because I dream of helping other couples find the same. The feeling of being extremely lucky to have each other. The problem is that while we were on vacation recently and were talking about how lucky we were it dawned on me, we aren't lucky at all. We worked really hard for this.
Here is the true story of our marriage, Clift notes version. We were married when I was 22 and he was 35. Truly in love, although when I look back I can see tons of dysfunction in the way the whole thing transpired. Drama was right around the corner. Within a year we were in court fighting for more custody of his boys. We were dealing with signs of infertility. He was prescribed anti-depressants. The whole situation was taking a toll on both of us. I was pretty self absorbed and couldn't understand why things weren't going my way. We survived those days.
We had our first child together. The custody situation resolved, not escaping collateral damage. We were a typical American family.
We had a miscarriage. Our youngest son was born with hearing loss and within a year his hearing was completely gone. My oldest stepson developed a drug problem. My weight climbed, self esteem plummeted. My husband felt the weight of the whole situation on his shoulders yet our marriage was solidly in tact, probably because of the simple fact that I was extremely needy and he was extremely co-dependent. Taking care of everyone is where he thrived, being taken care of was keeping me committed, because the truth is marriage was hard! We were both there, no real thoughts of divorce, but both unsatisfied and realizing that our dreams of marriage were just that, dreams, not reality.
The view from the outside was much different. We always lived in a nice house on a nice street and drove nice cars. I assume the world thought that life was great for us. It was in many ways. Yet we both dreamed of more. Not more possessions, more connection. We talked constantly about wanting change but we never followed through. It just seemed impossible. There was work to be done that we weren't willing to do.
8 years ago the shift began. It was painful, heartbreaking, and heart exposing. My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was 49 years old, I was 36. The implications were devastating to both of us. Research and you will understand. In an attempt to not have permanent damage we decided to try natural methods to eradicate the cancer. Under the supervision of a holistic urologist he began a regimen of eating vegetarian, taking numerous supplements, doing vitamin C IV therapy, exercise. I can't imagine anyone being a better patient. I juiced for him every day, supporting his healing in every way possible.
Two years went by and our marital shift was underway, without us conscious of it. We went to Italy for the first time, which opened our minds a bit. We began to talk and open up with more honesty and transparency than ever before. Our connection was deepening. Then it was time for a repeat biopsy. The results were devastating. Although his PSA was dropping the cancer had doubled in size and increased in aggression. We panicked. Two years could have meant metastizitation. Thankfully, that was not the case.
Without going into the complete story I'll keep it simple. He had a prostectomy and began rehabilitation. This was the greatest gift we had ever been given. He may not agree, he had to go through the pain and frustration. I, however, wouldn't change a thing. The depths of our connection and intimacy has increased more than I think I could ever even want to try to fit into a box of language.
We began to read and learn about marriage. We were more intentional about dating each other. We took classes about romance and marriage. We talked and talked and talked. For the last 5 years we have learned things about each other that we never knew before. We stopped judging each other and decided to recognize that our actions that cause pain to each other are a symptom of a deeper brokenness. Forgiveness has become the most sacred gift we can give and we can choose to give it over and over and over. We have learned from each other what "the no matter what-ness of the Divine" can look like. We fight, though it is not very often, but when we do we don't move into silence, which was my go-to before shifting. We pour it all out. We let each other eventually cool down then talk about the real story. We expose the stories we were telling ourselves. We are truly present with each other. We have decided to always see the FACT that we are on the same team. Competition is NEVER necessary.
Why am I sharing these intimate details with the world? Just as I said before, I dream of helping others find this. It isn't neccessary for you to go through a cancer diagnoses, or any other obvious difficulty to find this kind of intimacy. I believe that deeper connection leads to more and better physical intimacy, and that we never have to "fulfill a duty", we get to experience beautiful physical intimacy as a result of emotional intimacy and vice versa.
We are never too old or too young for change.
So today is our anniversary. We are celebrating our marriage by recognizing that there is no such thing as luck. It is simply the result of investing our time and energy in creating the life we dream of. This blog is my invitation to you to evaluate your marriage. Recognize where you are holding back emotionally. What are you afraid of sharing? All of this work is about our thoughts. What are you telling yourself "but they........" about? Failing to recognize the role your thoughts are having in your outcome.
I have come to realize that the true purpose of marriage, or any relationship, is about growing and evolving to the best version of ourselves. To teach us, sometimes painful, truths about our own humanity. We, sometimes subconsciously, think marriage is supposed to be a smooth, easy thing. That we are supposed to feel undying affection and attraction to this person. That is simply a lie. We feel affection and attraction long term because of the thoughts WE CHOOSE to think. What thoughts do you think about your partner? If they are negative you cannot expect a positive result. I choose to think my husband is the sexiest man on earth. You cannot convince me otherwise because I tell myself that every single time he walks into a room. My brain is completely convinced. My body responds to my brain, it's not the other way around.
I will finish this with a blessing from the love of my life, husband, lover, best friend, and I to you......
May the Creator of the Universe, God, bless your marriage/relationship with truth.
With a fearlessness that allows you to expose yourself completely and the grace to allow the same of your partner.
To strip away the cloaks covering your heart that you think are protecting you. Recognizing that you are not safer for keeping covered, you are missing out on the gift of true intimacy.
May you experience freedom in your relationship that fulfills the deepest desire of your heart, to be completely known, and truly loved.
Nicole (written with the blessing of my hubby, this is some very personal stuff!)
PS: Never have either of us been abusive in any way to each other. I do not recommend staying in an abusive relationship. EVER EVER EVER. Your abusers inability to love you is not your fault, it is theirs and comes from their own brokenness which is not for you to fix!