Awake + Aware

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“WHY ARE WE MARRIED? WHY DO WE SPEND THE HOURS WE SPEND DOING THE THINGS WE DO? WHY ARE WE AFRAID TO LOVE WITH ABANDON?”

We sat in her car with the filtered streetlight pouring in. It was a moment that I didn’t expect when she said she loved me. I’d read about love and experienced glimpses of love but I’d packed away love into a container labelled “To sort through later” in the back of my mental wardrobe. I wasn’t afraid of commitment, I was afraid of dropping something so precious. That may explain why my answer of “I’ve got feelings for you too” was a stretch for me but was as confusing as hell for her.

The confusion lifted as we explored our friendship, skipped through our engagement, walked the short aisle and drove our old car towards the marriage we hoped for. Looking back at the year-long whirlwind of our relationship, I see a few things that were anchors in the turmoil of two oceans meeting: time, fascination, an interesting perspective on dreams and goals and the purifying nature of pain.

For some glorious reason, I have a wife that loves spending time together. For her, it’s the fuel she needs to help move our relationship forward. She talks to know herself more and asks questions to work out whether we’re heading in the same direction. To get time together has always been a battle but we’ve settled on a few faithful settings that work for us: walking our dog on the beach, lunch in a gorgeous local cafe, connecting in the peaceful rhythms of nature. It’s all about finding the harmony, kindness and consideration amongst the boisterous demands of life. Where do you unwind together, feel listened to, breathe deeply, catch each other’s eyes?

Your marriage will love you if you each reset to your life-giving relationship rhythms consistently and frequently.

One of my hopes in marriage was to have an interesting wife. I didn’t want to become bored or complacent. I know, it’s subjective and selfish but I wanted someone who fascinated me and kept me wanting to know more. After twenty years of marriage, I’ve come to see that it takes someone being interested for someone else to be interesting. Every soul is encased in magic, all human beings have bright glories to share with the world, should we have eyes to see. I want to know this glorious human who loves me at my worst. I want to know how she ticks, why she loves kale, what her wise words were to a grieving friend (so I can learn) and where she’s focusing her strength for the week ahead. She’s a unique combination of everything I love with everything that stretches me and a touch of everything that makes my soul smile. Likewise, she desires to know me. She reaches beyond the surface to the deepest parts of me. She asks meaningful questions, she offers strength when I am weary and hope when I am disheartened. What holds your attention about your partner? Are there areas where you can shift the focus of your fascination to better shine on areas that encourage them? Feed your wonder.

Goals and dreams. You had them when you were pottytraining and you have them in marriage. While you will have personal dreams and goals, it is also key to have shared hopes and purposes. My wife and I dreamed up our children before they ever took a breath. At present we dream of a future tiny house on some rambling land. A place where work and play merge and we create alongside each other. We share an appetite for simplicity. We’ve also had dreams and goals individually and together that have come to a dead end. Not all dreams come true. There’s suffering and sacrifice that is tangled up in the romance of true love. There are seasons where one person in the partnership has the opportunity to lay down their own ambitions in order to support the other.

Marriage is humbling in that sense. It is a constant call to generosity, to forgiveness, to grace … to abandon oneself to love.

We enter into a beautiful dance, we give and and we take. We resist and we flow. We empty ourselves to fill the other and open our hearts so that they can do the same for us. I lean into my curiosity and fascination to find out what is the underlying motivation behind why my wife does what she does, says what she says, thinks what she thinks, believes what she believes. I don’t presume to know her, rather I long to know her. Stay curious.

The purifying nature of pain. They don’t really mention this at the marriage ceremony … well apart from your drunk uncle who tells you that you’re making the worst decision of your life and slurs something about throwing away a key. As humans, we’ve learnt some amazing ways to mask pain
and appear “normal”. It’s only in the turbulent traumas or extended pressures of life that the hurts of the past rise to the surface … and they come up like the teenager woken too early. If we’re feeling secure in our relationship, they’re raw, unfiltered and entirely at the wrong time. If we’re insecure in our relationship, they come up as daily nitpicking, sarcasm and living at a safe distance.

One of the greatest gifts we have to offer one another in the marriage relationship is our vulnerability. Our truth. It is entirely possible to spend a lifetime with another soul without ever truly revealing your own heart. People do it all the time, their fear of being seen and known, down to the darkest depths is entirely too much for some to face. My experience though, in the love affair I am having with my wife is that vulnerability leads to depth of friendship and opens doors for compassion and trust that may well have remained closed. When was the last time your pains from the past surfaced? Are you the type of person who would prefer to deal with your past yourself and then bring your “perfect” edited self to your partner? Be brave, be true.

The hard part with trying to edit yourself or add another filter is that we’re hiding our humanity. The imperfections that show our partner and the world that we’re gloriously human, frail and don’t live from an unending well of enthusiasm and giddy luck.

Ironically, it’s the bumps and scruffs that make you more unique, more you and more aspirational. It is in the struggle that we become the overcomer. It’s in the battle that we claim the title of victor. Without adversity there is no growth. Without challenge there is no resilience built. Brene Brown calls it wholehearted and daring greatly. What can you risk to live more wholehearted and unfiltered? How can you create the space to invite honest, daring conversations that feel like they’ll make or break your relationship? Be a light, reveal your splendour.

These anchors are the conscious reminder that our sacred relationship has some depth and lives on more than tea and sympathy. What will be your anchors? Where can you go to breathe again and reconnect in a way that makes sense for you? You’ve read a thousand articles that say your attention is under attack but you’re the one with time on your hands. We all have the very same hours to play with each and every day. We must explore our priorities, our motivations and, at risk of sounding glib and inane, our ‘why’. Why are we married? Why do we spend the hours we spend doing the things we do? Why are we afraid to love with abandon? The answers to such questions have the potential to determine your course and give you purpose. Breathe and take that precious gift you love all the way in—the struggle is worth the refinement.

Carly Tia

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Carly Tia