I have heard of so many people struggling and re-evaluating their relationships with spouses or significant others throughout this past year. I can see how people can either grow together or grow apart during these very uncertain times. Whether it’s a financial hardship, losing loved ones, or getting used to spending so much time together, it’s all an adjustment for every person I know. The shift has been mighty, to say the least.
I have been married for 23 years, and it has been work. Everyday work. I will not tell you that it’s all roses and butterflies, but I will say that my marriage is my proudest accomplishment to date. We have four kids, and that alone brings a lot of emotional chaos. However, we chose to bring them into this world, so we believe that trying our best in our marriage is what we owe to them. My husband and I have grown individually and together, which is crucial. We have learned what it means to be a friend, which in the end has much more weight than anything else. There have been plenty of moments in our marriage that could have had us moving in opposite directions, but we consciously chose to work to come back to center each time.
Honesty, vulnerability, and integrity are virtues that he and I have worked hard at, and in the end, it’s that foundational piece that keeps us afloat. Whether I am flailing or he is struggling, we hold steady for each other. Through perseverance, individual growth, and of course, love, we remain better together than apart. Of course, I know that I chose a man that already carried fundamental health and integrity within him, but longevity is something that we both chose over and over again. It wasn’t sexy or shiny or alluring; it was hard, steady, and beautiful work. My husband has seen the good, the bad, the ugly (this pandemic is a testament to that), and he still loves me because of what we have created. I don’t have to pretend to be anybody else because I have been honest in who I am with him. It’s a freeing and liberating feeling not to have to put on an act for somebody. The truth always shows up, after all. I share this because I believe that a thriving and longstanding union is possible for all of us. After all, it’s a choice. The lucky part is that my husband and I both chose to be fully in.
Joni Mitchell is one of my most favorite songwriters and a beautiful storyteller. She shared this about relationships, and it couldn’t be more honest and truly stated…
“I don’t know if I’ve learned anything yet! I did learn how to have a happy home, but I consider myself fortunate in that regard because I could’ve rolled right by it. Everybody has a superficial side and a deep side, but this culture doesn’t place much value on depth — we don’t have shamans or soothsayers, and depth isn’t encouraged or understood. Surrounded by this shallow, glossy society, we develop a shallow side, too, and we become attracted to fluff. That’s reflected in the fact that this culture sets up an addiction to romance based on insecurity — the uncertainty of whether or not you’re truly united with the object of your obsession is the rush people get hooked on. I’ve seen this pattern so much in my friends, and I and some people never get off that line. But along with developing my superficial side, I always nurtured a deeper longing, so even when I was falling into the trap of that other kind of love, I was hip to what I was doing. I recently read an article in Esquire magazine called ‘The End of Sex,’ that said something that struck me as very true. It said: “If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.” What happens when you date is you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories — and in a way, that routine is a method for falling in love with yourself over and over. You can’t do that with a longtime mate because he knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love. It’s hard work, though, and many people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them, or they look like an asshole to you — it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it, you get closer, and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.” Joni Mitchell
When you can ride the waves together, being quarantined in a house for months can be a great opportunity to love more compassionately. This was the case for us. I felt like we grew even closer in the acceptance of the unknown. We slowed down, expected little, and didn’t look to be elsewhere. We lived fully in the present because the present is all there is during these uncertain times. The funny thing is that all we ever have is the present; we just forgot that in all of the doing and achieving and reaching. The here and now is the only certain place. My husband and I sank into this reality, and somehow more joy came amidst the discomfort. We laughed and got reacquainted with this new and somehow improved version of ourselves.
I had a conversation about relationships with one of my best girlfriends. In the conversation, I told her, “the trick isn’t not falling out of love, but falling back in love, over and over again in different ways” She recently reminded me of what I had said to her, and it warmed me. It is the wisdom that I will share with my children, adding one thing… remember to fall in love with yourself too, over and over again. Xox Kimberly