A friend uses the term "Marriage Island" to describe that state of comfort and safety that people in long relationships inhabit. She claims that many "on the island" are buffered from some of the more violent experiences of life, and consequently don't need to study their surroundings or themselves very carefully. I wonder.
One thing is sure, though: if divorce comes calling, your role is rewritten in your own eyes and the eyes of others. You find yourself looking at things from a new perspective. The atmosphere at parties changes. Couples you’ve known for ages look different now. Suddenly you notice the small falsehoods and the way some people take each other for granted. You realise how little awake they are to their spouses and themselves. Some show routine affection, others move in a room as if they didn’t even know each other. Many say how happy they are, how lucky they feel – and believe it, to a certain extent. Others take lovers, to keep life interesting.
For a while it seems that there is no hope, just desolation all around. But we all know that there exists something better, something we long for, and we recognise it immediately when we see it. I once saw a large family at the beach in Sintra, Portugal. The grandmother came in, fresh from the sea, and lay down on top of her elderly husband who was reading the newspaper. He smiled, grimaced at the cold and swept away the drops that fell on his paper. Another time in Paros, Greece I was talking with a man who ran a yoga retreat. There was a glow about him, the product of long practice and clean living. When his wife came into the room behind him, he didn’t even turn, but his glow became brighter. Sometimes you see it when two grey heads are drawn together in animated conversation, after years of togetherness. Very rarely, you see it in a man and a woman when they care for a small child together, and the child is not the only focus of attention, though loved.
Very few of us are blessed with a vocation, a calling, or meeting our soul mate so early in life that it comes naturally to us. Most struggle, change direction, regret, feel shame and desperation, hope again, grasp at the golden ring, fall, win, accept. Through that process, we hopefully become more conscious. If we are striving towards consciousness, we can become good spouses. This, perhaps more than any other field in our lives, requires us to be conscious on a number of levels: understanding our personal histories and making sure that our past does not dominate our future, and being aware of the greater Force in our lives, guiding us and giving us the true fabric of our lives.
It is a cyclical process: growing in the Spirit is fuelled by taking our personal histories in hand, and understanding our personalities is helped along by a greater awareness of the Spirit of our lives. When we begin to sense that ever-present, all-pervasive love and acceptance that a life conscious of the Spirit gives us, we find it easier to explore the nether regions of our childhoods, our own shortcomings and the wrongs we have suffered and inflicted upon others. We are more able to put into perspective and truthfully observe the events of our lives. We can identify the hidden patterns we repeat, the mechanisms we deploy that we mistakenly assume to protect ourselves. All this will make us better lovers and parents.
All growth is a slow process – no-one is ever a finished product, and no relationship ever complete. But that hardly matters – each day that we founder and fall and scramble back on our feet again, getting a helping hand from the person closest to us, will help us to face the next one eagerly and with renewed determination. If we keep at it, we will not find ourselves "on the island", nor will we find ourselves moving through rooms as if we were alone there. Love does conquer all, but only if we participate in the battle.