In the previous two installments of Let’s Talk About Love, I’ve shared with you my first two rules on creating and maintaining the perfect marriage.
Let’s dive into rule number 3.
As my relationship with Char progressed beyond new love and into a more serious, committed place, I found myself feeling a great amount of pressure to focus much of my energy on our success as a couple. I was realizing that, in building a commitment with Char, I’d likely found the person with which I’d spend my life.
For me, this was huge.
Growing up I’d gone back and forth on whether I’d like to someday have children, but rarely did I waver on my desire for finding a partner. I was certain that I wanted to build a life with a companion and have someone to share in times of celebration and offer support during adversity. When I came out 10 years ago, I was unsure of what that might look like. This was a time when representation of long-term same sex couples was rare and marriage equality seemed like a pipe dream. However, I held on to hope that I could meet someone whom I loved, who would love me and want to build a life with me.
Meeting, falling in love, and subsequently planning a future with Char was of real significance for me and an important dream of mine being realized. Looking back, it comes as no surprise to me that I temporarily placed my own personal goals and passions on the back burner.
I’m ashamed to say I failed to prioritize what I wanted to accomplish and redirected much of my energy to my relationship.
One might assume that, in turning so much of my focus away from me and toward this partnership, I’d have the perfect relationship. However, rather than strengthening our commitment, I was suffocating it.
Somewhere along the way, I centered my happiness around the success of my relationship over and above my own personal success. This is not to say I completely avoided doing what I loved. I continued working, writing, maintaining relationships with friends and family - much of which was outside what Char and I shared. However, I did, in some respects, get off track.
This placed a great amount of pressure on our marriage – pressure that almost brought us to an end.
Of all that I’ve shared with you thus far, this is the most difficult – and embarrassing. I’ve always prided myself on being a strong, alpha woman – a person who would prioritize my own needs and remain focused on what I want out of life regardless of my relationship status. How did I lose sight of this?
I have some idea on how to answer this question, but nailing down the reason just isn’t that important to me. What matters is that I identified the problem – possibly just in time to save my marriage.
Aside from neglecting my own needs and desires, I was inadvertently placing pressure on Char. On some level, she sensed I had slowly lost parts of myself and, as a result, felt obligated to be available to me. We were each failing to tend to our own ambitions, going out of our way to care for the other, and doing a piss poor job on all of the above.
Then we decided to try something new. We created space for ourselves and our own pursuits. We prioritized our individual passions. And we allowed the other to do the same.
It wasn't painless, especially in the beginning. We had each become accustomed to a routine, though an unhealthy one, still a routine. Creating changing in the context of a long-term relationship is never easy and always uncomfortable.
Since Char and I have recommitted ourselves to attending to our own personal goals and passions, aside from those within the context of our relationship, I cannot begin to tell you how dramatically our marriage has changed. Because we’re giving the appropriate time and energy to our individual pursuits, we’re finding that we’re much more emotionally available when together.
We’re accomplishing goals and dreams, many of which had been put off in an effort to improve our relationship. We've learned that the very best thing we can do for our marriage is intentionally care for ourselves.
When I seek ways to find fulfillment for myself, I’m a happier, more balanced person, and a far better wife to Char.
Aside from being more complete as individuals, shifting our focus to our personal ambitions has created a new excitement in our marriage. Is there anything more attractive than seeing someone in their element, following their dreams, accomplishing their goals, doing what they’re good at?
Now that I’m in a place in which I’m going after what I want and sharpening my talents, I feel more desired by Char than ever – even more so than when we first met. I can feel her observing as I make my dreams a reality and seeing me as an accomplished woman rather than just a wife.
As we wrap up my 3-part series on “my perfect marriage”, I hope you’ve seen the irony of the title. The irony is that my marriage is far from perfect. I’ve shared with you some very personal challenges we’ve faced, including discussing the possibility of divorce.
Sometimes I lie awake in bed thinking, “What the hell am I doing?”. Being so open and vulnerable about my relationship is scary. I’m putting something out there which is incredibly private – to be picked apart and criticized.
But, I want to tell the truth.
It’s my hope that being forthright about the trials my wife and I have endured will be beneficial to you – that you can take something, even something minor, from this series that will serve you in your current and/or future relationships.
The collective message of the three rules is intended to challenge what we’ve been conditioned to believe about marriage and long-term love. I’m vigilantly working to counteract the idea that, if my wife and I are enjoying taking time for ourselves, we're doing something wrong or aren’t actually in love. I’m retraining my mind to embrace my individuality – who I was before I met Char and who I continue to be on my own.
If you take nothing else from my three rules, I hope you feel empowered to create the relationship that you want – not the relationship your family expects you to have, or the relationship you perceive other couples to have.
Know that you deserve the love that you want - whatever that may look like. Challenging societal expectations on romantic commitment does require a fair amount of strength and courage; it won’t be easy. But, I’m certain if you can muster up the wherewithal to do love your way, you’ll find real fulfillment in your relationship.
And you’ll be way too busy being in love to be bothered with how your relationship measures up to the standards of the world.