I was asked the other day what it was about my marriage that made it so much better than other relationships I’d had in the past. I contemplated that question for a few minutes. I thought about the multitude of great things that have happened in my life since meeting Elise. I thought about the obstacles we have overcome, the burdens we had shared, the victories, the defeats and the triumphs. I paused after each of these thoughts before blurting each out. These were all the fruits of our relationship. These were created by our relationship, but what gave us the ability to create these outcomes, to share in these endeavors and ultimately reap the rewards? Again, I thought on this for a few minutes more until I began giving these answers.
I said it was because of our strengths and weaknesses, our complexities and the dynamic which our relationship created. I discussed the intricacies, subtleties and nuances until, like all good conversations, the subject changed and moved on to a different topic. Unlike the conversation though, the topic remained in my mind for several days and steadily revisited seeking out that answer until it occurred to me. What was it, really, that made my relationship with my wife so different from so many others? How is it that after 8 years we are still so magically in love and still riding the energy of a honeymoon phase that is seemingly never ending? It was honesty.
Looking back to the very beginning of our relationship I was honest. I was honest about the way I felt, what I expected and most important of all, about what I needed. I stated plainly and simply my wants and needs of a relationship and made no bones about the fact that if these could not be provided there could be no relationship. Sounds a bit crass, perhaps even arrogant as the reality of the situation was that I was an older man raising a young child and she was a beautiful young woman with the rest of her life ahead of her. Is that not even more reason for anybody with an ounce of compassion to be honest about these things? After all, why waste anybody’s time pursuing something that could never be in the first place? People too often forget that the most precious thing we own is time and it is the one possession we consistently waste. So I spared her the charade of compromise that all too often encompasses the foundation of so many relationships and leaves in its wake broken marriages and broken homes due to unfulfilled wants and needs. You can only live without food and water for so long and like our bodies our souls need nourishment as well. If our hearts go un nourished for too long, sacrifices made in the name of compromise often involve a slow starvation of our hearts and souls, ultimately the relationship breaks down as the weakness which inevitably ensues effects our physical selves and the world we inhabit. This is essentially what had happened in every relationship prior to my marriage, eventually the mask of content and best behavior comes off and the parties involved begin asking the question of how they ended up there, in a situation so unfulfilling and soul sucking that they can only end it or even worse, continue the cycle of pain and injury. Been there, done that, bought the t shirt and finally burned and buried it. My father had told me that if you have a toothache for long enough you’ll miss that too, this time I waited long enough to no longer miss a toothache, I wanted more than that, I wanted to be happy by myself.
One day, 8 years ago, I walked into a grocery store and looked into the eyes of my soulmate. We went out for coffee that night and talked about our hopes, our dreams, our fears and the pain we had been through. For three nights straight we held each other, softly slumbering on my couch, enjoying each other’s company and the warmth of our embrace. Then, for three nights we slept in our own beds, missing each other and questioning where we were going. Since those three nights we have never slept in a different bed, we have managed to always fall asleep in each other’s arms, never spending a single night apart in almost 3,000 days. We have worked together for almost 2,000 of those days. How? Because we were honest with each other every step of the way.
After about a month of being together I asked, “so am I your boyfriend now”? She eased back into our bed and we made love until the light of morning permeated our room tracing the lines of life across each other’s bodies and seeking out the mysteries of lives past in each other’s eyes. It was just a few days after that I’d realized that I had to tell her. We were already so in love and I couldn’t stand the thought of feeling the pain of an unfulfilling relationship again. So I sat her down one night and clearly and concisely explained my wants and needs. It was an argument, our first real big argument full of fears and tears that can only come from ultimatums and ultimately the kind of pain you only feel when dealing with someone you so deeply care for. When the dust settled though, it was understood, we would always be honest about what we needed and that if we could ever not provide for those needs, there would be no reason to be together.
Do we fight? Do we ever! Do we fight often? Not at all! It is usually a fifteen minute affair because honesty always prevails and allows us to cut to the chase and get to the real problem rather than play dance around the issue with passive aggressive mental acrobatics. Honesty always wins out.
Do I love my wife? Do I ever! Do I love my life? Yes, because she is in it. I can only hope that every person who looks at our marriage and wonders how or why it works so well learns the merits of honesty in all their dealings but especially in the relationships they maintain. While I thought of all of this it also occurred to me how wonderful most all of the relationships in my life are, my friendships, my business partners, all of them and how honesty so greatly impacts and benefits those relationships. Just be honest…