On July 30 Naomi and I celebrated 50 years of marriage. A milestone in our lives, we survived during times when divorce rates soared in the 70’s and 80’s. They have fallen steadily since. Still, chances today of being married to the same person for 50 years is about 20%, or 1 couple out of 5.
To be honest, there were times we considered the divorced option. So much in society changed since we married in 1965. The renewed feminist movement soon broke out and I suspect, like many couples, we had our share of difficult days and weeks. Much change occurred during our 50 years. We navigated many changes in our thinking about religion, politics and views of sexual stereotypes.
At the gracious and wonderful party our children arranged for us at the Roycroft Inn last Saturday, I mentioned a reason our long marriage included the model of our parents. Although Naomi’s father died at 51 after about 30 years of marriage, my parents reached 71 years before dad died in 2011. I witnessed my parents having happy and good times but some tough and hard-going times. Yet they made it and today, mom at age 94 speaks often of the good years and times she had with dad, missing him constantly. Their model of working things out made impacts on our marriage and likely those of my 4 other siblings who married: we remain together.
This is not to say it divorce is a mistake or failure. We have many good friends who experienced divorce in a marriage. I believe all things work together for good, if we choose to see it that way. To exist with years of unresolved pain can be counterproductive to all involved.
Is there a special secret to marriage longevity? Certainly good health is important but there is much more. One of the first things I learned, as I’m sure Naomi did, is the person we marry is not exactly what or who we expected! Normally who we marry is only an idea of the person, an illusion of reality. An enduring marriage, which is increasingly satisfying, is one that grows past these misconceptions. If the misconceptions are strong and shocking enough, then divorce no doubt might be the best option.
For myself, growing satisfaction and commitment to marriage became increasingly grounded in my spiritual journey. I grew to see myself and spouse beyond our temporary bodies seen and touched. Bodies and ideas change but our Spirit or Essence remains the same. God, or whatever your idea of Divine Love, if you have one, is Love. Love, God, Truth is unchangeable, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. In most spiritual and sacred literature, sexual and physical differences are temporary and fleeting. Only the Spirit or Essence remains eternal. Spirit or Life is not dualistic or in polarities; Spirit or Consciousness is oneness, everywhere, abstract and experienced rather than analyzed and understood in separate parts.
When these ideas first began to dawn on me, and that both myself and spouse could be seen in this understanding, I began to realize nothing outside of my Center could satisfy me for long. A car, a town, a job, a person, religious forms and dogma are temporary. Yes, they are exciting at first like a new car or home, but then less so and finally, something to be accepted and lived with in continual adjustment. The True Self is more than just my personality and identities of body, joy and gender, but a deeper placed called Spirit, Christ, Consciousness or the Inner I.
How could this help deepen a marriage relationship? One realizes no person or thing can make or bring you lasting peace and happiness; it comes from within the person, from the Self or Observer. I can only accept and experience happiness from my choices. It what mystic and many spiritual teachers call, “Awakening” or awareness.
A milestone in my journey in life and marriage occurred when I thus began to realize no thing and no person could ever make me happy. I didn’t need a wife, or children or a specific country or family to be happy; I didn’t need anything. Contentment comes from within one’s choices or decision to see differently.
Such an awareness I trust keeps making our marriage relationship or those with things or people more satisfying and loving. Spirit or Light is everywhere and unending, just as scientists have discovered in sub-atomic studies; nothing is really solid; it’s all a composite of thought which emerges out of Light.
If you desire a better relationship or life while in this short earth walk, understanding is the key. Understand your body, with all its histories and identities, is not you. It is just a very brief experience in time and space. Spending intentional time reflecting on this Identity helps strengthen it, as do times of solitude, meditation, and sharing kindness and compassion with others. Our spouse or mate becomes our primary and daily lesson in forgiveness and sharing love. It involves patience, long-sufferings and always looking beyond the perceived flaws to that which is good. Practice this understanding with your daily intentions and your relationships will increase in joy, love and peace. You will sense and feel your deeper Oneness. When you fail, as we all do, simply forgive yourself for “missing the mark” (the literal meaning of “sin”) and begin again like forgetting a golf ball just blasted into the woods!
Maybe your marriage won’t make 50 years or whatever many. But for the years you now experience, they will grow richer and deeper each day, even as the physical forms change, age, and ultimately disappear. Your Love, your Consciousness will live forever.