December 17, 2014

3 Things to Consider Before Beginning or Ending a Marriage.

woman man married

 “It is very easy to think about love. It is very difficult to love. It is very easy to love the whole world. The real difficulty is to love a single human being.” ~ Osho

As I look back on a relationship that spanned almost two decades of my life, I’ve learned a few things worth thinking about before considering either tying or untying the knot.

It can be incredibly difficult to love a single human being.

And, staying with that imperfect person through that difficulty takes a type of courage, risk and vulnerability that is equal to, if not greater than, leaping out and going solo.

Here are a few things to consider before beginning or ending a relationship.

1. Stop looking for “The One.”

When I was 20, I set my mind to finding “The One.” He would be my soulmate. I had envisioned him as a package designed to meet all my needs. This way I would recognize “The One” when I saw him.

If I found him walking down the opposite side of the street, look out. He should be prepared for a football-style tackle.

So, when I was sitting on the bus and I saw “The One,” I quickly moved my stuff from the seat beside me. Of course, he sat down. He did, after all, fit my description.

But after spending enough time with anyone, the real person emerges.

The exaggerations we make to portray ourselves as desirable soon became apparent.

Our admiration, if we let it, wanes over the years. And with it wanes our passion and enthusiasm for our partner.

And some time into my relationship (which eventually became my marriage), I began to think,

“He’s not right. He doesn’t do the things he said he would. He isn’t the person I thought he was. He needs to change.”

Why did he need to change?

Because once I started to know him deeply, he didn’t fit my idea of “The One.”

He had faults. Limitations.

Seeing who he was in his weaknesses frightened me because I didn’t yet accept my own wholeness. My charisma, drive and intensity, sure, I embraced that. But I was raised in a home where the protestant work ethic dominated and the word “can’t” was forbidden.

Vulnerability and limitations? We don’t even say those words.

I thought “The One” would bring me the emotional, physical and intellectual stimulation I needed to feel whole in our relationship. I believed variations of that myth for the next decades as I searched for happiness through my partnership.

I kept a watchful eye on what was wrong, and that created relationship decay.

There is no perfect person, and there is only one person you can fix: yourself.

So, drop the idea of looking for “The One.” It’s a trap.

2. The relationship, by itself, will not make you happy.

You make you happy. Full stop.

Although let me modify number two. If any relationship is abusive, unsafe, lacks honesty or agreed upon fidelity, then we are likely best if we free ourselves from the pain and distortion it brings to our lives.

But if you have two people who hold respect for and commitment to each other, it’s workable.

Note: “work.”

Deep, raw work.

Work that takes staying still and turning towards each other even when you can’t stand one another.

Work that can feel sweaty and ugly and like your insides are spilling out around you.

Yes, it’s hard work, not jumping out of the relationship.

Don’t rely on any relationship to fill those gaps you feel in life. Understand that most of what we need is not something that can be fulfilled by any romantic relationship—not the one we are in nor the next one on the horizon.

So, stop looking at what you need the other person to do to make you happy in the relationship and start looking at what you can do to make you happy.

And most importantly, look at those things in the relationship for which you are grateful. Then work at it.

If you have kids, celebrate that (kids are great, I have three of them myself), but for heaven’s sake give them away on a weekend now and then and go away with your partner and love them up.

Because if your only together time is spent taking care of the kids, you’re headed for trouble.

Keep looking at what your partner does right, at all the goodness that is them. Celebrate it daily.

When the marriage feels long and dreary, step back into your private room, shake off those old ideas you’re holding about your partner and look at that person with fresh eyes.

Be grateful for the way he shuts the cupboard doors you always leave open, the way she wraps her legs around yours before you go to sleep, for his calloused hands, and how she kisses the kids, first on the forehead, then on the lips, each night before bed.

Just be grateful.

3. Get help.

I can quote Osho a thousand times and you can read a library of books to figure out the “right path,” but if you’re considering calling it quits, do yourself the justice of first committing to getting help.

For yourself, and together.

Because the impacts of divorce are hard: for you, your children, extended friends, family and community. After the first impact, it hits again, in waves.

So, unless you’ve braced for what can feel like a natural disaster, get help for your marriage before it hits bottom.

Don’t just tolerate a relationship that is hurting you, because that is also suffering.

Get help, or you may be left living as two separate entities who drift through life under the same roof, but without the delicious, warm bond of true companionship.

We can create intimacy, passion and a flourishing long term relationship, if we just do the work.

So, if you’re thinking of getting married or ending the marriage you have, ask yourself if you and your partner are, or will be, courageous enough to wade through the inevitable difficulty and messiness, to actively get help and to sweat it out in a way that a long term relationship calls for.

Because as Osho says, it’s easy just to think about love. The real challenge is here, in the doing.


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Author: Carla Poertner

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: wikipedia

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Carla Poertner Dec 21, 2014 7:46am

Dear Kim, My heart goes out to you. There is a time to stay. There is a time to go. Sometimes we are really clear which one of those is our choice. And sometimes we need the help of a wise and trusted confidant, or a well experienced and equally wise therapist. And you mention the lying. Two people need to be honest as a base. How else do we deal with the reality in front of us and really change? Honesty is about our actions and our feelings both, and our willingness to first be truthful with ourselves, to look in a mirror and ask, what am I doing, here to myself, and how is it rippling out from here, to others? What there wasn’t enough space to have published with the word count allotted, and which I have in an original version of the article, is the great importance of the effort of each person. It takes two to step forward into that depth. And to make the great effort it takes to really change. That’s hard because it can often be ongoing, and slow work. We each have to create new patterns, and those new patterns have to dance with each other. Whew, it’s tiring just writing about it. And one of the reasons relationships can be so tough… And at the same time if one person is not willing to make the journey with honesty and courage, well, I’ve heard this said many times lately: sometimes we need to hear the “no” they are giving to the relationship. A big hug your way.

kim Dec 20, 2014 3:42pm

Hi Carla…. I like your advice. I read it because it got my attention as someone who is thinking of ending a 4 1/2 year relationship, and have been for the better part of two years. It doesn't sound like a long time, but often feels like an eternity. I am a 48 year old mom. I have 2 amazing boys (8 & 11) from my first and only marriage….that ended with a pfa, but not before 4 couples therapists and individual counseling for both of us. I never in my wildest dreams thought he would turn out to be that man. I left after 7 years, before it was too late. After a 2+ year hiatus from anything male in order to make sure the boys and I were "adjusted", I decided to open myself up to the possibilty of finding our happy ever after. Our relationship started as a long distance one, logging 4+ of phone conversation every night. Turns out I jumped too soon. Once we were living together as a family unit, I discovered that he was not the person that he said he was. He drinks WAY more than he admitted, and lies to cover it…and was able to hide it for quite a while. Initially, he knew that this would be a deal breaker for me. However, now the boys have settled in and gotten used to having a father figure in their lives. Did I mention that he is also a financial trainwreck? Ugh….as I'm writing this, it's a reminder to me of the lack of trust and respect that I now have. I always stay too long…. For some reason I felt compelled to "share" with you. Anyway, Kudos to the couples that can make it work. Despite my many years of therapy, I think my "picker" is off.

Carla Poertner Dec 19, 2014 12:13pm

Hi Julia, thank you for your response. Something that I find amazing about long-term relationships is what you mention above: that two people can experience falling in love all over again, if they can stick through the cycle. I think if a couple remembers this in tougher times, because they've experienced it before, it's something to hold onto. I remember listening to Barbara DeAngelis on a radio interview some time ago, talking about the curve of individual development, and I think it's similar for relationships. She spoke about it like a spiral, you go up, eventually, although sometimes getting around the curve can feel long. But when you do, be prepared for amazing! Plus like you say, you've got to do the work, both on yourself and together. This is a great story, thanks for sharing it. And congratulations on your upcoming 15 year anniversary!

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Carla Poertner

Carla Poertner is a Certified Life Coach and Writer. She is a HuffPost Blogger, and her work has been published in various newspapers and magazines, including Tiny Buddha, GoNomad, The Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail. Carla writes on many topics, including self-development, parenting and co-parenting and relationships. You can read her blog and download her free e-guide by visiting her website.