First, I want to acknowledge that, though I am married, there's still a chance I know next to nothing about marriage. As Rumi says:
"The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore."
So if this (or any) letter doesn't resonate with you, please ignore it.
Also, it's likely that expounding upon Love or marriage is futile, since both topics, in their purest forms, are too immense for words, too immeasurable to reduce to the inherent restrictions of any language.
Still, I decided to try since tomorrow is our two year wedding anniversary. (Stephen and I got married on May 29, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin; it was a beautiful day and cheese curds were served during cocktail hour.)
I'm going to focus on something I believe marriage is not about and see where that leads: I do not believe marriage is about reciprocity. I don't think it's about "balancing the scales" or "carrying your weight" or "equal contribution."
Some examples from my own marriage:
Stephen spent about eight hours this year jointly filing our taxes (it was a mess, multiple states, etc.). During that time, I mostly read poetry and pet the cats.
Then again: I do laundry way more than he does.
Then again, when Stephen grocery shops he gets enough food for all meals for the week, and when I do (which, firstly, is a rare phenomenon) I buy enough snacks to feed a youth soccer league yet hardly any items translatable into breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (Snacking is my strong suit.)
I could keep going...back and forth...he does this, but I do this! I do this, but he does this! But, why??? It's exhausting. Also, I'm bored.
First Corinthians chapter 13 famously says, "Love keeps no record of wrongs." I agree. But I also think Love keeps no record of rights. Love keeps no record, period.
Is marriage a competition? Am I a better wife than he is a husband or vice versa? Of course not.
What are you possibly gaining by keeping score in your own relationship? If you want to leave your relationship, then leave it. If you want to stay, then make like the Beatles and let it be. :)
When Lao Tzu speaks of wise souls (not that I claim to have one), Tzu says:
they have in all the world no competitor."
We printed this Hafiz poem on our wedding programs:
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
"You owe me."
With a love like that,
It lights the
In my opinion, marriage isn't about owing anyone anything. Full stop.
[Note: I don't claim to have mastered this keeps-no-records approach by any means and still find myself making the occasional petty comment, but I am practicing noting when I get off course, forgiving myself, and re-centering on what matters. Who vacuums more than whom, truly, does not matter. Rumi refrain: The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.]
Since learning to love wholly is often an ongoing practice, I definitely think that, if you marry, whom you marry is extremely important.
"Set your soul on fire, seek those who fan your flames."
To me, no quote better describes Stephen. His "fandom" for me started in the traditional sense, when he'd often comprise one-quarter of the four-person student section at Bucknell Women's Basketball games. Now, some claim women's basketball is not much of a spectator sport to begin with (haha), and that season (my junior year) we won seven games and lost 21. Yet, he was there, waiting long after the buzzer for me to emerge, wet-haired and upset, from the locker room.
His support continued: when I started a (now retired) blog my senior year, he'd carefully proofread my posts (often on topics that didn't remotely interest him). Recently, he has read entire manuscripts I've written. One was over 250 pages! He read it with an intensity and carefulness that I can only call Love. I'm not pursuing publication for said manuscript, but just thinking about him reading it brings tears to my eyes.
As I've shifted into this meditation and healing stage, he gave me the book Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way by Lao Tzu. (The Tzu quote from last week and this week are from that book.)
I now realize that this thread runs through our eight-year relationship: He has always fanned my flames.
I think that's an underrated quality in a partner. I say, don't look for someone you need (you don't need anyone) and don't look for someone who makes you feel whole (you are whole and if you don't feel whole, the only person who will ever make you feel whole is you).
Look, instead, for someone who supports you, as you are. Right now. Today. Whether you're missing foul shots or misspelling words. (:
Now, my husband dislikes public attention (I'm sorry, Stephen, I promise I won't mention you for the next ten letters), but I wanted to end with a short note for him:
Dear Stephen, Words could never contain my feelings for you, so I will simply put this on record: I would marry you again. And again and again and again. xoxo. c
with Love and with Light,
p.s. Stephen's favorite number has always been 8, so it feels magical to me that this is volume 8. (:
p.p.s. I recommend the Tao Te Ching if you're drawn to spirituality. However, though the poems are seemingly simple, I'm sure most of their deeper meanings are eluding me in my current state. I recently listened to Michael A. Singers' The Untethered Soul and not only would I recommend that book in itself as a good starting point for spiritual/consciousness work (the first two chapters are a bit redundant, but stick with it!), Singer also has a chapter dedicated to the Tao (aka Dao) which enhanced my understanding of Lao Tzu's writings.