I’m not sure when it was exactly but somewhere along the way I realised I’d married the wrong man. It may have been in that time between the wedding and the having of kids. Anyhow at some point I knew for sure he wasn’t the prince I’d been conditioned to expect. Or a knight. There was no shining armour or even a white horse. No hidden fortune to be bestowed. He was’t going to rescue me. Give me answers. Complete me. Nor was there a get out of the childhood damage and live happily ever after card tucked in his back pocket.
Turns out Mr G was as flawed as me. Could get anxious about stuff. Had a couple of difficult personality traits. Like being quite sensitive. Could be a bit of a pessimist. A lot of the time he was so busy sorting out his own shit that it made more sense for me to get on with it. I could sit on the glass topped mountain till my arse freezed over or sort my own life out. We would talk about it over dinner.
Worst of all was the realisation that he didn’t have special prince talents. Like if I needed him to know something he couldn’t read my mind. I had to reach down into myself to work out what it was and actually tell him. Even the hard stuff. For goodness sake. Asking for what I need. Now that is something I’m still working on every single day. Because to be honest it’s not one of my superpowers.
He didn’t complete me magically. Make me perfect or suddenly beautiful. As promised in those fairy tales. Just said it was ok that I wasn’t.
Then we had the kids. Two. Darling sweet little boys. But along with the many joys came the other things. The financial and career restraints. The tired sex and nights at home once spent eating out at nice places and other fun couple things. And endless mundane tasks that needed to get done. Later the deaths of both sets of parents and the gruelling grief. Then some actually serious illness to be dealt with.
So it’s fair to say that it became apparent that there would be no straight forward ride into a gorgeous sunset. No simply living happily ever after. Not yet anyway. No quick fix for broken or damaged parts. No easy solution to paying the mortgage and keeping the magic alive.
Luckily we are both nice enough people most of the time. So we didn’t throw big tantrums. We didn’t get drunk and hurl verbally hurtful things at each other. Tried not to blame the other for whatever was going on. Or not going well. I think we both secretly nursed some sadnesses. There was compromise.
And in the meantime we endeavoured to be kind. To not fall into despair. To find forgiveness. To be grateful. To love each other even when it was difficult. Or hurt a bit. It was however you write it imperfect love as far as the fairy tales go.
Actually this was the time I realised that even though I hadn’t married a mythical prince my Mr G was a really sweet man. Deeply compassionate. Daringly genuine. Darkly funny. He is reliably there in the biggest sense of the word. Not just for the good bits. Like in labour and bringing home the baby. But the bad times. Like that night my father died. So utterly unexpected. When I was depressed and a bit stuck. Or the boys are really sick or in some sort of trouble. When the waters are rough I have been able to hold onto him. Gratefully. He can be deeply present at these moments.
I’m sure my story is the story of any marriage. Somewhere between the falling in love and the actual real loving is the realisation that this love thing needs a rethink. Adjustments. A shift of the heart. It’s an art. Made in real time. Often a dark art. It requires imagination. Experimentation. An expansion of the possibilities.
Like it’s not an actual thing that you get and keep. It’s more like a verb. A doing. It needs intention. And then attention. A lot of time it is an act of service. You choose to be loving. Like when sex does get a bit routine it’s not really about thinking up something unusual to do. It’s an invitation to dig deeper. To expand your capacity for intimacy. For being present to the other. Bringing that to bed as it were.
And novelty. That’s a little harder. But I can say this. If you allow in change it’s not one relationship you have but a series of different ones over time. Because you grow in unexpected ways. We’re been together over thirty-five years and I’m sure there are a few more to come.
So is the long haul worth it? Well you get to work on your stuff. You have to. It’s always there somewhere. Reflected back at you. In the matrix of the relationship. If you are prepared to go there. Actually this is both the biggest challenge. And the priceless gift of staying with it.
You get to become unlonely. Most of the time. The rest of the time you work out how to be alone. Not lonely. Which gives you time to do your own stuff. Like the art stuff you crave but he doesn’t. And to hang out in Paris. By yourself. So in the end you don’t lose yourself into the couple but you find yourself. And each other.
These days I’m less inclined to make him responsible for my happiness. And I feel free of the obligation to do that for him. We are responsible for ourselves. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. I do. But by getting my own stuff out of the way I can see him more clearly. Respond to his needs. Not from my own. We can trust that we have each other’s back. Well I know I hold his heart tenderly.
And somewhere in amongst all the wind and rain because you are busy loving this imperfect person in your imperfect way the sun turns up. You become ok. With him. With yourself. Again and again. Not superficially but deeply. You know it’s possible to be loveable just as you are. Even naked in the bright sunlight with spider veins on the back of your knees. Because you have come love him that way.
Deeply. Honestly. Truly without conditions. That’s a gift. And a relief. It’s truly an enchantment.
Which brings me to a special practise. One of the dark arts. To get to the heart of things. It will seem simple but might be hard. You need to sit opposite each other and after a few deep breaths look deeply into each others eyes. No words. No touching. No looking away. Hold the gaze. Be fully present. Let whatever is there arise. Have a timer set to at least ten minutes. Longer is better. Let your heart speak though your eyes. This will make all the difference. I’m certain. Do this regularly. To nourish each other.
In writing this I’ve realised that giving up the fantasies of romantic love makes the authentically romantic possible. It’s actually a bit magical.
I can honestly say Mr G turned out to be a prince. Not the one I was expecting. But a real one just the same. And you know what. There was a huge pile of hidden treasure waiting to be claimed.
I saw it in his eyes. That time we gazed into each other. No words needed.
With Love. Bernadette.