Irreconcilable differences begin to accrue as soon as a person forgets that being entrusted with someone’s trust, love, self-esteem, growth, and happiness is a privilege and not a birthright. It is a precious gift to love and be loved.
Once we give something a name, we have given it a definition. Once we have defined it, it no longer has room to grow. What we call a relationship and what we call marriage must grow to meet who we have evolved into. When my first husband and I returned home from our marriage I did not recognize him. He had become a ‘husband’, which bore no resemblance to the man that I had been engaged to. I, on the other hand, did not know how to become a ‘wife’. And, I have to add that the husband he became was his father, a man that I would never have married. So even if I had known how to become a wife, I would have had to become his mother to make the institution function. We did not form a relationship, we entered an institution with strictly defined roles, at least, the ones that worked for my husband.
When two people enter into a committed relationship they create an extension of themselves, a midpoint where they unite. So, the relationship is not a thing, or an institution as marriage is called, but a place where lovers join, share, love and grow together. It is the third entity. It is the form of the bond through which their love flows, through which they share themselves and experience each others growth from that sharing and that bonding. This does not describe most relationships and it does not describe most marriages. The reason begins in childhood.
Children have their first and most important lessons in relationships in their family homes. They learn by watching their parents with each other, they learn by watching their parents with themselves and their siblings, and they learn through their interaction with their siblings. One of the first challenges that we are faced with when we enter into an adult relationship is that it is destructible. The relationship with our parents and siblings is indestructible, for better or for worse – they are always there. Even if we run away, they are still always there till death do we part. The relationship between parents and children is the only relationship that is relatively certain to be till death. Yet, somewhere in our subconscious minds we form, and act based upon a belief that a few words repeated before an official creates the same unbreakable bond. It does not and it has not for a very long time.
Divorce statistics show that eighty percent of marriages that end in divorce do so because of irreconcilable differences. Any relationship, including marriage will last as long as the needs of those involved are being met. This makes sense, but understanding those needs, grasping the importance of those needs and realizing how the survival of a marriage can hinge on the smallest thing is a little more difficult. This is because the smallest slight, or cruel word said in a fight never leaves the relationship. It never leaves the memory of the one who was slighted – never – ever, no matter what the person says. Put a person under hypnosis and you will find that throughout that person’s entire life there was not a leaf that blew by that is not remembered. We are, for better or for worse, memory keepers. No one knows for sure where all of the memories go, but what is a fact is that if the incident is repeated, the original one flies out to meet it and grow.
They say God is in the details, well, a relationship is strengthened or weakened by the details, the little tiny details and sometimes no one is aware of its condition until it snaps. One partner says, “What did I do”, the other partner says, “I don’t know, just a lot of things”. It is just a lot of little things. So many people think that the work ends when you say “I do”. This may be when we stop working, but it is also the time when the things that must be worked on begin to accumulate.
From the beginning of any relationship, we need to understand that if we have, ‘fallen in love’, then we are under the influence of a heavy intoxicant, maybe the heaviest. We are not in our right minds. The more that we struggle to see beyond our need for the next fix of the other person’s energy, the better chance we have at success. Clarity is the most important thing in having a successful relationship, make your needs clear – especially to yourself. My hand is a zillion times more mine than my husband will ever be. When it comes to another human being, we can’t take the word ‘mine’ too literally. No one abandons a relationship that makes them happy. No one cheats on a relationship that fulfils his or her needs. No one can be held down, held back, or controlled indefinitely. The only way to guarantee that the one you love is going to be there is to seek to make that person feel important, appreciated, loved, and most of all respected.
There are always two complete individuals and the relationship. The part of you that enters the relationship is the part of you who thinks first of the other – first my love, then us, then me. If you do this there will be times when you sacrifice what you want for your partner, but there will be equal times when your partner does the same for you. You don’t need to be in a relationship to worry about yourself, you can do that alone.
Forget about being right and never even consider winning. In a relationship if one person wins the fight, both lose the war. Sometimes we want our partners to think the same way as we do about everything. Only, if they really begin to do that we begin to feel that the person we fell in love with has been possessed by a member of the Stepford community. And sometimes if they don’t, we fear that we will lose our partner to someone who thinks the way that he or she does. If you are on opposing sides of an issue, respect the other’s right to see things from a different perspective than yours. If you have left your ego, and your baggage outside, an explanation, or saying, “These are the reasons that I feel this way…” may or may not convert the other person, but at least that person will have an understanding of why your beliefs are what they are and understanding in itself should make honoring your right to your beliefs easier.
Some beliefs, often religious or political are never going to become one. However, they are deeply charged with emotion and should not be criticized, discussed perhaps, but never critically. If there are little things that your partner needs that to you seem ridiculous – honor them. You will have you own share of ridiculous needs to be honored.
At some point in a relationship we realize that we do not want to continue without the other person. Not too long after that we have our first fight and realize that this unbelievable, one of a kind, made in heaven relationship is not indestructible. This causes that monster fear to raise its head. We become possessive, and jealous. At which point we remarkably do everything possible to alienate the person that we feel we can’t live without. We forget the most important thing, for some reason that can be articulated, this other person decided that he or she wanted to commit to us. What is important here is that whatever made that person, come to that decision was something about who we were, and what we did. It was never a specific thing, it was a mode of behavior, a way of being – what comes from the heart that beats inside of us. If you love someone and want to keep that person by your side till death do you part, be who you were when that person fell in love with you, and even more, when that person chose you to commit to.
We want to go to heaven but we don’t want to die. We want a guarantee that our partner will never leave us, but we don’t want to do the work to make them stay. If you are not sure as to what you should do, or if you have been fighting for so long that you have forgotten, ask your partner this, “What was it that made you want to spend your life with me?” “What can I do to make you want a life with me as badly as you did in the beginning?” This is not asking who else you should become, or, who else you should act like, it is asking what part of who you are that you have not been lately, or you could be more of.