Being Partnered Is Not An Achievement
It is one week before Valentine’s Day, and about two weeks before what would have been my 10 year wedding anniversary. By society’s standards I have had two “failed” marriages. Every time I come across an engagement or wedding photo there are hundreds of “congratulations” posts. Congratulations is the same thing we say to someone who has a new job… it is the same thing we say to people who have graduated from college… it celebrates an achievement.
At one point I was one of those people who had “married with kids” on my hashtag goals list. In my quest to obtain this achievement I found myself married to a man 7 years my senior as a sophomore in college at the age of 19. There were a series of red, black, purple, metallic and neon flags that I completely ignored including a situation one week before we went to the courthouse. I had so much growing to do at the time, but my lifelong quest to “to be chosen” and “to be wifed” had me saying “I Do” for all the wrong reasons.
To call myself a serial monogamist would be an understatement. In my adult life I have only known 5+ year relationships and both of my serious relationships ended in marriage… and divorce which I don’t consider a bad thing and I don’t consider either of them failures. I have great respect for couples that last 10 years, 15 years, 20 years etc. While many of those long term relationships are super healthy… some of them are not.
Sometimes I feel guilty for not staying but then I remember why I left in both cases and I have no regrets. The guilt stems from that icky feeling that comes up when people ask me if I’ve ever been married before. That shame comes from having three different last names, my maiden name and then the two names of the men that I married. In attempting to have a healthy relationship with my current partner, I spend a lot of time thinking about the mistakes that I made and my behavior (or in some cases lack thereof) in my past relationships. The times where I said that I was “ok” when I was not. The times I decided to “override” the intuitive messages my heart and my gut were telling me. The times I forgave over and over again despite the unchanged behavior.
The true “failure” was not the relationship… the failure was in my ability to make better choices at the time. I have also shifted my perspective from a relationship being an achievement to the behavior that I and my partner exhibit toward each other to be an achievement. The achievement is not absolute — it requires effort, honesty and accountability. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. But it’s never all success and it’s never all failure. We regularly ask and answer these questions to determine if we are succeeding…or not:
- How do we handle things when one of us feels hurt by the behavior or action toward the other?
- How do we make and inspire each other to be better human beings?
- How do we accept accountability when we act in ways that are not considerate or healthy for the other person or us as a unit?
- How do we support and show up for each other’s individual goals and dreams?
- How do we make decisions that are respectful, loving and that honor the humanity of other other person?
If I can lay my head down at night feeling respected, supported and loved by the person that I have committed to romantically — that is an achievement. I pray that if (and or when) that is no longer the case I (we) have the courage and the conviction to emancipate us both so that we can live a life that is authentic and aligned to our purpose and our needs. People ask me if I’ll ever get married again and I’m definitely open to it… but I am also open to getting divorced again too if the marriage no longer works for me… and for us… When I honor, love and support myself I can better honor, love and support others. My relationship with myself is the most important relationship I’ll ever have and I will never “fail” to choose what is best for me ever again (no matter how hard or painful it is) whether I am partnered… or not…