Zen and the Art of Marriage Maintenance: 10 Questions About True LoveSerge Bielanko
Marriage is kind of a pickle, huh?
I mean, maybe not for everyone, but for a lot of people like me the union of “holy matrimony” can sometimes seem like an obstacle course set up all over the floor of my feeble mind.
Just when you get things going pretty good, just when you’re recovering from the latest challenge to be a decent partner-in-crime and in life, along comes another bunch of floating logs coated in bacon grease that you have to skip and slip across to meet your better half on the other side.
But, I think that maybe that’s what makes marriage something worth fighting for, right?
Nothing empowering or rewarding comes easy in this life now does it? There is no easy way to the big summits we try to climb in our time here on Earth and marriage is certainly one of the highest peaks we ever glance up at and say,” I’ll have some of that.” For a guy like me, it takes a lot of work to move from being an independently minded bachelor to someone whose very existence is suddenly stapled a trillion times to another person’s heart/soul/smile/dreams/ambitions/finances/and toothbrush holder.
Over the course of the last 8 years, I have been both a witness and a player in the game of marriage and I have come to spend a lot of time contemplating what it means to be ‘happily married’. I’m no expert, mind you, in fact, I’m far from it. But, like anyone else who believes two is better than one, and who believes that their own marriage is a puzzling shape-shifter worth working on day in and day, out I truly enjoy crawling up into my own head to spend time pondering what it is exactly that brings couples together.
And what it is that makes them last.
There are no easy answers, of course. Truth is, there are far more questions than easy solutions. But that’s what makes it so wonderfully challenging at the hardest points. And so damn awesome when things are going good.
So, pull up a chair, crack a beverage or three and – by all means – chime in when you feel so inclined. We’re talking marriage here today, people, and your answers are at least as good as mine.
Meant To Be 1 of 10Do you believe in meant to be? Is it something real or is it an idealistic vision? And if it is real how often do people actually end up with the person they were 'meant to be with'? I think that I believe that it IS something real and that I DID end up with my proverbial soul mate, but I struggle with the reasons behind why I feel that way. Is it just a way of convincing myself that things are the way they are supposed to be, that I'm living the right life for me...or is it my guts telling me that I made all of the right moves when I got married?
Modern Love 2 of 10Have we, as 21st century people, done enough to redefine what marriage really is? Or should there be no allowance for such a thing? Our grandparents lived lives quite differently from ours in terms of so many things. But are those daily everyday differences enough to force us to reconsider what marriage should mean to us today as opposed to what it meant to people 50 years ago? Or 200 years ago? Or is the basic root of marriage simpler than that? Is it something that remains the same down through the centuries?
Fifty Parts Me/Fifty Parts You 3 of 10I wonder a lot about equality within marriage in general, and within my marriage specifically. Are we equals today? I mean, do we each pull our own financial weight and our own parental weight? And all the other things that we are supposed to be splitting pretty much down the middle, everything from chores to sex to being as good a listener as I am a talker: are we good at dealing with our collective burdens? If one person makes more money should they expect the other person to be doing more chores? This is a hard one to answer, but I believe that it's a question that needs asking.
Who Do You Need Me To Be? 4 of 10Can marriage change you too much? I don't mean in all the obvious ways. Of course we have to change things about ourselves when we marry someone else; it's a meaningful part of being together. But, is it possible that marriage can actually twist up and contort definitive parts of us to where we might actually resent the change, even if it's unconsciously? There are times that I feel that I should be such a different person than who I am, for the sake of my marriage. But then, it will occur to me that there has to be a limit to how many personality quirks/minor flaws/old habits that you can really alter in this lifetime before you actually re-invent yourself as another person...a different person than the one your spouse actually married. It's a burning question whose answer might never be known.
Cakewalk Forever 5 of 10Why the hell is marriage so much easier for some people than it is for others? Sometimes I wonder if maybe there is a certain 'mental chip' that some folks have that others simply do not. The idea of marriage seems to be largely about self-sacrifice and living much of your life for the greater collective good, but is that what most of us really do, day in and day out? Human beings are self-centered by nature, I believe. I know I am and I think that overcoming that inner-struggle might be the key to happiness in this life. But does that survival instinct, to look out for our own well-being, ever truly interfere with our ability to be an adequate marriage partner? I suspect that it does in so many ways that to even consider it can be overwhelming.
Spiritualized 6 of 10Does a sense of something higher, of spirituality, help a marriage? I'm not really talking about specific religious beliefs here, but rather the more wide open/less indoctrinated appeal of a belief in something bigger than us. Marriages, at their best, foster lessons learned through the years, and ultimately a little wisdom, if we're lucky. So does a couple that share similar spiritual conceptions benefit from that connection much? And if a couple don't share the same fundamental spiritual beliefs, does that hinder their ability to grow old together in wedlock?
Night Moves 7 of 10In the long run, we almost all usually agree that married couples with healthy sex lives are happier and last longer. But why is that? To me, it seems that sex is something that not only brings us closer together in exclusive fashion, but also that it very simply reminds us of something which we all need as human beings/animals: that we are wanted. So, when the sex life wanes or ebbs and flows, beneath our souls their is a stirring brought on by this nagging reminder that we might not be as wanted anymore. And mutual forward movement becomes much trickier when there are pangs of regret or resentment there, huh? Still, are couples that have lots of sex ALWAYS better off in marriage? Or is lust just fish food for much bigger shadows swimming in our depths?
Hearts And Gold 8 of 10I have spent way more of my life with not enough money than I have spent with it. And so have lots of people before me. So, in learning to live life without much gold in the sack, I sometimes wonder whether the money issues that plague so many marriages are just superficial excuses? Now, there is no doubt that money is critical for living, especially when you're half of a team and your other half is depending on you to help steer the ship/pay the bills. But when couples begin to crumble under the stress of financial pressure, what happens to the love? What happens to the more powerful things that brought them together in the first place? How does love and trust and deep meaningful friendship/partnership all fail so miserably to step in and cushion frightened hearts when bank accounts are bruised? Is it just the fact that money actually IS more important than almost anything else in a marriage? Or do we allow money problems to highlight other things about our partners which bother us? I'm not here to say one or the other, that's for certain. But it's such a major player in marriages that's it's certainly worth pondering, I think.
The Kids 9 of 10Children. We love them. With all of our hearts and souls. But with them come new strains upon a marriage. Think about it. When two become three and then four or five there is no two anymore. And certainly there must be something lost as well as gained when two people riding out the good and the bad together, for better or for worse, leave behind their dual-dependency in favor of the complicated beauty of parenthood. I love my kids more than anything I have ever known or will ever know. But I am no fool. I realize that my life before children was wildly different than my life with them in terms of freedom/space/money/pursuits/work/sex...in terms of damn near EVERYTHING that defined who I was when I entered into a marriage versus what it is today with the addition of little ones. So, I'm just presenting the question as something else for us to look at in trying to decipher what makes marriages great? Kids are the best...but do they take the focus off our marriage at times when we need to be looking at it closer than ever?
Made To Be Broken 10 of 10How do we know if we are marriage material anyway? Is there a way to decide? Or do we have to actually be married before we ever realize if it is right or wrong for us? There are so many divorces in the western world these days that it doesn't necessarily take a major cynic to say that people might be becoming less 'talented' in the marriage department. Why is that? Why are we so unprepared for what is expected of us, and what we expect from our spouses, when we first get married? Maybe we are slowly heading to a place where we re-define what marriage is, and in turn, what love means to us in 2012 and beyond. Or perhaps we are just unable to control ourselves, confusing that excitable pounding in our hearts with something headed towards forever.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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