Marriage may be the most rewarding and most difficult relationship a person can experience. This makes it an ideal place for transformational practice.
What makes marriage so unique is the nature of the commitment. We go into marriage with the expectation that it is for life. You might argue that is no longer true. But it is true that most people believe they are making a “long term” commitment, at least on the order of buying a house.
Most of us go into marriage expecting to create a family. We want to leave a legacy of ourselves to the world in the way of children, either by blood or by adoption. And by so doing, we take on the mantle of responsibility for those lives. We make an implicit covenant to love them, provide for them, socialize them, and raise them to be independent, productive adults.
My dad says you’re never done being a parent.
Marriage is an everyday practice. Even when our spouse is away, the commitment is present with us. Will we reach out and touch them? Will we think kindly or critically of them? Will we bless as they come through the door from work, or greet them with our own anger and frustration? Will we bring our work home, or give our family our full attention?
But I think the hardest and most rewarding part of the marriage practice is vulnerability. We’ve got so much riding on this one commitment. What happens if I lose face? What happens if I humiliate myself right there in front of my partner?
What’s the alternative? What if you don’t talk about the one thing you think you need but aren’t getting? What if you don’t help your spouse get that one thing she needs? What if you express yourself in a way that is emotionally upsetting to your partner?
We have to find a way to talk with, and reveal ourselves each other. We have to find a way to compromise, so that each person gets some of what they need and want. This isn’t easy. But so much is riding on it. It takes practice. It takes forgiveness, because inevitably you’re going to hurt each other.
But the reward is the web of connectedness, goodwill, and love that come from a successful marriage.