Monday, September 22, 2008

Partners and Marriage

By Eduardo Jose E. Calasanz

I have never met a man who didn't want to be
loved. But I have seldom met a man who didn't fear
marriage. Something about the closure seems
constricting, not enabling. Marriage seems easier
to understand for what it cuts out of our lives than
for what it makes possible within our lives.

When I was younger this fear immobilized me. I
did not want to make a mistake. I saw my friends
get married for reasons of social acceptability, or
sexual fever, or just because they thought it was
the logical thing to do. Then I watched, as they
and their partners became embittered and petty in
their dealings with each other. I looked at older
couples and saw, at best, mutual toleration of
each other. I imagined a lifetime of loveless nights
and bickering and could not imagine subjecting
myself or someone else to such a fate.

And yet, on rare occasions, I would see old
couples who somehow seemed to glow in each
other's presence. They seemed really in love, not
just dependent upon each other and tolerant of
each other's foibles. It was an astounding sight,
and it seemed impossible. How, I asked myself,
can they have survived so many years of
sameness, so much irritation at the other's habits?
What keeps love alive in them, when most of us
seem unable to even stay together, much less love
each other? The central secret seems to be in
choosing well. There is something to the claim of
fundamental compatibility.
Good people can create a bad relationship, even
though they both dearly want the relationship to
succeed. It is important to find someone with
whom you can create a good relationship from the
outset. Unfortunately, it is hard to see clearly in
the early stages.

Sexual hunger draws you to each other and colors
the way you see yourselves together. It blinds you
to the thousands of little things by which
relationships eventually survive or fail. You need to
find a way to see beyond this initial overwhelming
sexual fascination. Some people choose to involve
themselves sexually and ride out the most heated
period of sexual attraction in order to see what is
on the other side. This can work, but it can also
leave a trail of wounded hearts. Others deny the
sexual side altogether in an attempt to get to know
each other apart from their sexuality. But they
cannot see clearly, because the presence of
unfulfilled sexual desire looms so large that it
keeps them from having any normal perception of
what life would be like together.

The truly lucky people are the ones who manage
to become long-time friends before they realize
they are attracted to each other. They get to know
each other's laughs, passions, sadness, and
They see each other at their worst and at their
best. They share time together before they get
swept into the entangling intimacy of their

This is the ideal, but not often possible. If you fall
under the spell of your sexual attraction
immediately, you need to look beyond it for other
keys to compatibility. One of these is laughter.
Laughter tells you how much you will enjoy each
other's company over the long term.

If your laughter together is good and healthy, and
not at the expense of others, then you have a
healthy relationship to the world. Laughter is the
child of surprise. If you can make each other
laugh, you can always surprise each other. And if
you can always surprise each other, you can
always keep the world around you new. Beware
a relationship in which there is no laughter. Even
the most intimate relationships based only on
seriousness have a tendency to turn sour. Over
time, sharing a common serious viewpoint on the
world tends to turn you against those who do not
share the same viewpoint, and your relationship
can become based on being critical together.

After laughter, look for a partner who deals with
world in a way you respect. When two people first
get together, they tend to see their relationship as
existing only in the space between the two of
They find each other endlessly fascinating, and the
overwhelming power of the emotions they are
sharing obscures the outside world. As the
relationship ages and grows, the outside world
becomes important again. If your partner treats
people or circumstances in a way you can't
accept, you will inevitably come to grief. Look at
the way she cares for others and deals with the
daily affairs of life. If that makes you love her more,
your love will grow. If it does not, be careful. If you
do not respect the way you each deal with the
world around you, eventually the two of you will
respect each other.

Look also at how your partner confronts the
mysteries of life. We live on the cusp of poetry and
practicality, and the real life of the heart resides in
the poetic. If one of you is deeply affected by the
mystery of the unseen in life and relationships,
while the other is drawn only to the literal and the
practical, you must take care that the distance
doesn't become an unbridgeable gap that leaves
you each feeling isolated and misunderstood.

There are many other keys, but you must find
them by yourself. We all have unchangeable parts
of our hearts that we will not betray and private
commitments to a vision of life that we will not
deny. If you fall in love with someone who cannot
nourish those inviolable parts of you, or if you
cannot nourish them in her, you will find
growing further apart until you live in separate
worlds where you share the business of life, but
never touch each other where the heart lives and
dreams. From there it is only a small leap to the
cataloging of petty hurts and daily failures that
leaves so many couples bitter and unsatisfied with
their mates.

So choose carefully and well. If you do, you will
have chosen a partner with whom you can grow,
and then the real miracle of marriage can take
place in your hearts. I pick my words carefully
when I speak of a miracle. But I think it is not too
strong a word.

There is a miracle in marriage. It is called
transformation. Transformation is one of the most
common events of nature. The seed becomes the
flower. The cocoon becomes the butterfly. Winter
becomes spring and love becomes a child. We
never question these, because we see them
around us every day. To us they are not miracles,
though if we did not know them they would be
impossible to believe.

Marriage is a transformation we choose to make.
Our love is planted like a seed, and in time it
begins to flower. We cannot know the flower that
will blossom, but we can be sure that a bloom will

If you have chosen carefully and wisely, the bloom
will be good. If you have chosen poorly or for the
wrong reason, the bloom will be flawed. We are
quite willing to accept the reality of negative
transformation in a marriage. It was negative
transformation that always had me terrified of the
bitter marriages that I feared when I was younger.
It never occurred to me to question the dark
miracle that transformed love into harshness and
bitterness. Yet I was unable to accept the
possibility that the first heat of love could be
transformed into something positive that was
actually deeper and more meaningful than the heat
of fresh passion. All I could believe in was the
power of this passion and the fear that when it
cooled I would be left with something lesser and

But there is positive transformation as well. Like
negative transformation, it results from a slow
accretion of little things. But instead of death by a
thousand blows, it is growth by a thousand
touches of love. Two histories intermingle. Two
separate beings, two separate presence, two
separate consciousnesses come together and
share a view of life that passes before them. They
remain separate, but they also become one. There
is an expansion of awareness, not a closure and a
constriction, as I had once feared. This is not to
say that there is not tension and there are not
traps. Tension and traps are part of every choice
life, from celibate to monogamous to having
multiple lovers. Each choice contains within it the
lingering doubt that the road not taken somehow
more fruitful and exciting, and each becomes
dulled to the richness that it alone contains.

But only marriage allows life to deepen and expand
and be leavened by the knowledge that two have
chosen, against all odds, to become one. Those
who live together without marriage can know the
pleasure of shared company, but there is a
specific gravity in the marriage commitment that
deepens that experience into something richer and
more complex.

So do not fear marriage, just as you should not
rush into it for the wrong reasons. It is an act of
faith and it contains within it the power of

If you believe in your heart that you have found
someone with whom you are able to grow, if you
have sufficient faith that you can resist the
attraction of the road not taken and the partner not
chosen, if you have the strength of heart to
embrace the cycles and seasons that your love
will experience, then you may be ready to seek
the miracle that marriage offers.
If not, then wait. The easy grace of a marriage well
made is worth your patience. When the time
comes, a thousand flowers will bloom...endlessly.

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