Linda: The legend of Edmund Hillary, a visionary extraordinaire, as a boy in New Zealand, he dreamed of climbing Mt. Everest. Many people don’t know that he failed during his first attempt. Many men before him had died trying. Defeated, he faced his investors, the London Explorers Club, who had lost all their money. He stood at the podium in front of a projected picture of Everest and said, “I will defeat you, Everest, because you cannot get any bigger–and I can.” Hillary defeated Everest in May 1953 and was knighted in July of that same year.
We too can hold the vision of growing bigger and with mutual support of our partner, can bring out the best in each other. Way too many people carry a dull image of long-term married love. They associate marriage with sacrifice, lack of freedom, hostile dependency, verbal abuse, or at best a stale, flat, boring, empty form of marriage. We need a bright, shiny, alive model of romantic love, a deep harmony between two people approaching the ecstatic and transcendent, both a safe haven in a hectic world and a launching-pad to develop our economic and creative potential.
We need a model of marriage that catalyzes each other’s growth. Most people have some unfinished business from childhood, and a committed partnership is a great place to heal from old wounds. We may be fearful and mystified about how to remain a unique, autonomous individual while being close to others. But we can make that leap of faith to believe that that desired closeness is possible, while holding on to our essential self.
A growth model of marriage is one in which we make a commitment to ourselves and each other to use what the relationship with our partner tosses up as an opportunity for development. It is a dynamic process of getting bigger and becoming a more loving person. When we experience fear, it is an opportunity to closely examine and directly express the fear to our partner to engage them as a confidant to move to a state of greater fearlessness. When we find ourselves in conflict with our partner, we can examine our own reactivity and attachments, using arguments to more deeply understand what activates our anger, to know our areas of sensitivity, and to learn how to move from conflict to connection.
And since every relationship at some point, will have moments when we feel let down, disappointed, hurt, violated, and even betrayed, we have a big opportunity to learn how to soothe ourselves, to not take these violations so personally, to practice forgiveness, and to learn what heals us and the damaged partnership to move from betrayal to reconciliation.
Because of that lack of vision a growing life-long relationship when things deteriorate, there is fear that well-being will not come back again. That’s when we are most at risk for the connection to our partner to be lost. Becoming an artful lover requires that we contact with their inner life, to know both our light and dark aspects. We learn to move through the cycles of relationship. Enduring love prevails through both dark and golden times. When we ride through the challenging times, we become more courageous and strong. Without a growth model to hold fast to, many of us lose faith in the transformative process.
A growth-oriented marriage can catalyze the journey from a place of lesser integrity to one of greater integrity. In the self-observation that includes honest feedback from our partner, we can identify those places where our feelings, thoughts, words and actions are not lined up as one. The process of growing into a person of greater integrity allows us to evolve into a stronger, trustworthy human being.
The relationship itself can confront us with our own misperception about how small we believe ourselves to be. It prompts us to examine our limiting beliefs about who we are, continuously by encouraging us to evolve into our greater self. For it is only with profound support from someone we respect and trust that we pry ourselves loose form our limited self-image.
So many people opt for the comfort and security model of marriage and are thereby missing an extraordinary opportunity. Many don’t even know that a growth model of marriage is available. Their parents did not live a growth and development model of marriage and they might not know anyone who is living one, so it does not show up as an option. Some people realize that this model of marriage is available but believe it is only for the lucky few, and have decided is not available to them. Some believe that it is possible, but think it is too much work, and not worth the effort. A growth model of marriage is available to all of us, if we can unseat our limiting beliefs that are in the way.
If your partner is not yet interested in such a marriage, a choice can be made to go ahead and live it by yourself. The benefits and satisfaction that can be derived might ultimately inspire that reluctant partner to join in. When both members are fully engaged in this form of marriage, there is no boredom. Our lives become a creative adventure, confusion gives way to understanding, predictability is replaced by excitement, and numbness gives way to aliveness, with love infusing our life. The container of the marital pair is much too small to contain such an outpouring of love. Therefore the love is overflowing to those around us, including family friends, and our larger community. This model does indeed require that we work at it, both as individuals and as a couple, but the rewards are more than our limited imagination can vision. Don’t take my word for it. Try it and discover the benefits from your own experience.