Where I’m At

Things for me somehow seem to be coming to a head, and I’m not sure why. There are the outward signs: I’ve got a response to file next week, a meeting with an attorney (please feel free to donate to that cause) in a few days to get that response ready, and a family law “orientation” to attend tomorrow morning, provided there is space available. I’ve also got a spouse who is pushing back harder than ever, and who is trying to hide even more than before. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that, when the experts say that “it always gets worse before it gets better,” this really seems to be true — universally true. I can understand why so many people end up divorced, because they just don’t understand the signs or the basic psychology behind those signs. Instead, they react instinctively by defending their own ego narratives, and that creates a downward spiral from which recovery is extremely difficult.

I’ve been thinking about my situation, and where things seem to be at, and I kind of feel like I’m at a watershed sort of moment at which things are internally shifting for me. Perhaps it’s because of events of the past few weeks, or perhaps it’s because of some complex network of other factors, but at this point I find myself letting go. Somehow, this seems to be a critical juncture.

Letting go does not mean giving up. It does not mean failing to hold a vision of a better future. It does not mean throwing away aspirations and prayers. Instead, it means letting go of the uncontrollable.

I cannot control my wife or her decisions. I cannot control her emotions or her reactions. I cannot control her thoughts or her panic attacks (which I’m quite certain have returned for her). I cannot control her impulsivity or her reactivity. I cannot force her to come home, and I cannot force her to end her affair. I cannot force her to drop her legal proceedings, either.

The only things I can control are my own actions and intentions. That’s it. This knowledge has always been there, staring me in the face, but I’ve only recently realized what this means. And, quite counterintuitively, it means that there is power that can result from this realization.

An action taken with an impure intention is impure, no matter how it appears. Heck, I’ve known this for years; it’s Buddhism 101. A vision held too tightly will suffocate. An aspiration that is not released will go nowhere. An act of love that has any kind of boundary is not an act of love at all.

When those limitations and impurities are taken away, all those actions, visions, aspirations, and acts of love begin to carry true power. They become imbued with the most powerful force in the universe: love. It is the basic state of our existence.

People who casually hear of Marriage Fitness often don’t understand these basic facts about the program. The two most basic tenets are to “put love first,” and to “be the spouse of your partner’s dreams.” They often mistake its “techniques” or “practices” as things that are part of some program. A “talk charge,” is not part of some program; it’s something that you should have been doing from day one of your marriage. You likely were, too, but then at some point you stopped. A “date night” is not a part of a marriage-saving strategy; it’s something you should have been doing at least once a week during the entire course of your marriage. You probably did these early on, but then the reality of life took over and you stopped doing them. A “business meeting” is not part of some “expert’s” scheme to fix distressed marriages; it’s a critical skill that all married couples should use from the moment the honeymoon ends. They are common-sense things that are just uncommonly done.

And that’s where the problem lies: you stop doing these things, and the love dies. You stop “putting love first,” and instead, put it second, third, or fifteenth. So long as it’s not first, it will dwindle and fizzle out.

That’s when the justifications and prevarications begin. “We weren’t compatible.” “She changed.” “We just don’t belong together anymore.” Sadly, there is a very real element of truth to all of these statements. No two people are ever compatible. No person on this earth does not change. And two people who have not learned how to keep their love alive probably don’t belong together anymore.

But, when one person takes the initiative to put love back into first place, and when that one person does some profound introspection and changes the behavioral and personal habituated patterns that were undermining the marriage, then the relationship can heal and become whole. It doesn’t matter if the other spouse is having an affair, has separated, filed for divorce, is stonewalling, or whatever.

I’m going to repeat that statement, because it does seem outrageous: It doesn’t matter if the other spouse is having an affair, has separated, filed for divorce, is stonewalling, or whatever. What matters is how you love your spouse. If you love your spouse totally and completely, and manifest that love without conditions, and if you take full responsibility for all of the things that led that spouse to have an affair, to separate, to file for divorce, to stonewall, or to do whatever else, then you heal that relationship, bit by bit.

It is a process. It is a slow process, a very, very slow process. Relationships do not turn around quickly when they are truly distressed. Affairs take time to end, and spouses that separate need time to get over their egos enough to give love another chance. It could take months, and a lot of them. I know of many reconciliations by this point, and few of them got there in under a year; most seem to have taken something more like 18-24 months.

Love doesn’t have any problem with that.  It has all the time in the world and all the space in the universe. It does not need to endure, because it has neither beginning nor end. Love has no expectations or conditions. It does not need to let go, because it has nothing to hold on to. It has no reference points of self or other. Love just is.

My experience of “letting go” seems to be one of realization of this fact: love just is, so let it be what it is.

 

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3 thoughts on “Where I’m At”

  1. I like Mort Fertel and am a proponent of Marriage Fitness, too.

    The phrase “put love first” means, to me, that first we must love ourselves unconditionally. If we don’t do our own (as Mort calls it) “fixing,” we’ll never have a good marriage. We must love ourselves enough to address those aspects that keep us from reaching our full potential as individual human beings.

    In other words, to be the spouse our partner deserves, we must first show unconditional love to ourselves, so we’re the healthiest and happiest we can be WITHOUT relying on another person to try to make that happen for us. In my view, that’s where a lot of relationships go wrong. It’s a cliche, but it’s true that if we don’t love ourselves fully, we cannot love anyone else fully.

    Try to enjoy that feeling of love, and if I may say so, turn most of it toward yourself right now. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said, “I love you for being who you are and for all the effort you’ve put forth. Don’t forget to nurture me, most of all.”

    Take good care, and thank you for your openness.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Mary.

      I actually do practice self-directed loving kindness as part of my spiritual practice. It’s a bit complicated to explain the philosophical concepts, but it is basically what you have said: if we cannot be accepting of the person we are right now, there is not enough space for that love to be directed to others.

      It’s kind of counterintuitive, actually: the single most compassionate thing I could be doing is to sit on the cushion and meditate. This provides the experiential ground for the opening of the heart that then can unfold. I do this every day, and it’s one of the reasons I haven’t become despondent or gone totally neurotic.

      1. I’m glad to hear that, rodion. It’s something I’ve found that most people do not understand. They think they can find happiness in another person, and they never direct that energy where it’s needed most.

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