In marriage, trust is more fragile than glass and can break even without a fall, just from the pressure of being held without gentle care. Every decision counts from the words you chose not to say as you work out differences, disappointments and conflict to the effort it takes to continue to appreciate the person who blends with you into the mundane workings of your household. It’s easy to both forget to give time to communication and to let miscommunication build like dust in the corner, from sheer neglect.
Between jobs, traffic, chores and children, two people can fall into routines that enable them to manage everything plus exhaustion, but not much more. The emotional investment from the first years and the heady passion from the youth of a partnership can unnoticeably disperse like mist disappearing on a Santa Cruz morning. It’s ironic, the more you need someone and the more they meet that need is the more you can take them for granted, assuming that they will always be there to fill that role you assigned them and expect from them, as if you too are not changing everyday and constantly renegotiating who you are in relation to yourself, the world and love.
Coming from parents who did not stay married, I used to romanticize life-long marriages but as I’ve come to appreciate the complexities and considerations of commitment, I’ve come to see the cracks, silences, trappings and compromises of marriages in addition to their achievements. Relationships, even tried and true ones, are only, humbly, works in progress. All you can do is your best and hope that less than your best won’t cause hurt you can’t heal. All you can hope is that you know what the right thing to do is when it matters and that you do it with respect, responsibility and regard in your heart.
Consequences are out of our control, but choice, like trust, is entirely in our hands. Like all humans in all relations, mistakes or even decisions that are not mistakes but which compel fresh meditation and reckoning will be made. There are always signs, sometimes in the form of conversations or experiences or people, to help you still your mind, search for a way that feels right and remember this too will pass.
What does all this mean for love? Even in marriages, relationship to love is not static. How you understand love, what you want from it, who you want it from, what you are willing to do or not for it, what sacrifices you are willing to make and why, and what significance it holds in your life all change, sometimes quickly and momentously, sometimes imperceptibly and unconsciously. You can’t make assumptions about anything with anyone, even if you live with them everyday. It’s important to ask before the answers slip away from the possibilities of conversation.
In each look, each breath, each touch and each interaction, it’s important to know why you are there and whether you can be there in the way that you promised. If things are still good, make gratitude your practice. If not, this is simply another moment when the universe gives you a chance to choose. What happens then is just life, adulthood and growth, however hard that molting of old for new skin feels.