Marriage is not what we think it is. In our culture we have the collective understanding that marriage should be a happy union of two people, and we think that, if it isn't mainly happy and problem-free, we failed or are doing something wrong. Romantic stories usually have a happy ending; two people finally get their act together and are getting married. The expectation is that they will now live happily ever after. But of course they usually don't.
On a social level marriage is about reproducing and upholding the structure and values of society. On a psychological level marriage is about something completely different: it's about friction. After a honeymoon period friction will set in, and this is exactly what's supposed to happen. This may sound baffling or even absurd, and it goes totally against our expectations and beliefs.
We think that when we get married everything should fall into place, but in reality it's the contrary: all the puzzle pieces are thrown in the air, and so the adventure begins. Marriage is here to challenge us, to bring forth all the issues we buried, to press all our buttons, to trigger in us the whole of our suppressed life history that we hoped to leave behind us by getting married.
Marriage figures among the greatest challenges life may present us with, and it is also one of the greatest opportunities to grow and develop as persons. If a marriage doesn't work we usually like to think that, if our partner would change, all would be well. But again: the contrary is the case: it's me that needs to change, it's me I need to look at, it's me I need to work on (and this applies to both partners; this is about stopping the blame game and starting to take responsibility for my part of the problem). It's almost as if we needed to learn to look at our marriages in an abstract way: this person is in my life and bugs me because he or she brings all my unresolved issues to the surface and so gives me the opportunity to see and address them. On this level it almost doesn't matter whom we marry; whoever it is, they will put the finger on our blind spots.
The challenge is to realise this and to work with it. But there is more: Ultimately, it's about our inner union, our marriage with ourselves, the reunion of the parts of ourselves that we split off, buried, rejected. Only then can we become complete; only then can we fulfil the purpose of our existence. In this sense the outer marriage is a representation of an inner process. There is nothing more demanding we could ever undertake; and there is nothing more rewarding, liberating and fulfilling!
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