I have a juicy topic to discuss with you today. Marriage. Life-long commitments to love. Soulmates.
You may have noticed that I love love, and that I love my husband. I am romantic and I am a relationship oriented person. I learned many of my major life lessons through the relationships I’ve had – and though that is not everyone’s path, and perhaps not the path I would necessarily recommend, it has been my experience and I honour it as such.
Many of you may also already know that I had an arranged marriage. I believe I have a valuable perspective as a person who has had relationships and has ultimately had an arranged marriage. Picking your life partner, your ride or die is a very important decision. And it is something we have to do when we’re relatively young and don’t necessarily have the life experience, maturity or wisdom to pick a good one. We may not even have the skills we need to grow love, I know I certainly didn’t. It’s one of those things you learn while doing. It is the great work of love.
Here are some of my thoughts on finding the one.
A commitment based on an emotion
Most relationships are created out of a commitment based on an emotion. We enjoy a person’s company and a certain pleasantness arises within us. We feel good. As some time passes, that pleasant feeling increases and increases until it reaches a certain threshold, which we call “love.” This is the point when many of us decide to commit to a relationship with that person.
One day you may wake up next to your partner and find on that particular day for various reasons, that pleasant feeling is not there. And maybe you wake up like this for a few days, or weeks, or months. That’s when we say “I have fallen out of love with you” and it’s over.
But in my experience of life, emotions tend to fluctuate a lot. We go through cycles of intimacy in relationships.
An arranged marriage, on the other hand, is a commitment based on expectations; the cultural and societal expectation of a long-lasting marriage and your expectation that “This is it. This is the one.” Historically, arranged marriages tend to have longevity with low divorce rates in India compared to the western society. However, I do recognize that that is changing over time. But, I realized that arranged marriages tend to last for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are not based on fickle emotions, they are not based on how you “feel.” They are founded in values, expectations, roles to play, pressure, and sometimes even fear. In the best cases, you can develop intimacy, friendship, companionship and love. In the worst cases, you’re trapped.
Clearly there are flaws in both approaches: commitments based on emotions and commitments based on expectations.
I believe that when entering any relationship in your life, there are two commitments you must make. One, to yourself and your personal growth. And secondly, a commitment to your partner’s growth. Not their “happiness” in particular, but their growth and evolution as a human being. When you grow that kind of dedication to yourself and to your partner, a commitment to the marriage or the institution of marriage itself, feels somewhat redundant because you’ve tapped into a connection that is so much more fundamental than that.
Choose someone you can suffer with
In our search for the great romance of our life, one of the main questions I would ask myself is “Is this someone who I can enjoy my life with?”
Can I do the fun things in life with them? Could I go on vacation with them? Could I bring them to family reunions? Can I live my dream life with them?
At the peak of love, of course I would ask myself these questions! When I am filled with love, I only want to share it.
Eventually, it dawned on me that we can enjoy a good thing with almost anyone. I could go out on to the street, pick a random dude and ask him “do you want to go and do this incredibly awesome thing with me?” and the chances are, we will have a grand ol’ time and get along just fine. When life goes our way, it is easy to be happy and it is easy to share that happiness with someone else.
Choose someone you can suffer with.
These will be the defining trails of your life and of your relationship.
Choose someone who can soften in your sadness. You may find that some people just aggravate it and make it ten times worse. It might be their personality, it might be the karmic baggage they come to this life with, but it just isn’t compatible with you.
Choose someone who, when life is plunging into “worst case scenario” territory, choose the one who makes you feel brave enough to put one foot in front of the other. Someone who recognizes and honours your sadness, your grief, your anger.
Choose someone to grow with
If you are an individual who values self-mastery, and I imagine that you, as a reader of my blog, are. I presume you seek to master at least some aspect of your life, whether that’s on an emotional, intellectual, material or spiritual level. I presume you, like me, are a seeker, looking for deeper understanding of life and yourself. If that’s you, if that’s important to you, then choose someone who is also seeking. Choose someone who also desires to understand life. The first step to self mastery is awareness, so look for signs in a potential partner, that they possess some modicum of self awareness.
This is not obligatory. But it certainly helps. It certainly makes things flow.
Growing love after marriage
A relationship often begins when your attraction and emotion is at its peak. Without some level of consciousness, the love starts decreasing gradually over time. With some people, you may find it decreases really quick. Maybe it runs out after 3 months, or a year. With some others, maybe it takes 10 years to run out.
All my previous relationships have felt like there was a countdown. How much fun can we have before our times up?
With an arranged marriage, and our marriage in particular, our love grew after marriage. And it took it’s own sweet time. We did not marry at a peak. We married at 0 with no where to go but up.
A few years ago, I lived a life where things entropied over time. Things got messier, more complicated, harder, and just generally worse. It was a destructive way to live, and joy was fleeting and difficult to grasp.
Shifting my approach to life, where I wanted things to get better over time, has truly changed the dynamic of my life. It takes real effort, dedication, and consciousness, but everything flourishes now.
A gamble on love
Ultimately, falling in love is a great risk. In an arranged marriage, your parents take some ownership of that risk, and in a marriage of your choosing, you take that responsibility. There are people who have been married for decades who ultimately part ways. I don’t consider divorce to be any kind of failure.
Relationships can’t fail, they can only transform into what they need to be.
One thing I know for sure is that you must be as committed to yourself as you are to anybody else. That means that even if your relationship ends, you will not end.
Evolved love & partnership
Most relationships are transactional, or at least begin this way. You do this for me and I’ll do this for you.
As the transactional relationship it evolves, it becomes “I’ll take care of my happiness, you take care of your happiness, and together we can be companions for life.”
This parallel happiness relationship still has potential to transform. In a highly evolved partnership, each person is completely devoted to the other, with no concern for themselves, because they are always so beautiful held by their partner. It’s beautiful. It’s love. It’s selflessness. It’s unconditional. It’s completely equal and balanced. This type of love is delicate, because I think most of us, including myself, are not mature enough to implement it. And with that immaturity comes the risk of falling into abusive relationships if you live with a total disregard for yourself and your needs.
My husband and I catch glimpses of this kind of love occasionally in our relationship. Here’s a silly-cute example – I was at the grocery store and saw a delicious red velvet cupcake. Now, I love red velvet cupcakes and it would take a lot for me to sacrifice one, but in that moment, I decided I loved my husband more, and I wanted to surprise him with it. I accepted my fate of not being able to taste my beloved red velvet cupcake, but knew the joy of seeing my husband enjoy one was coming my way. Well, guess what? That evening, my husband came home from work with a surprise for me! And would you believe it – it was a red velvet cupcake! I’m chuckling to myself as I write this little story because it’s so silly and trivial, yet it is still a small sacred example of an evolved love glimmering through. We both wanted the other to be delighted by a surprise-red-velvet-cupcake, and in the end we both got to have a red velvet cupcake. Imagine if we could expand this into all aspects of our partnership?
So, in conclusion, look for someone to grow with. Look for someone you can suffer with. Develop a deep commitment to your evolution as a human being, and to your partners evolution.
And practice an unwavering and steady commitment to keep showing up every day to do the work of love.