Someone asked me recently why Paul and I are having a Vow Renewal ceremony. It’s a good question, though I thought the answer would have been obvious.
People grow and change in life and in relationships. It’s easy to have a ceremony in the early years of getting together when love is new and fresh, but when you’ve been together for 20 years, there is a different energy in the relationship. Life is still full of exciting possibilities. We’re not dead yet! We have life to live and a love worth celebrating.
For some people, they live together as strangers, perhaps even at war the whole time. For others, there’s a compatibility even if the love has long gone.
For us, the love is as strong as ever. We’re also entering a new phase in our relationship. Next year, our younger daughter leaves home for university. Paul and I have spent the majority of our relationship as parents (I was pregnant six weeks after we got together). I am excited about our upcoming honeymoon phase and about spending lots of time together, not as parents, but as lovers. But it’s more than that. It’s about honouring that, in many ways, yes, we are the same people we each fell in love with, but we’ve also been witnesses to each other’s lives. We have grown together. We support each other’s endeavours in this world. And we nurture each other in the privacy of our home.
At our 10th anniversary vow renewal ceremony, Paul said that he would go through all the hardships we’d been through all over again if it meant I was by his side. I was so touched by his words, and wholeheartedly agree. Standing side by side has made all the difference. We’re a team, we’re a partnership. We’re here for each other.
The lady who takes one of my aquafit classes also leads my Pilates classes. I pointed out to her the other day that the ‘script’ she uses in each one is quite similar: Tighten your core muscles, and breathe. She says ‘breathe’ a lot. And the truth is that exercise is so much easier if you’re breathing consciously.
Relationships are an exercise, too. They are a daily emotional work out for which, if you intend to have a conscious relationship, you must breathe. It is this oxygen which sustains marriages as much as life. You can breathe deeply and bring richness to your relationship or you can shallow-breathe your way through a ho-hum existence. It’s a choice. Life is too precious to be in anything but a relationship which fills your heart and nourishes you at the deepest level of your being.
It is very common in relationships for people not to share how they feel with their partner. But it is in our very vulnerability that we touch the other. And if they’re not touched by our nakedness, our rawness, our willingness to expose our true self, then I venture to say that perhaps we’re not in the right relationship. This isn’t to say that someone can’t learn how to be open to another’s vulnerability, and to respect them accordingly. But they have to want to. They have to be willing to unpack their baggage and see what’s holding them back.
If a partner says something which hurts, embarrasses, intimidates, insults or bruises you in some way, why would you not tell them? How can you hope for a different relationship if a light isn’t shed on such behaviour? And if you’re a parent, what are you teaching your child about relationships if you shy away from something as basic and fundamental as how you ‘feel’? There’s an old metaphysical law that says: you can’t heal what you can’t feel.
If you’re always shoving your feelings to one side for the sake of ‘peace’ or because you feel your partner wouldn’t give a toss anyway, then you’re living a half life. And you know what? You deserve better than that. We all deserve better than that.
Our relationships are a reflection of how we value our selves. When you know how to treat yourself with love, kindness, fairness and care, then you won’t accept anything less from anyone else.
My elder daughter said to me recently, about relationships: you and Dad have set the bar too high. What she meant was that she didn’t want the bog-standard relationship but one where both people really wanted to be in the marriage, and honoured and adored their partner in such a way that they’d never intentionally hurt them with their words or actions.
In the words of my exercise teacher: breathe deeply.
Let your breath bring your feelings to consciousness, and share them with your partner. For better or worse.
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