When we are children, we are, in effect, attending “Marriage College.” Our professors are the adults we grow up around – our parents, adult friends, and extended family members. The lessons we learn are related to how to behave in a marriage, or more often than not, how not to behave.
If our education is a negative one, we swear we will never be like that, and we often blame our role models for what they have taught us. What we must understand, though, is that they never realized they were “teaching” anything; they were simply living their lives the way they themselves had been taught.
Rather than living that same life and blaming them for it, it would be better for us to study where they went wrong and learn how to get it right.
We are blessed with choices. We can emulate the things our parents taught us, the good and the bad, or we can choose to search through all those lessons and separate the useful ones from the ones that challenge the new-found values that we have learned in recovery. Our fathers may have told us that women will always hurt us or our mothers may have taught us that men are only good for bringing home a paycheck. That does not mean we have to accept our parents’ skewed sense of the world.
With the honesty and intimacy that we are learning in recovery, we can reject what does not fit in our lives and continue to grow together in our romantic partnership.
When young people are in college, they often have a romantic idea of what life will be like when they graduate with a certain major. Some dream of being doctors, others, lawyers and still others, great historians. But when the classes become difficult or boring or incomprehensible, they switch majors in search of something with more potential. We do that same thing in relationships.
We romanticize what life will be like with the person we are involved with if only one or two things about them can be changed. We are not in love with that person; we’re in love with their potential. When it doesn’t happen the way we envisioned, we go to the next relationship, and the next, and the next. What is missing here is getting in touch with your own core values and beliefs and what you are really looking for in a romantic relationship. If you are ever to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, they must have the same values that you do even if they do not like the same activities or political candidates.
We have learned much from other people on the subject of marriage. We have been told that “You’ve made your bed; now you have to lie in it” and “Passion dies – get over it” and “Contentment is all you can expect once the honeymoon is over.” None of this has to be true. Those who have accepted these gloomy forecasts have not attempted to challenge them. It does not have to be that way. You can keep the passion and excitement in your relationship but you and your partner must work together to nourish your romance.
If your romance is to survive, then your spirituality must be at the center of the relationship. If you have been focusing on possessions and power, you may find that you are using, and then losing, people who were friends. By putting your spiritual needs first, you position yourself to help others, giving support and gaining it. Look for other couples who would benefit from the abundance of your spiritual union.
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their book “One in the Spirit: Meditation Course for Recovering Couples“.
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Last reviewed: 21 Jul 2012