You won’t find happiness in the arms of a lover.
It comes from within you.
I’ve always wondered why some marriages just seemed effortless. Mine for instance. In over twenty years of being together, we had exactly one, knock down, drag out fight. I can remember it to this day. And it was all my wife’s fault (she’s not here to defend herself, so I can say that. I’ll deal with the consequences at St. Peter’s gate).
Others will tell you that keeping a marriage alive is WORK. My parent’s marriage certainly fell into that category. I don’t remember much of it, but my sisters tell me that they fought all the time. I’m the second youngest, the only boy, and likely the most clueless, so I didn’t really see any of it. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. My mother and father were very much in love. And they raised six of us through some very challenging times. But it wasn’t an effortless relationship.
What I’m getting at here though goes to one’s internal compass.
My father was a deeply unsatisfied person. Some would say depressed. But I think he just felt like he had never lived up to his higher self. He was a lineman and an electrician. Without a doubt one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. He could take an automatic transmission out of a car, tear it down, repair it and reinstall it, all without a manual.
What he really longed to do though, was to invent. He was always tinkering with things. He once built a winch for his jeep from an old starter motor. He designed and built a power generating turbine for our hunting camp using an old alternator and a pretty ingenious deployment of old building materials.
When he had the time and the money to go out on a limb and play, he was in his world. He was always a great dad, a good husband and someone everybody enjoyed being around. But when he got into the zone, he was illuminated like the full moon on a cloudless night.
He didn’t get to spend much of his life like that though. In his later years of employment he had been promoted to increasingly high levels of management. He hated the paperwork. And managing people stressed him out. So much so that he had a heart attack at 48. He passed away at 60 from that same heart disease. He never really got to have a healthy retirement. That stress, lack of money and inability to spend time doing the things he loved deeply impacted his outlook on life.
My mother didn’t suffer from that deep seated dissatisfaction with life. And I think her ability to keep calm in the storms of life is really what kept them together all those years.
I had never really thought about it before, but I know when my wife was alive I didn’t have that kind of pain either. I think my Dreams essay goes a long way towards explaining where I found my peace.
My wife’s peace was found in her children. We made the decision to get married, not based on some lofty ideal of marriage, or because she wanted a big fancy wedding. She wanted kids. She demanded they have the proper legal status for the time. She made no bones about it, if I wanted her, we would have to be married and kids were going to be a big part of our lives together. It wasn’t like I didn’t want kids. More like I hadn’t really spent a whole lot of time thinking about it. But I knew I wanted a life with her. For me, the kids were a bonus deal and I loved being a dad.
That’s really the heart of how we held together what was pretty much an effortless marriage. We were both living our best lives. She gave me the freedom to pursue passions that didn’t involve her. Countless hours in the garage building boats. Long solitary bicycle rides. I found the peace I needed to be a good father and a good partner. Maybe I’m not the epitome of a great dad (we never did the little league, dance recital type of routine with our kids). But they were loved. And they never wanted for the truly important things in life.
Liz’ best life (outside of her kids) was lived in her work. She was a social worker. She managed community homes for the mentally ill. And she was very good at it. She also loved it. We talked deep into the night about the challenges she faced and the obstacles she overcame. All for the good of her clients. It really was true north on her compass.
We worked so well together because we both had full, satisfying lives outside of our marriage.
You have to fill your bowl full of ice cream and all the other things that make a great sundae before you can add the cherry on top that a lover can bring to your life.