My husband and I believe there are three separate entities that comprise a marriage:
ME: me as an individual
YOU: him as an individual
& US: us together as a couple
The health and happiness of each entity equally important but their individual needs not always the same.
If all my decisions are made with only MY happiness in mind, than the marriage is likely to suffer. If all his decisions are made with only US in mind, he’s neglecting his own personal needs. And so forth.
For the entirety of our marriage, Mark & I have been business partners. Until now. As business partners, the ME, YOU and US that makes up our marriage had blurred lines. Most things that affected ME also affected HIM. There wasn’t a lot of separation. Now that our career paths are diverging, we’re RE-learning how to care for the three entities of our marriage. If I spend my days focused on ME and my business while he’s at work developing HIS career, the marriage is susceptible to being overshadowed. The fear that I face of US growing apart has caused me to question if I would want to work less and focus more on being a homemaker, thus making HIM and US my priorities. I try to paint that picture in my head and I see ME getting lost in the process.
Is it possible for all three entities to be nurtured without one suffering for the betterment of the other? I believe it is possible, but it’s a dance that requires a lot of patience, practice, attention and at times…sacrifice. Disregarding any of the three and the dance becomes a tug-of-war. With resentment at the heart of the war.
So how do we achieve harmony among ME, YOU and US in order to maintain a happy and healthy marriage? This is a question and a concept that is at the heart of my decision-making these days. I believe that having awareness that these three entities exist is an excellent start. Acknowledging that they need constant care is the first step to seeing that each is cared for. From there it comes down to one of the most crucial aspects of a marriage…communication. My husband and I express our fears, doubts, dreams and anxieties to each other almost daily. There isn’t anything we keep from one another. Not every fear can be addressed, not every dream reached or anxiety resolved…BUT they can all be expressed. Knowing that I’m heard is not only a comfort in itself, but also the first step to avoiding resentment. Obstacles in marriage have no chance of being overcome if they are never expressed.
Finally, there is the matter of accepting that it’s not always possible for ME, YOU and US to be happy and harmonious at all times. There is an ebb and a flow to marriage. Sacrifices sometimes have to be made on behalf of one entity in order for the other entity to grow, heal or progress. Right now my husband’s new career is top priority. I’m learning to lean in to the loneliness and insecurities I’m feeling from time to time knowing that what he is doing for HIM is ultimately for the betterment of US and our livelihood. He’s meeting me in the middle by making a special point to carve out time for US whenever possible. It’s a constant give and take but always with the shared goal of creating a life that’s better together than apart.
Marriage is an ever-evolving union. It’s as complicated as it is rewarding. But if you nurture your union without compromising your identity and needs as an individual, your partnership will create a whole much greater than the sum of it’s parts. And that fact is one of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced so far in my lifetime.
(photo of us by Carl Zoch)