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PARTNERS AND MARRIAGE
By Eduardo Jose E. Calasanz
I have never met a man who didn't want to be loved. But I have seldommet a man who didn't fear marriage. Something about the closure seemsconstricting, not enabling. Marriage seems easier to understand forwhat it cuts out of our lives than for what it makes possible within ourlives.When I was younger this fear immobilized me. I did not want to make amistake. I saw my friends get married for reasons of social acceptability,or sexual fever, or just because they thought it was the logical thing todo. Then I watched, as they and their partners became embittered and pettyin their dealings witheach other. I looked at older couples and saw, at best, mutual tolerationof eachother. I im agined a lifetime of loveless nights and bickering and could notimagine subjecting myself or someone else to such a fate.And yet, on rare occasions, I would see old couples who somehow seemedto glow in each other's presence. They seemed really in love, not justdependent upon each other and tolerant of each other's foibles. It wasan astounding sight, and it seemed impossible. How, I asked myself,can they have survived so many years of sameness, so much irritationat the others habits? What keeps love alive in them, when most of usseem unable to even stay together, much less love each other?The central secret seems to be in choosing well. There is something tothe claim of fundamental compatibility. Good people can create a badrelationship, even though they both dearly want the relationship tosucceed. It is important to find someone with whom you can create a<>good relationship from the outset. Unfortunately, it is hard to seeclearly in the early stages.Sexual hunger draws you to each other and colors the way you seeyourselves together. It blinds you to the thousands of little thingsby which relationships eventually survive or fail. You need to find away to see beyond this initial overwhelming sexual fascination. Somepeople choose to involve themselves sexually and ride out the mostheated period of sexual attraction in order to see what is on theother side.This can work, but it can also leave a trail of wounded hearts. Othersdeny the sexual side altogether in an attempt to get to know eachother apart from their sexuality. But they cannotsee clearly, becausethe presence of unfulfilled sexual desire looms solarge that it keepsthem from having any normal perception of whatlife would be liketogether.The truly l ucky people are the ones who manage tobecome long-timefriends before they realize they are attracted toeach other. They getto know each other's laughs, passions, sadness,and fears. They seeeach other at their worst and at their best. Theyshare time togetherbefore they get swept up into the entanglingintimacy of theirsexuality.
This is the ideal, but not often possible. If youfall under the spellof your sexual attraction immediately, you need tolook beyond it forother keys to compatibility. One of these islaughter. Laughter tellsyou how much you will enjoy each others companyover the long term.If your laughter together is good and healthy, andnot at the expenseof others, then you have a healthy relationship tothe world. Laughteris the child of surprise. If you can make eachother laugh, you canalways surprise each other. And if you can alwayssurprise each other,you can always keep the world around you new.Beware of a relationship in which there is nolaughter.. Even the mostintimate relationships based only on seriousnesshave a tendency toturn sour. Over time, sharing a common seriousviewpoint on the worldtends to turn you against those who do not sharethe same viewpoint,and your relationship can become based on beingcritical together.After laughter, look for a partner who deals withthe world in a wayyou respect. When two people first get together,they tend to seetheir relationship as existing only in the space between the two ofthem. They find each other endlessly fascinating,and the overwhelmingpower of the emotions they are sharing obscuresthe outside world. Asthe relationship ages and grows, the outside worldbecomes importantagain. If your partner treats people orcircumstances in a way youcan't accept, you will inevitably come to grief.Look at the way shecares for others and deals with the daily affairsof life. If thatmakes you love her more, your love will grow. Ifit does not, becareful. If you do not respect the way you eachdeal with the worldaround you, eventually the two of you will notrespect each other.Look also at how your partner confronts themysteries of life. We liveon the cusp of poetry and practicality, and thereal life of the heartresides in the poetic. If one of you is deeplyaffected by the mysteryof the unseen in life and relationships, while theother is drawn onlyto the literal and the practical, you must takecare that the distancedoes not become an unbridgeable gap that leavesyou each feelingisolated and misunderstood.There are many other keys, but you must find themby yourself. We allhave unchangeable parts of our hearts that we willnot betray andprivate commitments to a vision of life that wewill not deny. If youfall in love with someone who cannot nourish thoseinviolable parts ofyou, or if you cannot nourish them in her, youwill find yourselvesgrowing further apart until you live in separateworlds where youshare the business of life, but never touch eachother where the heart lives and dreams. From there it is only a smallleap to the catalogingof petty hurts and daily failures that leaves somany couples bitterand unsatisfied with their mates.So choose carefully and well. If you do, you willhave chosen apartner with whom you can grow, and then the realmiracle of marriagecan take place in your hearts. I pick my wordscarefully when I speakof a miracle. But I think it is not too strong aword.There is a miracle in marriage. It is calledtransformation.Transformation is one of the most common events ofnature. The seedbecomes the flower. The cocoon becomes thebutterfly. Winter becomesspring and love becomes a child. We never questionthese, because wesee them around us every day. To us they are notmiracles, though ifwe did not know them they would be impossible tobelieve.Marriage is a transformation we choose to make.Our love is plantedlike a seed, and in time it begins to flower. Wecannot know theflower that will blossom, but we can be sure thata bloom will come.If you have chosen carefully and wisely, the bloomwill be good. Ifyou have chosen poorly or for the wrong reason,the bloom will beflawed. We are quite willing to accept the realityof negativetransformation in a marriage. It was negativetransformation that always had me terrified of the bitter marriagesthat I feared when I was younger. It never occurred to me to question the dark miracle that transformed love into harshne ss and bitterness.Yet I was unable to accept the possibility that the first heat of love could be transformed into something positive that was actually deeper and more meaningful than the heat of fresh passion. All Icould believe in wasthe power of this passion and the fear that whenit cooled I would be left with something lesser and bitter. But there is positive transformation as well. Likenegativetransformation, it results from a slow accretion of little things. But instead of death by a thousand blows, it is growth by a thousand touches of love. Two histories intermingle. Two separate beings, two separate presence, two separate consciousness cometogether and sharea view of life that passes before them. Theyremain separate, but theyalso become one.There is an expansion of awareness, not a closure and a constriction,as I had once feared. This is not to say thatthere is not tension and there are not traps. Tension and traps are part ofevery choice of life, from celibate to monogamous to having multiple lovers. Each choice contains within it the lingering doubt that the road not taken somehow more fruitful and exciting, and each becomes dulled to the richness that it alone contains.But only marriage allows life to deepen and expandand be leavened bythe knowledge that two have chosen, against allodds, to become one.Those who live together without marriage can know the pleasure ofshared company, but there is a specific gravity inthe marriage commitment that deepens that experience intosomething richer and morecomplex.So do not fear marriage, just as you should not rush into it for the wrong reasons. It is an act of faith and it contains within it the power of transformation. If you believe in yourheart that you havefound someone with whom you are able to grow, ifyou have sufficientfaith that you can resist the endless attractionof the road not takenand the partner not chosen, if you have thestrength of heart to embrace the cycles and seasons that your love willexperience, thenyou may be ready to seek the miracle that marriageoffers. If not, then wait. The easy grace of a marriage well made is worth your patience. When the time comes, a thousand flowers willbloom...endlessly.