Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Partners and Marriage by Kent Nerburn

First post for 2009! Wow... A lot has happened, I don't know where to start! haha

Here's a little something about love... I found this on a friend's page (notes) in FB last January. It made me reflect on my past mistakes, and somehow guided me through the "selection" process. It's a well-written piece. Quite long.. but a good read! I highly recommend this... :) And oh, I googled this essay, and saw hundreds of sites showing the same thing. I found a post as early as 2007. But it doesn't matter, I'm sharing this to those who haven't had the chance to read it yet. :)

This excerpt, by the way, is frequently attributed to Eduardo Jose E. Calasanz, when in fact it is part of Kent Nerburn's book, Letters to My Son: A Father's Wisdom on Manhood, Life, and Love. Chapter 26.

My friend says this holds an advice for the married, planning to get married, single but not available, single and available, and even for those with no love life. So read on! :)


By Kent Nerburn

I have never met a man who didn't want to be loved. But I have seldom
met a man who didn't fear marriage. Something about the closure seems
constricting, not enabling. Marriage seems easier to understand for what
it cuts out of our lives than for what it makes possible within our

When I was younger this fear immobilized me. I did not want to make a
mistake. I saw my friends get married for reasons of social
acceptability, or sexual fever, or just because they thought it was the
logical thing to do. Then I watched, as they and their partners became
embittered and petty in their dealings with each other. I looked at
older couples and saw, at best, mutual toleration of each other. I
imagined a lifetime of loveless nights and bickering and could not
imagine subjecting myself or someone else to such a fate.

And yet, on rare occasions, I would see old couples who somehow seemed
to glow in each other's presence. They seemed really in love, not just
dependent upon each other and tolerant of each other's foibles. It was
an astounding sight, and it seemed impossible. How, I asked myself, can
they have survived so many years of sameness, so much irritation at the
other's habits? What keeps love alive in them, when most of us seem
unable to even stay together, much less love each other?

The central secret seems to be in choosing well. There is something to
the claim of fundamental compatibility. Good people can create a bad
relationship, even though they both dearly want the relationship to
succeed. It is important to find someone with whom you can create a good
relationship from the outset. Unfortunately, it is hard to see clearly
in the early stages.

Sexual hunger draws you to each other and colors the way you see
yourselves together. It blinds you to the thousands of little things by
which relationships eventually survive or fail. You need to find a way
to see beyond this initial overwhelming sexual fascination. Some people
choose to involve themselves sexually and ride out the most heated
period of sexual attraction in order to see what is on the other side.
This can work, but it can also leave a trail of wounded hearts. Others
deny the sexual side altogether in an attempt to get to know each other
apart from their sexuality. But they cannot see clearly, because the
presence of unfulfilled sexual desire looms so large that it keeps them
from having any normal perception of what life would be like together.
The truly lucky people are the ones who manage to become long-time
friends before they realize they are attracted to each other. They get
to know each other's laughs, passions, sadness, and fears. They see each
other at their worst and at their best. They share time together before
they get swept into the entangling intimacy of their sexuality.

This is the ideal, but not often possible. If you fall under the spell
of your sexual attraction immediately, you need to look beyond it for
other keys to compatibility. One of these is laughter. Laughter tells
you how much you will enjoy each other's company over the long term.

If your laughter together is good and healthy, and not at the expense
of others, then you have a healthy relationship to the world. Laughter
is the child of surprise. If you can make each other laugh, you can
always surprise each other. And if you can always surprise each other,
you can always keep the world around you new. Beware of a relationship
in which there is no laughter. Even the most intimate relationships
based only on seriousness have a tendency to turn sour. Over time,
sharing a common serious viewpoint on the world tends to turn you
against those who do not share the same viewpoint, and your relationship
can become based on being critical together.

After laughter, look for a partner who deals with the world in a way
you respect. When two people first get together, they tend to see their
relationship as existing only in the space between the two of them. They
find each other endlessly fascinating, and the overwhelming power of the
emotions they are sharing obscures the outside world. As the
relationship ages and grows, the outside world becomes important again.
If your partner treats people or circumstances in a way you can't
accept, you will inevitably come to grief. Look at the way she cares for
others and deals with the daily affairs of life. If that makes you love
her more, your love will grow. If it does not, be careful. If you do not
respect the way you each deal with the world around you, eventually the
two of you will not respect each other.

Look also at how your partner confronts the mysteries of life. We live
on the cusp of poetry and practicality, and the real life of the heart
resides in the poetic. If one of you is deeply affected by the mystery
of the unseen in life and relationships, while the other is drawn only
to the literal and the practical, you must take care that the distance
doesn't become an unbridgeable gap that leaves you each feeling isolated
and misunderstood.

There are many other keys, but you must find them by yourself. We all
have unchangeable parts of our hearts that we will not betray and
private commitments to a vision of life that we will not deny. If you
fall in love with someone who cannot nourish those inviolable parts of
you, or if you cannot nourish them in her, you will find yourselves
growing further apart until you live in separate worlds where you share
the business of life, but never touch each other where the heart lives
and dreams. From there it is only a small leap to the cataloging of
petty hurts and daily failures that leaves so many couples bitter and
unsatisfied with their mates.

So choose carefully and well. If you do, you will have chosen a partner
with whom you can grow, and then the real miracle of marriage can take
place in your hearts. I pick my words carefully when I speak of a
miracle. But I think it is not too strong a word.

There is a miracle in marriage. It is called transformation.
Transformation is one of the most common events of nature. The seed
becomes the flower. The cocoon becomes the butterfly. Winter becomes
spring and love becomes a child. We never question these, because we see
them around us every day. To us they are not miracles, though if we did
not know them they would be impossible to believe.

Marriage is a transformation we choose to make. Our love is planted
like a seed, and in time it begins to flower. We cannot know the flower
that will blossom, but we can be sure that a bloom will come.

If you have chosen carefully and wisely, the bloom will be good. If you
have chosen poorly or for the wrong reason, the bloom will be flawed. We
are quite willing to accept the reality of negative transformation in a
marriage. It was negative transformation that always had me terrified of
the bitter marriages that I feared when I was younger. It never occurred
to me to question the dark miracle that transformed love into harshness
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
I could believe in was the power of this passion and the fear that when
it cooled I would be left with something lesser and bitter.

But there is positive transformation as well. Like negative
transformation, 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 consciousnesses come together and share a view of
life that passes before them. They remain separate, but they also become
one. There is an expansion of awareness, not a closure and a
constriction, as I had once feared. This is not to say that there is not
tension and there are not traps. Tension and traps are part of every
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 expand and be leavened by
the knowledge that two have chosen, against all odds, to become one.
Those who live together without marriage can know the pleasure of shared
company, but there is a specific gravity in the marriage commitment that
deepes that experience into something richer and more complex.

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 your heart that you have found someone with whom you
are able to grow, if you have sufficient faith that you can resist the
endless attraction of the road not taken and the partner not chosen, if
you have the strength of heart to embrace the cycles and seasons that
your love will experience, then you may be ready to seek the miracle
that marriage offers. If not, then wait. The easy grace of a marriage
well made is worth your patience. When the time comes, a thousand
flowers will bloom...endlessly.