Sunday, July 8, 2018

Four Years

Today Adrian and I celebrate our four-year wedding anniversary. Four years is definitely long enough to have moved beyond the starry-eyed honeymoon phase and to have begun getting into the real work of being in a committed relationship.

A few days ago I picked up Susan Piver's new book, The Four Noble Truths of Love: Buddhist Wisdom for Modern Relationships. In the Introduction to her book, she emphasizes the importance of understanding the difference between a love affair and a relationship. Being "in love" is magical and wonderful, and it's a bit like visiting another planet where the atmosphere of love is so intoxicating that even the things that might annoy us about our partner seem charming.

Unfortunately we can't live on that magic love planet forever. When we enter into a committed relationship, we do so here on earth, where the atmosphere is not always tinted pink with romance. We face the reality of ourselves and each other, and the reality of life, and life together, without rose-colored glasses.

And here on earth, in this human reality, stuff happens. We grow and change in ways that our partner might not expect, and we sometimes do things they might not like. We disagree or come into conflict about money, work, or sex. And life itself comes at us, throwing curveballs that we learn to catch together, and to pick each other up and support each other when one of those curveballs knocks us down. A depression comes, a parent dies, a work or money problem sets you on edge, an old karmic or psychological pattern rears its scary head again above the calm waters and makes waves that rock the marriage boat.

Our culture teaches us a lot about love affairs, but it doesn't teach us much about staying in relationships. Pretty much every other song and movie and fairy tale is about falling in love, visiting that magic planet, and staying there always, happily ever after. That's usually where the songs and the fairy tales end. But in relationships, you come back down to earth, and you start to see yourself and your beloved through clear lenses, not rose-colored ones (at least not all the time). And hopefully, as you see each other more clearly, you learn to love and accept what you see, here on planet earth, in a real and sometimes bumpy relationship between two wonderful and deeply flawed human beings.

My husband's hot-headed Argentinian temper and his stubbornness put me to the test on a regular basis. And my passive-aggressive communication style sets his teeth on edge.

But my husband also has the biggest, most tender heart of anyone I've ever met, and I can't think of a greater honor in life than to be the one who stands by his side and receives the full radiance and heat of the love shining from his heart, like standing next to the sun. But his heart, like any human heart, is also fragile, it can be wounded, and it's my honor too to stand by his side and pour my own love back into his heart when something in life has dimmed its flames.

"With a long relationship, things die and then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love," says Joni Mitchell. "It's hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You're with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them, or they look like an asshole to you -- it's unpleasant, but if you can get through it you get closer and you learn a way of loving that's different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It's warmer and has more padding to it." I think I'm starting to understand what Joni Mitchell meant about warmth and padding. And I like it.

Four years is a long time, and yet it's also just a beginning. Through good times and difficult times, these have been the best four years of my life so far. To walk hand in hand through life with Adrian Molina is not always like living on that magical pink planet, but it is a blessing beyond anything I ever imagined, and every day it brings me something new to learn.

I love you, Adrian. Happy Anniversary.