I write about relationships in the context of being married because that is what I know.
I also know that:
Getting married is not an accomplishment.
Staying married is not an accomplishment.
This essay is about much more than marriage. It is about every meaningful relationship. Including your relationship with your Self.
Thirty years ago September 1st Ken and I spoke these words. Out loud. In front of witnesses.
With this ring I thee wed. With my body I thee worship. With all my worldly goods I thee endow.”
We had no idea.
I still wear the simple ring. I know a lot of wonderful ways to body worship. Worldly goods — we don’t have much, but we happily continue to endow each other with what we’ve got.
Recently, two or three younger women have told me, “You and Ken — #relationshipgoals.” I have two thoughts:
On the inhale: Oh! We encourage someone!
On the exhale: Oh shit! What if we f**k up!?
I feel tipsy and self-conscious — someone thinks of me next to a # symbol? Someone notices my marriage? Is there toilet paper trailing from my dress? Being admired is great in theory, but in reality…
I manage to get past the Oh shit! feeling and make eye contact and say thank you. I tell the woman my inhale and exhale thoughts and we laugh.
Last month I was asked, What’s the secret to your relationship? Forgetting the definition of a rhetorical question, I answered:
Here’s what I know about keeping marriage — or any deep friendship — fresh.
- Tell the truth with love
- Never take yourself seriously
- Put your feelings into words (if words don’t work, hug each other)
- And really listen to each other — not to reply, but to understand.
I stand by this advice, cliché and chirpy as it is. But there’s something I left out.
One secret no one talks about.
Did you sense that I was angry when we met? I asked Ken.
Yes. A little, he replied.
When we met, I was almost vibrating with anger — a story for another time. He had an inkling. But he didn’t step away.
I thought you should have been angrier, he added.
This is one secret no one talks about. Relationships that grow deep and strong honor the whole person. Including each other’s dark emotions — like sadness and anger. There is a safe space for all of it. Ken stumbled onto this truth when we met. One reason I still nurture this relationship is that with him I am safe to rage and roar.
So what IS an accomplishment?
We are trinities,” as Glennon Doyle Melton reminds us “ — body, mind, spirit.”
- Living a life that integrates body, mind, spirit — in work, in friendships (married or not), and in the quiet of your own companionship. #accomplishment
- Each person in a relationship discovers safety with the other and all of their emotions — aka #relationshipgoals
Integrity and integration get a lot of attention. As they should. But personal anger is not a popular topic. That means there’s a lot of shame and fear about personal anger, AND not much integration. There’s also a huge need for conversation about it. And so I will — at the risk of sounding like an angry woman — begin it. I will write about my experiences with anger. Something happens when we tell and examine our stories. And only when we frame our anger, with words or actions, can we truly see it, process it, and learn how it can serve us.
If I tell you about my anger, maybe you will find ways to talk about your anger too.
Trusting the process,