Traditional marriage isn’t for everyone, but that’s okay.
Over the past few years, there have been several events that have combined into an epiphany of sorts in regards to relationships. These small nuggets of saliency have gelled into a cohesive theme that I’m transforming into a hypothesis of life. Today, I want to share this with you.
There is no magic answer for how to have a successful relationship.
I know, not exactly a new idea, but I think many of us, based on models we see in life, media, and basic tradition, embark on concrete, predetermined paths. Said paths are pursued because we think there is a higher probability of success, happiness, or what our “life purpose” has us pursuing. Some people don’t think that far, but either way decisions get made.
I’m going to fold the concept of mindfulness into my discussion. Mindfulness does not mean knowing every path or being clairvoyant and seeing the future. Nor does this mean being smart enough to predict every outcome or turn of events. What mindfulness is involves using the information available at the time to form the best decision possible. Not just once, but at every turn, every day.
Mindfulness in practice is called adaptability. If you make an initial decision, and then go on autopilot hoping everything stays the same while the world changes around you, a crash is inevitable. Additionally, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is insanity*, which serves no one well in functional society.
Another aspect of mindfulness is knowing what drives us. We all have positive and negative experiences from our past that influence our decisions. Mindfulness is being aware of what drives our decisions. Is it based on past influence or future desire? Blind tradition or impulsive chaos?
Making decisions is difficult, not straightforward. Riddled with complexity, and sometimes frightening. What I realized is that as long as there is mindfulness and the courage to adapt, any consensual relationship decision can be made viable. This levels the playing field for every combination of personality and person to form relationships. Do you have to have kids? No. Can you have kids? Of course, if it’s right for you. Do you have to use materialist gifts to express your love? Of course not. But if you enjoy that sort of thing, there’s no reason to feel guilty about it. It’s all good. Frankly, this is very freeing and opens you up to all kinds of possibilities.
In my opinion, for most people, the traditional marriage model, whether it is a man and a woman, two women or two men, is an easy way of going about things. It is one way of many. After all, there are many precedents already in place; much research on how to be successful. Books, the internet, and Aunt Myrtle all contain a lot of information on how to make or break it. I don’t have any problem with this. The traditional marriage model is a time-honed institution that has a pretty well-defined framework. But…
This is where I bring back mindfulness. I think many people step onto the “Traditional Marriage” plane, strap themselves into the framework, adjust the seat to fit themselves as well as possible, and then switch off for the rest of the ride, relying on the plane to take them…wherever. Sometimes these aircraft get to their destination unscathed and in good shape. Sometimes that shiny jet turns into a rabid purple wolverine on fire and crashes into a mountain range in the middle of the Atlantic.
While the traditional marriage model is a fine starting point for many people, it’s not the magic solution that will carry a person through life. It’s just one framework which may or may not fit. Or, it might fit now but not in 24 years.
The individual is what is most important. The mindful decisions made are what a person carries with them through life. The desire to sit in the pilot’s seat and fly the aircraft where you want to go, knowing that things will happen that are out of your control and you might need a change of direction. That requires adaptation.
Mindfulness is noticing that fuel is getting low, and adapting by planning to refill. Mindfulness is noticing that a storm ripped off the entire back of the fuselage and adapting by setting down and scrapping or repairing. These are not easy things. They do require an extraordinary amount of work and courage. Sometimes there is a manual or a framework to lean on. Sometimes not. Sometimes the other people on the plane will help, sometimes they won’t.
Ultimately, your fate’s on you. What will you choose as you move through life? Even choosing to not make a decision is still a decision. One’s only solace is that at the end of the day, you can say you guided your destiny mindfully, and adapted to the surprises that the day brought. I did everything I could and everything within my power. After all, I can’t do more than that.
*Source: quote from Albert Einstein
Photo: Getty Images