Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Most Important Relationship

Recently, I was talking with a colleague and noticed he did not have a picture of his wife on his desk.  On his desk shelves were pictures of his children, his dog, even a picture of he and his sisters, but there was no picture of his wife.  My colleague is very happily married.  When I asked him about a picture of his wife, he casually brushed it off, saying he did not have a good picture of her to display on his desk.

For some reason, I was disturbed by this. Being in my second marriage, I realize how important it is to honor that relationship. Too often, we take our relationships, all of our relationships, for granted. As our lives move past the initial euphoria of a wedding, honeymoon, and living together, time passes and we become interested in our careers again.  We have children and acquire new hobbies.  Our lives become complicated with schedules, caring for others, and attempting to balance it all.  We often tend to push our marriage and our marriage partner to the back burner.  It is easy because they are riding the same wave with us.  They do not seem to need as much attention as the other people or things in our lives.  And the elation and infatuation of the beginning of the relationship has grown into a deeper, more intertwined kind of love that can feel as if there is no separation between partners.

One could argue that the relationship we have with our spouse is the most important relationship we will ever have.  We share our lives, our careers, and our children.  We consciously or unconsciously work out our fears, our concerns, and our weaknesses with our spouse through our interaction. They are there to listen to our issues with our children, our siblings, and our parents.When we are young, we receive guidance and support from our parents.  And that support could continue even into adulthood.  However, we usually do not interact with our parents and solve everyday problems with them as an adult.  The relationship does not necessarily lose its importance as we grow into adulthood, but it loses a lot of its function.  Our siblings offer us support and education on people skills--how to interact with others, how to compete, how to negotiate.  Some of us may have a very close relationship with one or more of our siblings.  That relationship could blossom into a very close friendship with a lot of value as we grow and age.  Again, we do not usually live with our siblings or work out day-to-day problems with them.  If we have children, we sometimes think there is no greater love than the love of a child.  The care we provide to our children is possibly one of the greatest obligations we will ever face.  Many times, the purist kind of love is the unconditional love we give to our children. They challenge us, provide us with joy, and shower us with pride as we watch them grow and become adults.  Children are one of our great blessings.   However, once the intense relationship we share with our children has waned as they grow older, they will evolve into adults and find their own lives.

After all of these relationships, the one enduring partnership is that with our spouse.  Through and with all of the laughter, trials, opportunities, and challenges, our husband or our wife is still by our side.  All of our pain from these relationships is worked through with our spouse.  We vent, we weep, we listen, and we heal.  We are on equal footing--we are not the parent of nor the child of nor the brother or sister of—we are the partner with.  We can be truly ourselves.  From a personal or individual point of view, the relationship we share with our spouse is a very, very significant relationship.  That relationship allows us to grow and expand more fully as human beings than any other relationship because it is a relationship that endures the most challenges from the inside of the relationship and the outside of the relationship.  And although we can easily get caught up in the everyday details and deadlines of our lives, it is nice to realize from time to time how precious our husband or our wife is to our life as a whole.

© 2011 Michelle A. Potter