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She stroked my leg under the table in the Student Union. I liked that, so I married her. I’m serious. This is what I’m like; I tend to go all-in immediately. I commit like crazy. At least this is what I used to be like. I’ve changed a lot since then.
Soon we had sex, first in bed, and then in the shower. It was pretty good. Three months later, I proposed to her in bed in Paris. That was the same bed we spent most of our time in while in Paris. I proposed to her because I didn’t want to lose her.
Next, I went out and spent the last few hundred pounds of my bank overdraft on an engagement ring. I took her to the top of the Eiffel Tower and officially proposed to her there. I did this mostly because I was trying to be romantic, trying to do what you’re supposed to do.
A few years later we married, and flew off into the sunset to start a new life in America. By the time we divorced, we had lived together for around eleven years, and had been married for nine. That was a long period of my life, and it was rich in learning. .’s what I learned.
I was about 22 when I got married. At that age, my personality was just about crystalized. It would take a couple more years, until the age of about 24, for my pre-frontal cortex to fully develop. I was a child when I got married, and even more of a child when I got engaged. I didn’t know what I wanted, or even who I was. I didn’t have the ability to be aware of my emotions, or to know what I felt about my thoughts.
As we get older, our personality fixations hopefully soften, and we develop more dexterity in our ability to cope with things emotionally. We develop increasing choice and self-awareness. At least this is what happens when we are open to growth, integration, and feedback. This kind of change occurs particularly rapidly if we increase self-awareness through meditation and therapy or coaching.
I started meditating at around the age of 27, and I started to change a lot. I became less accommodating. I was less willing to just do whatever my wife wanted without taking into account what I wanted. That was a big change in our dynamic. I had been the provider, the problem solver, the planner, and the one who made everything work smoothly. Now I started to let go of that. I wasn’t interested in making everything go smoothly anymore. I wanted to chill out a little and do nothing. I wanted to put my feet up and relax when I got home from work.
In any relationship, the partners mesh together like a pair of cogs, with teeth interleaved. When one of the people starts to change, it can wreak havoc on the relationship. In that marriage it did. The breaking point was when my son was not returned to me (I’ll explain later). That’s when I started intensive psychotherapy, which of course led to more change, which made our marriage even worse. In hindsight, I probably should have visited an international lawyer instead of spending the next few years fighting for a marriage that was inevitably falling apart.
Don’t get me wrong, change is not bad. In fact, change is good. Increasing self-awareness is very good, very important. It’s what’s necessary to live a fulfilling and healthy life. I recommend meditation, therapy, and coaching to everyone. The thing is, we all change, and we change a heck of a lot in our twenties, especially if we’re meditating and getting therapy or coaching.
I recommend not getting married, which is, by definition, a life-long commitment, until you’ve done a lot of inner work.
Only do what you want
As much as possible, take action based on what you truly want, not based on what you think is “right” or “acceptable.” Every decision I ever made that went against what I truly wanted came back to bite me in the ass. Each of those decisions, which may have looked “right” to outside parties, or on paper, or to my conscience, ended up leading to outcomes that I wanted even less.
When my wife would not return from vacation in our country of birth with my baby son, I dropped everything to keep our family together. I reverted to my role as the problem solver. I bought and sold houses at great financial loss, compromised my career, left my community, relinquished my green card, and spent years entangled in complex and expensive international tax scenarios. I wanted to keep my family together, but I didn’t want all of that. I took action that I thought was “right.” I thought I was being a “good” husband. I thought I “should” put my family first.
With hindsight, I see that if I had not taken action, if I had stood my ground, if I had spent time feeling what I wanted, validating it, and enjoying the empowered feelings associated with that, I would have made very different decisions. The outcomes would have been very different, and probably much more in alignment with what I truly wanted. Perhaps the outcomes would have been less destructive for everyone, including my son, and including myself.
I’m not writing this to bitch about my ex-wife. I don’t even have anything negative to say about her. I’m also not writing this to dwell on mistakes and feel bad about them. I’m examining this part of my life with you, right now, in order to both gain and impart as much value from it as possible.
When I look back, I know that it was very clear to me what I wanted, and I chose to go strongly against that, to not trust that, to not honor that. I believe that everything I wanted, regardless of what was “right,” could have been available to me if I had stood firm in my authority and my power, the power of honoring what I wanted.
“Right” is just a dead mental concept. What you truly want is living and powerful, and your clear intuition, your drive and motivation, can be trusted. What you truly want is all you can really know for sure. whereas what’s “right” is usually wrong.
Every relationship is a success
All relationships are successes. We gain so much experience from being in relationship, especially a “bad” relationship. All of life is about relationship, and we get to practice relationship particularly intensely in intimacy with our partner. All of our transference comes up as we begin to see the positive and negative traits of our parents in our partner. We get to heal, or deepen, the wounds of our childhoods with our partner. And then we get to reflect on that, and to integrate and grow.
All relationships have a natural end. For some relationships the end comes with death. For others the end comes with separation or divorce. It might seem that some relationships would have been even more successful had they ended sooner, with less suffering and hurt. However, relationships always end when they do, and when they do turns out to be when one or both people understand that they should.
My wife divorced me. Even though it destroyed my life as I knew it, I don’t take it personally. It was her right. In hindsight, I would have been happier had she done it much sooner.
Read the full story by Duncan Riach, an engineer and psychologist focusing on adaptive and healthy living, and artificial intelligence at PS. I Love You.
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