Comforting Words: Set For Life

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Set For Life

Many people consider marriage as state of being "Set for Life," until they are looking for the exit door.

Do not read me wrong and assume that I am advocating against marriage as that is not the intention. What I hope to do is to dialogue with you about the institution of marriage, the assumptions and expectations we enter the doors with and how we can be surprised.

"Set for Life," is the name of a recently launched game of lottery available here in Alberta and it has become one that I engage in about once or twice per month.

I really enjoy purchasing my Cdn$10.00 game card and scratching away at the ten or twelve boxes that gives me a chance to be "Set for Life." Yesterday, I bought my monthly card on my way out of the grocery store and as I waited at the traffic signals, I merrily scratched away and guess what? I won $20.00!

Not exactly "Set for Life," am I through this winning but it led me to thoughts about marriage and how similar it is to this lottery game. You go to the counter (bar, library or grocery store, you choose) and select your card (a potential mate) with the hopes that this one will be the one to set you for life.

You pin all your hopes of happiness, intimacy and, of course, wealth in this person as you walk down the aisle (real or virtual). However, like me scratching the card, time passes and as you scratch the surface of your new mate and of your expectations and your assumptions about married life, you begin to realize that not every box is a winning one. Worse yet, not every card (mate) is the One!

Cheri Carter-Scott wrote this wonderful little book that I would recommend to all, "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules", especially those who honestly believe that you can be "Set for Life."

Certainly I am optimistic like everyone else that it is possible to enjoy the life you create and share in a marriage or long-term relationship. In fact, in my own relationship I hope that my partner could attest that we do exactly that. However, as Carter-Scott highlights in her Ten Rules for Life: You will be presented with Lessons (Rule Two), A Lesson is Repeated until Learned (Rule Four) and Learning Does Not End (Rule Five), life is in constant motion and therefore so too are relationships/marriages.

If you agree with the essence of these "rules for life," then you understand that being married (or in a long-term relationship) is not the destination, to use an hackneyed phrase, rather it is the beginning of a long, sometimes extremely hard and challenging, and possibly a life-enhancing journey.

Let me hasten to add, though, that not everyone experience a marriage and the challenges of it in the same way (even and maybe especially the two people in it) and therefore what is hard for one person is an exhilarating challenge for the other. What may be pleasurable to one partner, might be routine and monotonous to the other, and I could go on with examples.

I therefore beg to disagree with those who idealize relationships and the institution of marriage. Having been in a traditional marriage myself and now in an almost 16 year relationship and having been in relationships with both sexes (at different times), I can bear witness that there is no such thing as "Set for Life," and if there was, I would not want it. Such a state suggests stagnation and life demands movement, change and progression, hence the validity of Carter-Scott's Rule.

Many have asked my partner and I why we have not seized the opportunity to get married as we live in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal. My partner's usual response is, "We are as married as anyone else," and I am somewhat personally ambivalent to the institution as it exists today.

For me, marriage like friendship should be sacred not legalistic.

It is a union of two people committed to supporting each other's spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical growth and well being. Marriage and long-term relationships as we have come to know and practise them, i.e., purely on a physical level, are really a game of chance that we hope will set us up for life.

True and spiritual partnership rather is a union that encourages and fosters Self-actualization, through the good times and especially through the tough times.

Having the ring, living in the same house or even having sex every night is not, at least to me, sacred without what Gary Zukav describes in "Seat of the Soul", as a
"...Consciousness of spiritual partnership...spiritual partners are able to see clearly that there is a deeper reason why they are together, and that that reason has a great deal to do with the evolution of their souls."
What was particularly profound for me as I read Zukaz's book for the first time in 2001, was what he had to say about the length of a marriage or relationship.

It is a statement that some might find disturbing because they are of the belief that relationships, especially marriages, should never end. I for one never subscribed to that school of thought, having been at the receiving end of the fists of a person who never understood that our relationship/marriage was based on false premises and it was time to say good-bye.

I end with Zukav's thoughts on how long a relationship should last and also with an invitation to you to read the book and consider whether you are truly in a Sacred Partnership - despite the legal status of your relationship.
"Spiritual partners bond with an understanding that they are together because it is appropriate for their souls to grow together. They recognize that their growth may take them to the end of their days...and beyond, or it may take them to six months. They cannot say that they will be together forever. The duration of their partnership is determined by how long it is appropriate for their evolution together."


P.S. Incidentally, the above photograph was taken during the Elections Campaign 2006 with the then Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan. Between us is the framed and signed copy of the Canadian Chart of Rights that she presented to the gay and lesbian community of Edmonton. It is the document under which the human rights (including the right to marry) of LGBT people in Canada are protected.


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