In the movie, Shall We Dance, starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon, there is a terrific scene where Sarandon’s character is sitting at a bar explaining to a stranger why being married is important.
She says, “We need a witness to our lives. There are billions of people on the planet…I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything – the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things – all of it, all the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’”
For the 65 percent of Baby Boomers who are married (of which I am one), this ideal of marriage probably resonates. We do want someone to share ourselves with and to eventually grow old with. Even for those Boomers who have divorced, most seek to remarry… to find a new lover, best friends, and partner for life. But things are changing.
There is a disturbing trend happening today around marriage and commitment. One study shows that 39 percent of American’s say that marriage is becoming obsolete. Marriage has lost its appeal for the younger generations, especially the Millennials (the 18-29-year-olds). They are pro-parenthood but anti-marriage.
According to Pew Research Center, right now 61 percent of births to women 20-24 are out of wedlock while one in three births for women 25-29 are to unwed mothers. Why?
According to Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse , president of the Ruth Institute for Marriage and Family, “Women don’t think men are necessary. Therefore, they are unwilling to go to the effort required to be in a relationship with a man.”
Clearly these are women who have not experienced the beauty and magic of a relationship that works. A relationship where two people choose to share a life together and to make a commitment to work through all the ups and downs, good days and bad days.
What will it take to convince the younger generation that marriage isn’t obsolete? I think they need to hear from those who are happily married all the reasons why they find marriage valuable. Role models are needed and necessary, and clearly at this point in time, missing….
Like it or not, we’ve become a disposable society, not just with our trash, but also with the people in our lives. If a relationship becomes difficult we declare, “this isn’t working for me” and move on. We treat our cars better than people. At least with our cars we know and expect that they need regular maintenance – the oil needs changing, the tires rotating and brakes need replacing. And yet, with the people closest to us, so many of us seem unwilling to put in a little time, energy and effort into working through our issues.
I believe part of the problem is that we have been brainwashed to seek perfection. We expect our relationships to be perfect along with everything else in our lives, and when things are not perfect, we are frustrated, disappointed and ready to give up.
Someone once said the word “perfection” should be changed to “pure fiction” and I couldn’t agree more.
One way to create more happiness and satisfaction in a relationship it’s to practice wabi sabi. This is an ancient Japanese aesthetic that honors all things old, weathered, worn, imperfect and impermanent by finding the beauty in the imperfections. For instance, if you had a large vase with a big crack down the middle of it, a Japanese art museum would put the vase on a pedestal and shine a light on the crack. Or, they might fill the crack with 24k gold!
By practicing wabi sabi not only do you look to find beauty and perfection in the imperfections in your love relationships, it also helps to turn conflict into compassion and create a more loving, harmonious relationship. You begin to cultivate love for yourself and your partner, especially on the days when one of you is acting out, refusing to listen, or shutting down.
To begin practicing wabi sabi love, let’s give up the unrealistic expectations and accept these simple facts. No matter what crazy-making thing our partner is doing, they did not wake up with the thought, “I plan to drive my spouse insane today.” Just like you, your partner wants to be loved for who they are, in spite of their shortcomings.
Make an effort to let them know they are loved even if some of their behavior is not. Work towards co-creative solutions. It only takes one person to make a difference. Even if your partner isn’t willing to change that doesn’t mean all is lost.
By taking personal responsibility for your own happiness, and making space for your partner to be who and what they are, magic can and often does happen. It’s when we are blaming and shaming that no progress can be made. A great relationship requires care and feeding. Find daily ways to connect and express your love and gratitude for your partner.
We’re all going to get old someday. We can do it alone or we can make the effort to nurture our spouse and our relationship and have a best friend to share our golden years with. For me, discovering the joy and benefits of Wabi Sabi Love is one path to this with grace and ease.