Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marriage is not a Mirror Image

I was talking to a gay man I know, and told him about my marriage breakdown. He asked if I was lonely, and I said no -- more angry, hurt, betrayed and feeling blamed for something that was way out of my control.

He asked if I didn't think monogamy was impossible, and that we were not meant to have the same mate for ever. I said that I thought marriage is where you meet yourself (for better or worse). He asked if that meant mirror image, and I said actually the opposite -- it's where you meet the Other, and in that other ness you are able to see yourself, flaws, strengths, everything, if you're aware of or open to seeing that.

Mirror images are essentially narcissistic because you're hoping to see a positive reflection of yourself. One reason, I guess why my husband consistently falls in love with his ethnic mirror image, hoping to find himself. Ironically when he was younger, he fled that cultural mirror image, rejecting it. The wrestling, as I explained to my friend, was in the complement, to see where and how you can fit -- not as in hand and glove but as in wrestling with another, fully individual person with separate desires, will, goals, and so on. Teenagers mature when they have to cut their teeth against someone they disagree with, although that someone also needs to be in loving relationship with them. Otherwise, they walk away. When you rub up against someone not entirely like yourself, but someone who also has the will (in spite of that lack) to see it through to the end with you, you work out your own personality, see where you are succeeding, failing, where you are strong and weak, where you are culpable and not.

Barring abuse of any kind, marriage breakdown is a failure of will. It is easier to find something new and potentially more exciting. It requires strength to face our own weaknesses and failures because it takes guts to be accountable and take responsibility for things we may have done to hurt. No mirror image can erase the fact that behind that mirror lies an other human being, complete with their own will, which inevitably will depart from your path at some point. What makes marriages last is the willingness to banish fear of being alone, and to wait patiently until those two paths converge again.