the marriage adventure
We recently returned from a trip to Big Sur where we shot a very small elopement style wedding. The ceremony took place during a foggy sunrise on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. When we were uploading the images from the cameras we came across this one. There they were, newly husband and wife, embracing each other on the edge of a cliff and their backdrop the vast expanse of the unknown. It just felt like the perfect image to embrace the idea of The Marriage Adventure.
For me, the thing about planning an adventure is the great “unknown”. After all, isn’t that what makes an adventure so exciting? When you plan out a grand adventure the part that gets your blood flowing is not really knowing what you will encounter along the way. The challenges we may face or the wonders we may stumble upon are enough to keep us dreaming. So many enter into marriage for the adventure, the unknown, the wonder. Years into it, the adventure fades and what is left is unmet expectations, and some pain. It’s my belief that marriage, on a whole, is The Adventure. The newness of things takes on different forms but most certainly doesn’t go away. The unknown most definitely exists in the every day. You first commit to spend your life with this person you are so deeply connected to and yet there are so many things about him/her that are so unknown that it would take a lifetime to uncover. What an adventure! I whole heartedly believe marriage can be just as adventurous year 1 as it is year 50. How so? Here are a few unsolicited insights that were inspired by a conversation I had with Kevin this very morning.
1.) Choose to get to know the unknown parts of our partner day in and day out.
You may have known this person for years upon years but I can guarantee there is an untapped well just waiting to be discovered. When you do discover those unknown parts, keep exploring, there is still more yet. (side note. don’t use the not so lovely bits against them… they are working it out)
2.) Allow them to bring out the unknown parts of you, the one that perhaps you have kept hidden away for a very long time.
We live right at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. There is a wonderful trail we hike quite frequently. Every single time we hit the trail there is something different, new, and exciting. Especially if some time has passed between seasons, and the foliage has taken new form, there is wonder to be found each and every time we walk that path we have walked about a thousand times before. Yep, you (we) too are an untapped well. Allow yourself to go deep and be vulnerable even if it’s a little painful in the process. Allow the process to be like acupuncture. A little poking and prodding can lend itself to a world of healing. Even if you’ve gone down the path before, certainly there is something new to be found.
3.) Be present with each other, really present.
Kevin and I are notorious for being in the same room and yet worlds apart. Smart phones seem to take our relational IQ to an all time low. Connecting to a world of virtual acquaintances will never replicate true personal connection. FB, Twitter, and Instagram are necessary tools to our trade. We have had to, and are still trying to, find the balance of when to shut off the virtual life and live in the physical life with each other. It’s damn hard but well worth the effort.
4.) Give each other time and space to dream separately and come together to see how far those dreams can go when combined towards a shared goal.
This one can be tough. Kevin and I run a creative business together. How this business thrives is a result of our shared dreams. Putting business aside, it is difficult to allow space for us to dream separately from our work and each other. More and more I am realizing how painfully necessary that is. If I cannot continue to dream on my own and allow Kevin to dream on his own then we each grow stagnate as individuals and our adventure comes to a slow fade. Adventures take root where dreams begin. The more we can dream as individuals, the more we will dream as a unit, and the more adventurous our lives will become.
5.) Allow time for the adventure to take form.
Some of the greatest adventures take time and preparation. One of the hardest lessons I have learned in our almost 6 years of marriage (I know we are novices in this department) is adapting to the timing of things. So frequently we are not on the same time table and that can be infuriating at times. What we have learned is that dreams take time to form. Often they take even more time to form then we expected or hoped. Living out The Marriage Adventure means being willing to wait for new beginnings and anticipating that they come on a time table not designed by us. Sure, planning and charting out a time table can be a good idea but be careful that it doesn’t take the form of expectations. Expecting that your partner will live up to your time table is bound to result in disappointment and heart ache. Being patient with each other is THE HARDEST THING TO DO and one of the most vital tools to keeping marital sanity;)
6.) Be together
How often do you actually spend time together? It seems like a strange question, I know. In a way it piggybacks off of #3. Kevin and I spend an abnormal amount of time together given we run a business together. We often get asked “how can you actually stay married and work together?” Granted, it is our norm, and it isn’t always easy, but it is how we prefer things. We are each other’s priorities and so our lives have been built around that. I often think to myself “how can you be married and not want to spend every waking moment together?” I know, it’s not for everyone. Believe me, I need my space away from Kevin to be with my girls or with myself from time to time, but really… I prefer Kevin. Ladies, you are a blast and all, but really it shouldn’t be a shocker that the one I have chosen for a lifetime just so happens to be the one I like to watch The Bachelor with on Monday nights. I am all for balance. Lord knows I could use a little more of it in my own life. My point though is, spending time together, enjoying each other, raising the kids together, cooking and cleaning together, paying bills together, gardening, roller skating, bowling, sailing, or hang gliding can all be a part of The Marriage Adventure. The Adventure comes to, yet again, a slow fade when there is a shift in preferences and more and more time is spent away from one another.
7.) Prefer each other, your story, and your adventure
This is the toughest bit of unsolicited insight I have to offer. And by tough, I mean this is the hardest for me to live out. Choosing your partner was a sign of your preference for him/her. Continuing to prefer your partner isn’t always the easiest but is essential for living a healthy adventure together. When we start comparing our lives to others (uh-hem. Hi, I’m Danielle and I compare myself to everyone) a shift in preference begins. When our minds wander even in the slightest, once again, the “slow fade” begins. There is always someone living a semblance of a life that you desire, perhaps not the whole life, but bits and pieces. Comparison only gets you a one way ticket to unhappiness. Comparing my life to another’s only shifts my preference from the life that I live with Kevin and, in result, isolates us from each other. What kind of Marriage Adventure am I living if I am isolated from the man I love.
8.) Mimic the successes of others
This is the last, but certainly not least, bit of insight I have to offer. Seek out a seasoned, experienced, happily, married couple(s) who’s marriage you want to mimic. Certainly don’t take the advice of someone who has only been married for 6 years as your daily dose of marriage advice, rather seek that couple that has been married for 60 years and find out what they have to say about things. Sure your friends are going to have great insight. Even the ones who got married a few month before you. But really, the ones that are several steps ahead, the ones who have been through some really tough things together and are on the other side still hand in hand… those are the ones to really glean from. It may be your parents, grandparents, neighbors, or senior partner at work. You know them when you see them.
By no means do I claim to be an expert on the subject. I simply find myself coming to so many of these realizations now. The profession we are in surrounds us with new couples entering into the vow of marriage. Sure we photograph weddings, but the marriages, those are what we care about. It is a constant honor to think that, even in some small way, we are a part of the new Marriage Adventures that are taking place in our clients/friends lives.