Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Marriage is a lot like yoga...10 years before you're really into the practice!

I was talking to a friend who is a yoga instructor. The topic however was marriage. I was saying that I thought we give up too early on our marriages--that it really isn't until about the 10th year of marriage that one is actually getting into the groove of a good marriage. Her comment kind of surprised me as she said "That's what they say about yoga practice too. It takes about 10 years before you're really into the groove of practicing yoga."

We then went on to discuss the parallels of what it means to work on a marriage relative to what it means to practice on the yoga mat. If you've ever practiced yoga--you know that it is in the repetition and consistency of returning to the mat that transforms you. I know when I started practicing yoga--the first video I used, I couldn't even complete! It wasn't that it was so very difficult--but it was more than I knew how to do. But, I just kept practicing that tape, over and over. Today, I can do that tape with ease, but it was only by returning to the mat over and over again that I could reach that level.

The same is true with marriage! In the first few years, learning how to live with another person, build good communication channels, setting goals, etc., is very challenging and difficult. Most of us, quite frankly, aren't very good at it! We make lots of mistakes, blame our partners for not being any better at it than we are and wake up a few years into the marriage wondering what the heck we're doing here! Much like the early years of being on the mat--it is tempting to just give it up altogether! What's the point--it's hard work, you don't often see immediate results and there's a lot of other places you could put your energy and have more fun!

And so we do give up on our marriages--way too soon. We walk out in the hard part, afraid to trust that, like yoga, if we try again, we can learn to be better communicators, we can know our selves better and thus be able to open ourselves to knowing our partners on a deeper level.

As a marriage counselor, I try hard to convince couples to give their marriages more time because I've seen time and time again those couples who, despite being in a very unsettled period of their marriage, stick it out and receive incredible benefits as a result. They take the angst they're in and dive into it--doing both individual work and couples work. Little by little they learn new communication techniques, they confront some of their own issues and move through them so that these issues no long stunt their marriage.

I won't kid you--its hard work--but you know, like yoga--with each return to the mat, you get just a little bit better at it and one day you look back and realize, 'wow, I can hold that pose for two minutes when just three months ago I couldn't hold it for two seconds! My clients who hang on through the angst times of their marriage also look back and realize that the partner they could barely stand to look at during the tough times they are now deeply in love with! This is the joy that is only possible by staying and working in a marriage.

If you look at any great marriage--or any yoga master, all will say that there were good times, hard times, times they all felt like quitting. But the yoga master stayed and can now look back on all those tough times and enjoy what those challenges produced. The same is true for long term marriages--you can only look back to see the joy of what those challenges produced if you keep the marriage together.

In its own way, building your marriage is just like building your Life Puzzle--it is a life-long learning experience. Like the yoga master, mastering your Life Puzzle and building a great marriage is a daily process--it isn't finished until the day you die. As you return to the mat, over and over again--return to your marriage each day as well. In both, the effort extended is the only way to produce the change and growth you desire!

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