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7 Spiritual Lessons Learned From 25 Years Of Marriage – Part 7

Written by: Christina Marlett, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Christina Marlett

Marriage is a combination of personal growth and growing together, and it can be complicated. Read this article to learn how to support yourself and each other fully so that you feel connected, cherished and valued in your marriage.

Man in black suit kissing woman in white wedding dress

We made it! Here we are at the seventh and final installment of the most powerful spiritual lessons I’ve learned over 25 years of marriage. Last week, in Part 6, we explored going with the flow. In this last post, we’ll look at supporting yourself and each other.


The seventh spiritual lesson


Support yourself & support each other

I had a client who left her marriage and then used her solitude as time to work on herself. She noticed that she had gotten lost somewhere along the way while married and so she did a lot of personal and spiritual work. When she felt ready for and entered a new relationship, she was very surprised that some of her old triggers showed up, even though she had healed so much. That’s one of the most interesting things about being in partnership. It’s much more challenging than being in solitude. We grow spiritually through relationships. You can do all the inner work you want but if you stay in isolation, you’ll likely miss out on the incredible growth opportunities available from that lovely person who can show you exactly what hasn’t been healed yet. (Triggers, anyone?) There’s just a whole different dynamic when you’re married. It brings any issues you’re having right up in your face where you can notice them, and if you so choose, do something about them. As I learned from my mentor, Dr. Sue Morter, we learn through friction. We have to bump up against our outer limits to discover who we are, what’s important to us, and to then devote ourselves to uncovering what we truly want and take action in that direction. A spouse can be so very helpful in that regard. There are a myriad of dynamics at play in marriage. If you’re open to being an observer of how you show up in the various moments of a regular day, you’ll notice all sorts of fascinating things. For the purposes of this post, we’ll zero in on how to support yourself and how to support each other.


Each person will need to find the happy medium between those two ends of the spectrum. Both are important – you absolutely need to support yourself and make yourself the focus sometimes, and other times, you need to support each other. There’s a lot of give and take. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution and that’s one of the things that makes marriage so challenging and rewarding. There’s always a dance going on along the continuum of how much to focus on yourself and how much to focus on your beloved. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the last quarter century(Oh my! I’ve never put it that way before. A quarter century carries a certain weight, doesn’t it? And by the way, it doesn’t make me feel old because how could I let a number determine how I feel or how much energy I have? Oprah says every decade gets better so that’s how I choose to live.)


Supporting yourself

I love the quote, “Love does not consist of gazing into each other’s eyes but in looking outward together in the same direction,” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. To me, this quote means that you need to be your own person first and then align with your partner in a shared vision. If you don’t take time to get to know yourself and support your own needs, there will likely be a certain emptiness that can’t be filled. It’s never up to your partner to fill any energetic holes for you. That’s your own work and when you devote yourself to that self-discovery, I’ve found that it just makes the marriage better and better. The more clarity you have about who you are and how you want to be in the world, the better you can be in partnership. So how do you get clear? Gosh, there are so many ways and I’ve tried my fair share. The most effective and concise way to gain clarity that I come back to over and over and that I use with my clients is to answer this powerful question.


The most powerful question for clarity

Fast forward your fine self to one year from today’s date. You’re now one year in the future and It’s been the best year of your life in every way possible; healthwise, financially, contribution-wise, career, relationships, spiritually, living with intention, creatively – it’s just been the absolute best year ever. (Hooray!) What has made it so? What’s happened in the best year of your life? Write down your answers for each category listed above and any others that feel important to you. Let your mind be expansive and unlimited. You don’t have to know how it happened; you just need to know what has happened to make it the best year ever. Give yourself a good 30-60 minutes to play with


this exercise.(If you’d like a more guided experience, check out this Self-Care Masterclass that takes you through a very deep version of the activity. It’s a visioning process for 2023 but you can do it any time of year and it doesn’t have to be 2023:) By answering the question, you create a vision for yourself. Moving forward, you want to make as many decisions as possible that align with your vision. For example, if part of your vision is to connect more deeply with your spouse, then you would want to schedule aligned actions such as date nights, going for walks together, or maybe taking a class that appeals to both of you. As another example, maybe part of your vision is that you are vibrant, healthy, fit and energetic. That would mean that you might make choices like eating more live foods, avoiding the snack aisle, going to bed earlier (if that’s an issue), meditating and spending less time on the couch and more in nature. See how it works? Often people say they don’t have clarity but they have more than they realize; they just don’t necessarily take the time or know how to suss it out. Now you know! Ask yourself the most powerful question and write down your answers. Most importantly, focus on how you want to feel because we’re always tuning in to what vibration is next for us and feeling the associated feeling is the most efficient path there. For super secret bonus points, you might even want to invite your spouse to do the visioning process as well and then discuss your answers. You’ll likely learn things about each other that you didn’t know and you’ll be able to support each other’s visions.


Connect with the divine

Another way to support yourself is to give yourself the gift of connecting with Spirit/Creator/God/Infinite Intelligence every day, no matter what. Bonding with the Divine as a daily ritual has immeasurable benefits. Here’s what I’ve noticed personally. I never felt drawn to religion growing up because I saw a lot of hypocrisy in the way that people who went to church acted. My understanding was that all religions are based in love but there was very unloving behaviour going on. I wondered, “Why can’t we just be good people and do good things all week, rather than just on Sundays?” When I discovered that there was the option to be spiritual without subscribing to a specific religion, I felt like I’d come home to my truth. It turned out that I was a very spiritual person who didn’t have a frame of reference for how I wanted to live. Once I started devoting myself to spirituality, I went from being superficially happy, where I could very easily be knocked off course, to unearthing a deep and constant river of contentment within me that I can access no matter what. I can be on a roller coaster of emotions or life experiences and yet there is a comforting place of inner stillness that is always available and accessible.

What a relief!


I’ve learned that I don’t have to do anything alone – God is always available. Support in the unseen world is at hand 24/7 as long as I ask for it. I’m sure this has taken a lot of pressure off of Paul. He doesn’t have to fill up any energetic holes in me because the space has been filled with divine love. That means that there are no elements of desperation, neediness or victim mentality between us. I can feel the same evolution in him and it makes me feel even more drawn to him. It’s interesting to note that desperation, neediness, victim mentality and other such energies are actually repelling. When those energies lessen and disappear, the energy shifts to magnetic and attractive, which is certainly what we want to be to our spouse, right? How might one connect with the Divine? I have daily rituals that fit the bill. I get on the yoga mat, meditate, do the Daily Energy Routine and trace my meridians (learned from Donna Eden). I hire Heavenly Helpers (learned from Jean Slatter in Hiring the Heavens), go for walks in nature, write out my gratitudes, infuse my food with love and do breath work. I’ve also recently taken up journaling again, which feels amazing. There are so many options. If you have no practices, choose one and start there. If you have a lot of practices and it feels like too much, you might want to scale back a bit. The agreement I have with myself is that I will connect with the Divine daily and it might look different from day to day. As long as I’m doing something, I’m within my agreement. Takeaway from this section: support yourself by connecting with the Divine.Every day. In a way that works for you and feels good. The benefits will be immeasurable.


Up your self-love

Let’s get right to the bottom line of self-love. When you love and accept all the parts of you unconditionally, you’re able to love from a place of wholeness and completeness. The quality of love that you’re then giving to your spouse will also be whole and complete. On the other hand, if you don’t unconditionally love and accept yourself, the quality of love you give to your spouse (and anyone else in your life) won’t feel as good, either to them or to you. If there’s self-loathing going on, then it’s really challenging (and basically impossible) to fully love another. Point blank. Just notice how you feel about that information right now. Were you nodding your head in agreement? Was there a part of your mind defending yourself or resisting? Were you trying to figure out what kind of self-love you have? Perhaps you’re not quite sure where you’re at with self-love. Here’s a clue from the outer world. You will only tolerate behaviour from others that’s two levels better than how you treat yourself. That means if you’re surrounded by kind, loving, supportive people, it’s a great indication that your inner world is filled with self-love.


If, conversely, there are people in your life who don’t treat you very well, there’s an opportunity to pour more love into yourself. So many people have a tendency to beat themselves up on the inside (often using the voice of a parent or other authority figure from the past). You might even be feeling down on yourself right this very minute. I definitely had the pattern of being extremely hard on myself. Nothing was ever good enough and I always trying to figure out how to be better, how to get things even “more right”. Once I realized what was going on in my mind, I was able to see it as a plethora of opportunities for more love. Here’s what I do every day to grow my self-love. When I notice an old pattern such as being judgemental, either of myself or others, rather than agreeing with the inner voice that I’m a terrible person for judging, I take a step back, float up above the judgement and say to myself, “Part of me that’s judgemental, I love you. I accept you. Thank you for being here to teach me about unconditional love.” This practice works with every part of you. It can also sound like: part of me that feels like I need to be right, part of me that feels angry right now, part of me that doesn’t love myself, part of the me that . Just fill in the blank with whatever you notice. I’ve been amazed and wowed by this practice. As soon as I love the part that’s showing up, it feels acknowledged and then recedes. It’s like magic. Because love is magic. Being critical and harsh never, NEVER works, on yourself or others. Every single situation that elicits a feeling in you or an unpleasant response in your mind is an opportunity for more love. And guess what? When you love yourself in this way (and it might be hundreds of times in a day, especially when you first start out), you automatically become more loving towards others too. The quality of your love changes and deepens. Self-love is imperative in a happy marriage. The more love you give yourself, the better you’ll get treated because your vibration on the inside gets higher and higher. The people in your life might seem to change, but really you’re changing your frequency and then the outer world has to match what’s going on internally. Now let’s move into how to best support each other.


Supporting each other

Our marriage is a safe haven where we give ourselves and each other permission to be our full selves. Back when we first met in University, Paul wrote me a memorable love note. He said that he loved the bubbly, energetic, outgoing, happy person that I was and he also said that he wanted to get to know all of me; the parts that I hid from most people like the sad parts, the angry parts, the fearful parts and the other aspects I rarely expressed to anyone (including myself).


Right away, I knew that an incredible gift was being offered to me. Here was this young man who was letting me know that he could handle and accept all of me, not just the best version of myself that I presented to most people. It’s been that way ever since. I can be a lot; I like to get my way. I take huge risks. I can be unpredictable. I have very high standards and expectations - for myself and others. Once I learned that it was okay to have a full range of emotions (and not just the happy side of the rainbow ones), I started to express them. Paul has always been patient and encouraging, giving me so much freedom to be fully myself. He set a great example right from the start and I learned to follow his lead, accepting and loving whatever has shown up along the way so that Paul can be fully himself as well. It has given us both a beautiful spaciousness to get to know ourselves and each other in the deepest way possible.


Observing obligation

When we’re in relationship with another, whether it’s marriage or not, it’s a great opportunity to notice the reasons underlying our choices, which can often be buried. Specifically, I’d like to focus on obligation because it’s been an eye-opener for me. Living with someone else means that there are a lot of needs to be met. Throw in a few kids and – wow – being in service just becomes a way of life. I’ve had to come face to face with overgiving many, many times. Now, to be clear, being in service to your beloved is a part of marriage. Sometimes, I have to give up what I want because it’s Paul’s turn to get what he wants. Other times, it’s flipped. A lot of contribution happens in a marriage and there are many times when I give and I don’t really feel like it. However, harmony in our partnership is one of my highest values and so I hold that above what I may or may not feel like in the moment. Back to obligation and a little story to illustrate my point. Last year, after we moved into our 3-storey home, our daughter had some health concerns and we felt best with one of us (Paul) sleeping downstairs in the basement in case anything happened. Our bedroom is on the top floor and the basement just felt very far away, so that’s what we did. For many weeks, Paul camped out down there and I stayed in our room high above. Something interesting emerged out of this arrangement. Although I missed him, I also noticed that there was a new freedom in the mornings. I could get up whenever I wanted, which was earlier than I usually did. I realized that I had been staying in bed longer than I wanted to out of a sense of obligation (entirely of my own doing and completely made up). It was a surprising observation because it


revealed that I had lost a little part of myself. Once the health concerns passed and Paul came back upstairs, I was better able to tune into what I really wanted and my inner guidance, rather than making up stories that came out of the obligation I had made up. It was a real eye-opener that led me to become observant in other parts of my life too. I noticed that other things were happening out of obligation, too, and there were mental stories that went along with so many of them. It turned out I was just believing those stories as a habit. With more practice and curiosity, I’ve been able to notice when obligation is the primary or only reason for doing something and I consistently work at minimizing doing things out of obligation. Sometimes, it’s still necessary, but I’ve managed to reduce coming from a sense of made-up obligation more often than not. Instead, I make decisions from what I would love to do, what would bring me joy and what feels the best. With that focus, I have way more fun and life is much more enjoyable. When obligation is the primary focus, its energy permeates everything it influences and there’s more heaviness to life. That’s what I’ve noticed, anyway. Are you doing a lot of things with a sense of obligation? It’s worth getting curious and seeing what underlying reasons are there when you make decisions.


Make requests rather than accusations

Have you ever felt a stab of fear when someone says, “We need to talk”? I sure have and, as a result, I don’t tend to use that phrase. Instead, I usually say something like, “Can I make a request?” or “Can I share an observation?” I’ve found that requests and observations are a loving jumping-off point for a difficult or uncomfortable conversation. Plus, a request means that I’ll be asking for what I need, whic his always a great practice for stretching one’s self. I like to follow the motto: Speak your truth with compassion. I always take some time to consider the most loving way to say something. Here’s an example. I’ve always been devoted to eating well and have continuously brought new eating styles into our lives whenever I learn a way to upgrade our current approach. Such an upgrade presented itself a few months ago and so, once again, we (I) made some major shifts. It’s been a lot to ask of my family and I’ve been aware of that. Let’s just say there’s been some food-related tension. It eventually became clear to me that I felt like some of Paul’s choices around food were undermining what I was trying to do. Rather than accusing him of that, I asked myself what I would actually love for him to do. My request be came, “Could you please find a different way to express your love to our kids without using the foods we’re avoiding?”


I was so proud of myself for opening up an uncomfortable conversation in a loving way. Because Paul’s done so much work on himself, he didn’t take it personally and it led to a healing and useful interaction. At the end, he said, “Thank you for letting me know. I was waiting for you to bring it up. Yes, I can support you in that way.”

It was so much more beneficial than starting with an accusation that would have put him on the defensive. Friction is an opportunity for something new to emerge and love is a great starting point.


Know your role

Paul taught me a useful approach that he learned from Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese monk, called Know Your Role. It’s a beautiful way to support yourself while supporting each other.

Essentially, knowing your role is awareness of the various roles you’re playing during the day and being present to the one you’re in at each moment. For example, once I was taking a course in California and Paul was at home with our little kids. They all got sick and I felt very guilty for not being there to help. Paul graciously advised me to stay in my role of student/learner. He pointed out that I was not in my mom/wife role so there was no need to feel guilty. Although the guilt didn’t go away completely, by acknowledging my role and the truth of the situation, I did feel much better. I poured myself into learning everything that I could so that I could be an even better mom/wife when I returned. I have many different roles each day such as day such as driver, cook, life coach, spiritual teacher, wife, mom, writer, athlete, artist, cleaner, nutritionist and so on. If I try to do several at once, life gets complicated. If I stick to the current role and stay present with it, things are usually much more simple. Knowing your role is also a great way to worry less. For example, Paul likes rock climbing. He’s been doing some outdoor climbing and I’ve got two options when he leaves. Either I could worry and fret about him, or I could stay present in my current role and let his experience unfold in the way it needs to. I can’t physically be in two places at once and so there’s much more inner peace when I focus on what’s at hand rather than throwing worry his way, which won’t help anyway. Knowing your role helps you support yourself by being present and it helps support your beloved by having a more calm, peaceful and present spouse. Everyone wins when you know your role.


Be a team


The last point on supporting each other is short and sweet. Be a team. If you see yourselves as being against each other, there will be tension. When you see yourselves as aligned and on the same side, it leads to feeling supported, valued and loved.


A great question to ask yourself (and each other) is “If we were a team, how would I show up right now?”


A wonderful question that we ask each other often is, “How can I support you right now,” or its close relative, “How can I support you this week?”Being on the receiving end of those questions feels spectacular and asking them creates a sense of empowerment and connection. They are highly recommended to incorporate into your vocabulary.


And there you have it. Learning how to support yourself as an individual, within a relationship and then supporting your partner is a noble goal because so much grow this available. You can support yourself by:

  • Asking yourself the most powerful question for clarity

  • Connecting with the Divine

  • Upping your Self-Love

Some suggestions for supporting each other include:

  • Observing obligation

  • Making requests rather than accusations

  • Knowing your role

  • Being a team

The journey of personal discovery is the most important journey we take as humans. By supporting yourself and supporting each other in your marriage, you’ll find a multitude of growth opportunities in your relationships and feel fulfilled by all the revelations you have along the way.


Your spouse/partner is a treasure trove of spiritual learning for you because we grow the most impactfully when we’re in relationship with another. Send them some gratitude right now for agreeing to give you such a powerful and meaningful gift.


That brings us to the end of the series. I hope you’ve found it to be valuable and thought-provoking. Perhaps I’ll use the next 25 years to gather more teachings and learnings so that when the time comes, I can share my top spiritual lessons learned from 50 years of marriage. I’ll tuck that idea in my back pocket for now.


Sending you many wishes for love, growth and fulfillment, both on your own and in partnership.


Visit my website for more info!

Christina Marlett Brainz Magazine
 

Christina Marlett, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine As the creator of Courageous Self-Care, Christina is passionate about helping stressed out high achievers learn to lead their communities, families and themselves from a place of wholeness, overflowing energy and deep self-respect. She excels at helping overwhelmed leaders revitalize their energy from the inside out so that they can be productive and peaceful at the same time. Christina is a certified Embodiment Coach, Body Awake Yoga teacher, Happy for No Reason Trainer, Energy Codes Facilitator and BEST Practitioner who helps you take inspired action so that you have epic relationships, vibrant health and so much energy that people will ask you what you’ve been doing differently.

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