I've been thinking a lot about marriage lately and what makes a marriage work and what we are allowed to expect out of a marriage. And are my standards, wants, needs too high? Clearly, not everyone wants the same thing out of a marriage and partnership that I want. I look around me at some of my friends and acquaintances and I think, I could not do marriage that way. Except that I did, for 12 years. It didn't work. Not for me, anyway.
Now, clearly, I am not in the marriages that I see, but some of them are friends of mine so I do know some of the inner workings of their marriages. Not enough to make a fair judgement, but enough to make me curious how much more there is to it.
I had many people tell me that I was not justified in leaving my marriage. It's none of their business and they certainly aren't in a position to determine that for me. But, I can see that for some of them, some of the things that made me HAVE to leave are things that they would not consider that big of a deal. Things they can do without. Things that they think I have no right to expect and that aren't necessary for a marriage to be happy? Successful? Perhaps they are right.
But, what makes a marriage successful, then?
For me, it's one thing, really. Because this one thing parlays into all the other things that make a marriage work. It's intimacy. I require it. And, I don't just refer to physical/sexual intimacy, although, I think that can be a natural extension of the other types of intimacy, if one is in that type of relationship. By which I mean that friendships can be intimate as well, without physical/sexual intimacy.
So, what is intimacy? How does one achieve it? Is it that important to everybody?
I'll start with the last question. No, I don't think it is. I don't think everyone is interested in a deep level of intimacy with their partner, and I think there are a variety of reasons for this. Fear, lack of awareness, lack of desire to do the work required, to put in the time. I think fear and lack of awareness may be two of the most prevalent.
I once likened being intimate with someone to a castle. There are layers of defenses set up to protect ourselves, some concious, some unconcious and many quite necessary. There are things about ourselves, our divine spark, if you will, that are too precious to share with the common world, so we guard them, as we should. So, you can go to the extreme and keep everyone on the other side of the moat, drawbridge up, portcullis down. Or, you can back things off a bit. Leave the bridge down and allow people into the outer bailey. They can look and see and interact, but the spark is still well protected, as it should be. Then, there are those people you allow through to the inner bailey. Your close acquaintances, etc. They get a somewhat better vision of the real you, but you are still safe, because you don't know these people QUITE that well yet. There are those you allow into the outer keep, your bannermen, those who will stand by you in times of trouble, but have their own things to do when peace is in the land. They can recognize your need to retreat to a safe space and will defend it as they can. Finally, there is the inner keep. It's where you keep your treasures, your secrets, your SELF. The barest you. For some people, no one is allowed in here. It's too dangerous, because in your inner keep, you are unarmed, naked. Anyone that comes in there can hurt you. And so you are careful, you keep the door barred, your treasures safely guarded. This is not bad, unless you stay in your inner keep with the door permanently barred. Most of us don't, most of us wander down to the outer keep, the inner and outer bailey and even to the other side of the moat. But we don't do it unarmed or unprotected.
Being alone in the inner keep is lonely. But, it's also where you find yourself.
I think a lot of people never spend time in their inner keep. I think there are some people who don't even know there is an inner keep, not of their own, nor that others have one. And if you don't know it's there, you can't let anyone else in. If you can't see someone else's, you can't join them in it.
I want someone in my inner keep, but I want them to want to be there. I want them to earn their way in. I would have to trust them, because my inner keep is a reflection of me. It has areas full of light, and areas dark with shadow. I need someone to love the shadow as well as the light, if only for the contrast it gives. But, I am reluctant, because it is easy for someone to betray me in my keep. I am unarmed. I have been wounded there and left defenseless, open and raw.
But, I am also hopeful, because I have been loved there. I have had someone come in and tell me it is beautiful and mean it. Someone who wanted to spend time there, to admire and enjoy the warmth and beauty and to help drive away some of the shadow with their own spark when mine dims.
And this is a thing of beauty and something that I require, should I ever be inclined to marry again.