Today, six years go, I got married.
On the 1st of February 2010, I formalised my decision to make a lifelong commitment to my life partner.
I entered into a legal agreement, signed by both my wife and I, two witnesses and a marriage officer.
We did have a wedding party a month later in March. But on that day in February 2010, the day I officially made my commitment, it was just the two of us.
There was no religion involved. No pastor, priest or preaching. No church building. And no confetti.
We left the marriage officer’s office and we spent that night alone, for the first time as husband and wife.
There are two things I will always remember from that first night alone.
The sunset. And the tears.
I was twenty four years old at the time. And I’d never spent much time crying before. Before that night I couldn’t remember the last time I cried. Not aloud anyway. And definitely not with somebody else present to witness it.
But that night I cried. Properly. I sobbed for what must have been at least an hour, or more. Embraced by my wife.
I will never forget it. We were sitting in the bath and by the time I stopped crying the water was cold.
I didn’t really know why I cried then. It was completely unexpected. I had no idea what I was doing. I was bewildered. I was vulnerable. I cried tears that had been kept in, suppressed since childhood, now finally released.
In the six years since, through many more tumultuous ups and downs, I’ve begun to understand.
And over the course of the last few weeks, on the eve of our sixth wedding anniversary, I’ve finally been able to put it into a few words.
“Why get married?”
First of all, I don’t advocate marriage. Not at all. It’s the most difficult and most frightening thing I’ve ever done. It’s left me completely exposed to another human being. There’s always been the very real risk of getting hurt. And it happens all the time.
“So why get married?”
My own very personal answer to that question is this: I married because of the deep commitment involved.
No other relationship involves this level of commitment between two people.
Because of that deep commitment there’s the opportunity to grow together. One partner cannot repeat old patterns while the other is developing and discovering new things about themselves.
Because of that deep commitment there’s honesty. One partner cannot hide their feelings from the other. Not for long anyway.
And because of that deep commitment there’s the mutual understanding that the negative aspects I react to most violently in you, are simply a reflection of my own negative aspects. My own defects that I deny most vehemently.
For me, that deep commitment is deep love.
True, there are many levels of love. When we first fall in love we experience the infatuation and passion of romance.
But what happens after that?
What happens when the party is over. What happens when everyone goes home? What happens years later, when life goes on and those little molehills become mountains?
Did we make a mistake?
Or is there room to grow?
When our partner does something small that irritates the living hell out of us, do we give in to that irritation and start an argument?
Or can we forgive?
When something goes wrong and we react, when we see our own faults reflected in the behaviour of our partner, do we criticize and project our flaws, blaming them for our own mistakes?
Or is there inner-space to look at ourselves?
I know that I married to grow.
And I grow through seeing my own reflection; staring back at me from within my own commitment.
Everything, from my greatest assets, to my deepest flaws and my most serious character defects, all is laid bare within the deep and unconditional commitment of marriage.
And that was why I cried that first night in February.
Because, as we got into that bathtub together, we had nowhere left to hide. Whatever it was that was wrong with us, I knew it would now finally come to the surface.
We enjoyed the romance of falling in love. We had lots of time to show one another what we most liked about ourselves.
But, I knew, eventually all our ugliness had to come out too.
The manipulation. The control. The irritation. The anger. The fear, sadness and loneliness. All the issues. Everything we had hidden away from ourselves and others, for the sake of appearances.
Eventually we would show those parts too.
Because that is the only way to grow.
Just as a problem cannot be solved without first admitting that there is a problem, no growth can take place without first removing its inhibitors.
And nothing stunts growth more than our own unwanted stuff, the stuff we normally deny and suppress because we simply want it gone.
Not realising that the only way to get rid of something is to throw it out. And denying it, suppressing it and stuffing it away in our deepest darkest corners, is doing the exact opposite.
To throw something out involves picking it up, looking at it and, after understanding what it is, deciding that you no longer want it.
That is the only way to grow.
And that is why I married.
I married for commitment.
Commitment allows me, and perhaps forces me to look at myself.
To stop blaming the world for everything that is wrong with my life.
To take responsibility for the reflection of myself that I see in others, to look at that reflection and to change that which I don’t want.
I married to grow.