Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are You Making Promises You Can Keep?


There I was standing in front of the priest, in my white dress and veil, making a promise I couldn’t keep. Just before I got to the part where I said, “until death do us part,” a bunch of contingencies were running through my mind. “I’ll stay with him that long provided he doesn’t start drinking heavily, hitting me, verbally abusing me, ignoring me, or anything that would give me just cause to leave.

What I really wanted to say in the vows was, “As long as you are kind and good, continue to grow spiritually, respect me, attend to my needs with the same regard you tend to your own, and communicate honestly with me, I’m here.” But if I had made a promise I could keep, I wouldn’t have been getting married in the church I had grown up in. Truth would have required I face myself, my parents, my church and my husband-to-be. I wasn’t ready to be that honest, so I made my vows while mentally crossing my fingers.

Some years later, I finally had the courage to be truthful with myself. My husband was a good man—a really good man. I had chosen well. Yet, my needs weren’t being recognized and honored within the relationship. I realized I needed to make a choice between being miserable the rest of my life, as my grandmother had been, or finding the inner strength to leave. When I started day-dreaming about him dying so that I would be free, I knew it was time to leave.

In retrospect, my own communication and problem resolution skills were not developed enough to save a failing marriage. I had only begun learning how to speak about my feelings, and how to progress from expressing my feelings to creating compassionate opportunities for two people to discover themselves with and through each other.

The next time I got married, I made a very different vow. I promised to be with him until we are complete. If we are complete tomorrow, I know I made a promise I was able to keep. The same is true if our bond continues past death. I haven’t attached to an expectation that could leave either of us regretting our choice.

It would be easy to think that I have somehow cheated, or given myself an easy out with this vow. Interestingly, the opposite is true. Complete to me, does not imply bailing out because I’m angry, hurt or dissatisfied. Complete means one or both of us have made a significant insight and have found motivation outside the marriage that is calling us into some new place for the continuance of our evolution.

This means I am far more conscious in this marriage. I am very careful, as is my husband, not to allow our relationship to linger in anger, hurt or dissatisfaction. We give thanks for each other’s company every day. We are grateful for each moment we get to spend together, doing our best not to attach to what tomorrow might or might not bring. I am even comfortable knowing someday he may meet someone with whom he feels more able to expand into his next level of spiritual growth. Because his happiness is as important to me as my own, through the tears and hurt of letting go, I would be his biggest fan for making any change he knew would further him in his journey.

As you enter into this year and make your New Year’s resolutions to yourself and others, I hope you will make promises you truly can keep. You can experience some real motivation to succeed, along with freedom to do what is truly right when commitments are in alignment with your truth.

For a prayer to support you in discovering commitments you can keep, visit: http://newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php/topic,638.0.html