I think it was right around the time I turned 40 that I heard my voice for the first time. For years, I was making decision after decision based on what others thought would be best for me. I was motivated by pleasing the people who loved me which also meant I was motivated by fear. What if I let someone down? What if something I choose to make me happy undoubtedly disappoints and hurts the people around me? For years, I thought I was listening to my own voice but to be honest, back then I wouldn’t even have recognized it. Freedom comes when you are free from the opinion of others. Freedom comes from following your own path and choosing the life you ultimately want to live. Happiness comes from knowing that you own the decisions you make and never feel the need to apologize. The truth is, there is only one person you are responsible to make happy and that is yourself. Once you learn to do that, anything is possible.
Next week, we will be celebrating 17 years of marriage. With so many marriages falling apart around me, I can’t help but wonder why mine is still going strong. The fact is, every couple has challenges. There will be good times, difficult times and those times that will certainly make or break you as a couple. There will be a flicker, moments when the spark you initially felt is very much alive and moments you can’t stand being in the same room. But why do some couples make it and other couples don’t?
If I had to pick just one determining factor that ultimately leads to the success of marriage, it would be commitment. Not the kind of commitment that keeps one faithful but rather a stronger commitment to the relationship and less commitment to self. It’s obvious that people have become very selfish. They want it all. The trick is wanting the relationship to work more than having a hot body or a successful career. It’s purposely choosing the relationship over a hobby or friends or anything else that can drive a wedge in between. Does that mean you shouldn’t go to the gym or take pride in your job? Does it mean you should give up your friends for the sake of your spouse? Of course it doesn’t. It just means that your main priority has got to be your relationship in a time of record divorce and infidelity. The key is putting the majority of time into your spouse and relationship and less time into the passions that drive you apart. When your time and focus is greater on any one thing more than it is your relationship, you can be sure the death of your relationship will soon be near.
I know many couples who get caught up in anniversary gifts. They want the fancy box and the pretty bow. They hold the value of their relationship dependent on whats in the box. For so many years, people will ask, what did he give you for your anniversary. I just smile to myself. The gifts we give each year can’t be put in a box. Every year we give the gift of respect, friendship, support, encouragement and the most important gift of all unconditional love. There is no greater, more satisfying feeling in the world than knowing someone loves you just the way you are, without conditions. There is no greater gift than knowing someone supports your dreams and works along side you to make them come true. There is nothing more special than knowing the person you married is the one who loves and accepts you more than anyone else in the great big world. Love says it’s okay when you make a mistake instead of listing the ways you create your own problems. Love listens and understands when everyone else tries to give advice. Love is there in the hard times and smiling along side you in the good times. Love is a gift that keeps on giving even when the relationship seems hopeless and lost. Love does not criticize, it emphathizes. Love does not blame, it searches for solution. Love does not resent, it always forgives regardless how big the offense.
What do you think leads to a lasting relationship? What is most important to you?
A question was posed on Facebook by Jennifer Pastiloff in response to someone telling her the only way to have a fulfilling life is by having children. She then asked, do you have kids? If no or if so, are you leading a fulfilling life? Do you judge women who have chosen not to?
I found this whole concept thought provoking. For me, personally, I believe life is what you make of it. Will having kids or choosing not to have them guarantee a fulfilling life? I would have to say that any sane person would honestly have to answer no. I truly believe that we base our judgement of feeling fulfilled by the wrong things. Many people are defined by their job. Others are defined by the future super stars they are mentoring and raising. For me it’s a double edge sword. What about the parent that feels she has failed? What about the person who suddenly loses his job? When we are defined by any one thing, the mere loss or gain of it can change our entire self worth.
I have kids. Do I always feel fulfilled? Heck no, and there are times I feel like I traded my life for theirs. I love them and there are moments I feel so grateful or so proud that I cannot fight the tears that magically well up in my eyes. Then there are the days I look at my kids and wonder where in the world I could have gone so wrong. When someone is hurting and my kids lack compassion, I can’t help but wonder how I contributed to something so awful. The truth is, parenting is a major lifelong commitment. If someone’s dream is not to become a parent than I respect them for not bringing a child into the world that they do not want. We are not all cut out to be parents anymore than we are not all cut out to be surgeons.
Where does fulfillment come from then? Hopefully it comes from many things. I think fulfillment is a constant state of change. Somedays we feel full and other days, our souls feel so empty, we are filled with unimaginable pain. Those days you are feeling fulfilled you should bottle up for the days that fulfillment is not so much. Take the days as they come, the good the bad, the unexpected and do the best with what you have. Tomorrow is a new day and it arrives with a new set of circumstances. Our attitude however, we can control. So choose a good one and make the most of the gifts you are given. And don’t judge. Don’t ever judge. Wear your own shoes and tread your own path, and let others do the same.
Success based on anything but internal fulfillment is bound to be empty~Dr. Martha Friedman
Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have~Unknown