“In my mind, marriage is a spiritual partnership and union …in order to heal, learn and grow” – Iyanla Vanzant, writer
“…wanted an amicable divorce for the sake of their only child…”
Karina and Kaleb had been married for over 20 years. Kaleb said he called because he wanted out of the marriage. He was angry, tired of being bullied, and baffled by his spouse, who he viewed as controlling and constantly discontented.
Both were 39 years of age, having married as teenagers. She was tall, straight shouldered and friendly. He was shorter, slumped and more distant. She was dressed up in a skirt and blouse and he was dressed down in jeans and t-shirt.
Karina had made the appointment. She wanted to rebuild their relationship. She said they had had their challenges but she wanted to preserve their family and, ‘not become another divorce statistic.’
But Kaleb was not interested. He said he came to counselling only to stop her from badgering him. He wanted an amicable divorce for the sake of their only child, Kamon. He was in grade 11 and would be leaving next year for college.
“…Karina wanted to be happy with him and Kaleb wanted to be free from her.”
I collected a brief history from each starting with Karina. She was the youngest of three children from a small, middle class, rural family who farmed potatoes. Kaleb, on the other hand, was a big city boy, growing up in Toronto, the oldest of four. His parents owned and operated a neighbourhood grocery store and they had all lived above it.
When I asked them what each wanted I got the following…Karina wanted to be happy with him and Kaleb wanted to be free from her.
So, I began by saying,
“It sounds like you each carry illusions about marriage. Karina you harbour a fantasy about being happy. And Kaleb, you harbour a fantasy of being free. Are you interested in the truth about marriage?”
They both seemed a little taken aback by my comment, but Karina was the first to respond while Kaleb looked like he was starting to plan his escape from my office. She said, testily,
“Isn’t it OK to want to have a happy marriage? My parents did…why can’t I?”
Then Kaleb jumped in mirroring her statement with his own irritation,
“And, isn’t it OK to want to be free of her…are you against divorce or something? I read half of marriages divorce…so it isn’t unusual!”
“…a long marriage is not a success, nor is divorce, a failure…”
I said, looking at each of them,
“Both marriage and divorce are really just learning tools for humans, so it doesn’t matter to me whether you stay together or go your separate ways.” I said to get them thinking.
“It doesn’t matter to you if we divorce or stay together…how can you say that, Ken?
“Both marriage and divorce are ‘wonderfully painful’ experiences because they follow the natural law of balance and provide us with a vehicle for learning wisdom and surviving successfully.”
Kaleb jumped in with,
“That would mean a long marriage is not a success, nor is divorce, a failure…is that what your saying, Ken?”
“Kaleb, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Would you be interested in the 3 laws of marriage? You already know the first one.”
“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.” – Barbara De Angelis, writer
“The purpose of marriage is to grow your self esteem using your partner as a relationship to achieve that…”
They both nodded to me with looks of curiosity and skepticism, so I kept going.
“The first law of marriage, as you noted Kaleb, is half of marriages are terminated either emotionally or legally or both. It is normal, natural and inevitable!”
“Ken, how can you say ‘normal, natural and inevitable’ …that’s so pessimistic!” Karina said.
“Karina that’s related to the second law of marriage. The purpose of marriage is not to be happy…no one is happily married. The purpose of marriage is to grow your self esteem using your partner as a relationship to achieve that true objective.” I said.
Kaleb jumped in now with a look of surprise emerging,
“Do you mean arguing is OK…it’s normal…it’s to be expected?”
“Not just expected, Kaleb…expected half the time, so you can learn to empower yourself in your relationship and in your life.”
“Are you saying I’m a wimp?”
“If by ‘happy’ you mean pleasure without pain,…you will never achieve it…it is unnatural and impossible!”
“Not at all! I’m saying there are specific relationships where you have not learned to stand up for yourself yet…to respect your own highest personal values?”
Kaleb sat back a bit thinking about this new perspective…this new idea.
Karina took the opportunity to say, with a hint of tragedy in her voice,
“But, Ken…you’re saying I will never be happy in my marriage…or any marriage…is that what you’re telling me?”
“If by ‘happy’ you mean pleasure without pain, good times without bad times, health without illness, affluence without poverty…if you mean a one sided, pleasure only experience…yes…you will never achieve it… because it is unnatural and impossible!”
“How can that be true…I was happy when our child was born…it was a magic moment!” she said, a hint of challenge surfacing again.
“Close your eyes and be there in that very moment.”
“Karina, can I use that moment to demonstrate the natural law?”
“Please do!” she said, willing to take a thought risk…a useful sign.
“Karina, go to that precise moment of Kamon’s birth. Close your eyes and be there in that very moment. When was this? Where did it occur? Who was present? Tell me the details of your perception of that moment.”
Closing her eyes, she sat back a bit going to the moment of her son’s birth. Then, she said,
“Well, he is 17 this year, so it was April 3rd, 2002 at 5:15 pm. He was born at the hospital in Toronto…we were there visiting Kaleb’s family.”
“Who was there besides you and Kamon?” I asked.
“Kaleb is standing beside the birthing table, squeezing my left hand. There are tears in his eyes and he is just beaming with pride.”
“Who else is there?” I asked.
“There is an RN, I forget her name now, but she is so helpful… and my doctor is there too, kind of watching it all.”
“Be fully in that moment and notice what you can see and what you can hear. Are there any smells you notice…even a taste or perhaps a texture… a tactile sense to this very moment?
“Marriage is a journey. Its hills and valleys.” – Eva Amurri, actress
“…she is telling me I have a healthy baby boy…”
Karina’s eyes were closed as she recounted the moment,
“I can see the picture on the wall in front of me of a smiling mother holding her baby…there is whispering going on between the nurse and my doctor…but not alarming but calm, kind of relaxing murmurs…and I can smell and feel the warm blanket the nurse put over my shoulders earlier…because I am cold for some reason.”
“Karina, what for you, is the very best moment of Kamon’s birth?” I asked.
She paused briefly before responding with,
“When the nurse…I remember now…her name is Heather…she is telling me I have a healthy baby boy…I’m so relieved!”
“Karina at this the very moment you are so relieved…you just birthed a healthy baby boy…at this same moment what is paining you or worrying you? What is the drawback to this same moment? How is it also a disadvantage to you?”
“I don’t know, Ken… how can there be one?”
“There has to be, nature ensures it! Look again carefully! Be in that very moment, where are your thoughts going while you are so pleased to have a healthy baby boy?” I asked her.
“It is not good or bad…it is perfect because it is balanced, symmetric and synchronic…”
She went quiet. I was quiet, as well. Kaleb watched, carefully, I suspect, wondering where this was going. After a few minutes of silence, Karina’s eyes opened and said,
“They placed Kamon right in front of me so I could see him. As I’m smiling at my little boy I remember now, Ken…I thought…’Can I do this?’ Can I raise this precious little person? How will we ever be able to do this right? And, my mother wanted a girl…she had no granddaughters, yet.
Then she continued,
“Of course, she would love him, but she would have preferred a little girl. And, she and I were so close, so it is a big deal for me to please her. And, I remember wondering how Kaleb’s family would respond to their newest family member. I was worrying about several things at that very moment. I can see them now!”
“That’s normal, natural and healthy, Karina! It’s the way nature designed us to optimize our learning and survival. It is not good or bad…it is perfect because it is balanced, symmetric and synchronic, in compliance with, all the natural laws we study in the hard sciences.”
“…every moment I was getting bullied by Karina, I was also getting equal pleasure…at the same moment…”
Kaleb then entered the conversation with,
“I remember that moment too…at least from my perspective. I was so proud, like Karina said, but I was also disappointed the nurse didn’t pass him to me first. And, I was earning about 25K year doing labor jobs at that point. I remember wondering how was I ever going to find the money to raise him and give him what he needed. So, I was both proud and terrified…I think I am starting to see what you’re talking about here, Ken.”
“So, that was just one important moment in your life. But, it is happening at every moment of your life…including every moment of your marriage. That means, you can’t have had a moment of pain without an equal moment of pleasure. They are two sides of the same coin.”
Kaleb piped up with,
“So, that means every moment I was getting bullied by Karina, I was also getting equal pleasure…at the same moment…is that the law of nature you’re talking about, Ken?”
“That’s it, Kaleb and the third law of marriage! Do you want to prove it to yourself? I can help you uncover it in any moment you can find.” I said.
Then, Karina joined in with,
“That law also means every moment of my happiness also had an equal moment sadness…at the same time…like I just found during Kamon’s birth, right?”
“Remember that creating a successful marriage is like farming: you have to start over again every morning.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author
“…It’s an appreciation for him…an appreciation for him being a part of us and our life together!”
“You got it now…both of you! This means you haven’t been happy or sad in your time together. You have been something more profound, something more real, and something more important. What would you call that?” I asked.
Karina said, tears welling up,
“I think I know now. And, I experience it every time I see my child…it is…a kind of…gratitude for him…his very existence!
Kaleb, listening carefully to Karina, added, his eyes glistening as well,
“Yeah! It’s an appreciation for him…an appreciation for him being a part of us and our life together!”
“…a duality, optimizing their life and ensuring their future.”
“Would you two be interested in learning gratitude and appreciation for yourself, for each other…and, your marriage? I can show you how to do that.”
“That sounds like a useful thing to do.” Kaleb volunteered first, with a measure of caution.
“Yes, I agree!” added Karina.
“Remember, it doesn’t assume you will stay together or divorce. But, it will allow you to move forward into your future appreciating your past and your present.”
“Let’s do that, eh Karina?” Kaleb said.
“Yes, let’s! Then we can decide what’s next for each us.” she replied with a soft smile.
Thus began their journey into a future aware of how their life, like everyone else’s, is governed by natural law…a perfect balance of support and challenge, pleasure and pain…a duality, optimizing their life and ensuring their future.
“Marriage and divorce are effective ways to grow people, efficiently!”
― King Ayles, author