How I Met And Married My Wife

marriedI am the eldest of four boys.  In 2002, my second-youngest brother and his wife announced they were going to have a baby.  The news absolutely floored me.  This would be the first baby of our generation and represented a significant life change for us all.

I left their apartment that night thinking about life stages and transitions and found myself wondering why I wasn’t married yet.  I’d always felt I’d wanted to be and had certainly had a number of opportunities.  But I’d passed them all up for one reason or another and at 34 remained single.

Learning one of my brothers was going to be a father triggered something in me—a sense of urgency, a greater interest in moving my life forward, a need to shake things up—I’m not sure what.  But the next morning I began a campaign to find my wife.

In Nichiren Buddhism we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to achieve our goals, whatever they may be, as a way to simultaneously attain enlightenment.  So I decided I would chant one million times (a “one million daimoku campaign”) to achieve this latest goal of mine.  I’d done this multiple times in the past, usually with surprising results, so I knew it would take 300 hours—which, given my schedule, meant nine months.

Later that night I received an e-mail from a woman I’d queried on Match.com, an Internet dating site.  I’d been surfing it for two years, had gone on numerous dates—even some good ones—but hadn’t yet found anyone I could envision as my life partner.  The woman’s name was Rhea, and her profile was as articulate and bold as her photograph was beautiful.  We corresponded by e-mail briefly, then talked one night on the phone—for two hours.  The conversation flowed effortlessly and magnetically.  We made plans to meet for dinner that weekend.

The date was wonderful.  We ended up spending the entire following week together (I was on vacation) and soon found ourselves enthralled in a serious relationship.  I wondered if she was indeed the woman for whom I’d been searching (and chanting) and marveled at the possibility that I could have found her on the same day I started my daimoku campaign.  Nevertheless, as I didn’t yet know if I wanted to marry her, I continued chanting.

Our relationship progressed and on Christmas Eve of 2002 she moved in with me.  Soon after, though, I began experiencing intense bouts of anxiety, mostly in the morning when I’d first wake up.  I couldn’t figure out its cause and it soon rose to a level that was almost paralyzing.

I continued chanting, still unclear if I wanted to marry her or not.  On an intellectual level, nothing stood in the way of my wanting to—though obviously not perfect, she was clearly excellent:  smart, beautiful, emotionally healthy, happy, fun, in every way my equal (and in some ways my superior), someone I could not only enjoy but learn from.

But I seemed to be waiting for a switch to flip inside me, some internal confirmation that she was the one for me.  I became aware that I was hesitating at least partially because to make any choice was simultaneously to not choose everyone else—but I overcame that obstacle as soon as I realized it was an issue.  I only had to remind myself that most of the world’s billions of people would never make their way in front of me.  Almost certainly somewhere someone more wonderful for me was out there (just as almost certainly someone more wonderful than me was out there for her—neither of us is perfect nor perfect for each other), but Rhea was more than wonderful enough.

Eventually my brother and his wife had their baby, a boy.  Eight days later Rhea and I went to the bris.  That morning, however, we had a terrific fight (I no longer remember what it was about—the way of most fights), and by the time we arrived at my brother’s we were barely speaking.  When we came home, she went downstairs presumably to read and I went upstairs to chant.

I still didn’t know if I wanted to marry her.  Still fuming from our argument, I decided enough was enough.  I had two hours left to chant and by the end of that time, I decided, I was going to have my answer.

I chanted angrily at first…but gradually my thinking began to shift.  I began to wonder just why at 35 now I still wasn’t married.  I didn’t think that marriage was necessary for happiness or that a married life was even necessarily happier than a single one.  But I’d always envisioned myself being married.  So why wasn’t I?  Had it only been a matter of not finding the right person, as I’d always presumed?

For reasons unclear to me, I found my thoughts drifting back to years earlier when I’d been a first-year resident.  It was the first time I’d ever lived completely alone (I’d lived in a dormitory through four years of college and with roommates through four years of medical school), and as I thought back on it, I realized it was one of the happiest periods of my life.  Why?  Because when I came home at the end of the day I came home to an empty kingdom—one in which I had complete freedom to do whatever I wanted.  No one else lived in my personal space to ask favors of me or require my help or have an opinion about what do to that was contrary to my own.  That freedom, I suddenly realized, was what I really wanted more than anything else.

At that moment, at the very end of my 300-hour million daimoku campaign to find my wife, I discovered to my complete surprise that the true reason I was still single was that I wanted to be I wanted to be alone.  I was stunned.

But why?  I realized the answer almost immediately.  Being alone was the strategy I used to protect myself against the demands placed on me by others.  Despite the breakthrough I’d made two years earlier where I’d freed myself from my need to be liked and thus my inability to say no (which I described in an earlier post, The Good Guy Contract), I realized I hadn’t changed enough.  I could say no in a way I couldn’t before, stand up for myself to a degree I hadn’t, but both still made me uncomfortable and anxious.  So how did I manage that anxiety?  By preventing it from occurring in the first place.  By reserving private time and space in which no one could demand of me anything.

This, then, I realized, was the true answer to why I’d felt so anxious once I’d started living with Rhea.  She had no compunction at all about expressing her desires about anything:  let’s go shopping, let’s go for a bike ride, let’s watch a movie.  And though I didn’t dislike any of those things (except for the shopping), I often didn’t want to do them when she did.  My anxiety arose because I felt helpless to determine the direction I wanted my life to go when she was in it.  If I couldn’t express and take care of my own needs in a relationship, how could I ever accomplish my own life’s goals?  Up to that point, remaining unattached was the only strategy I’d discovered (unconsciously until that moment) that I felt capable of executing.  So I’d remained unmarried.

In that moment of understanding, I decided I didn’t want to remain as I was.  I needed to learn to take care of myself once and for all, even in the midst of a relationship, so that not only could I have a relationship but also enjoy it.  Rhea wasn’t just the woman I loved—she was an opportunity for me to forge myself into a stronger, happier person.  And in that moment, I realized what my million diamoku campaign had actually been about all along:  not finding my wife but growing into a person who could actually have one.

A week later, I asked her to marry me.

Next WeekAttack Every Problem Like A Lion Traps An Ant

43 comments to How I Met And Married My Wife

  • jeann

    Wow. What a compelling and intimate essay you have shared with such clarity and honesty. Thank you. It gives me much to reflect about.

  • Courtney

    Interesting post, and one that I can certainly identify with. My question is, how did you grow into the kind of person who could actually have a wife? Presumably, it took somewhat of an effort—I’d love to know what your thought process was and and how you worked toward that goal. Thanks!

    Courtney: For me, the key ingredients were recognizing my own deficiency rather than continuing to tell myself the deficiencies were in the women I’d dated and then deciding I wanted to change it. As for how I was able to see my own deficiency clearly, I credit my Buddhist practice.

    Alex

  • Margaret

    Thank you SO much for that. I think that explains a lot about a lot of people. It is understandable that some people opt out (if they can) from the level of commitment that marriage requires. But like you discovered, one can take the plunge and have a whole new set of challenges that do enrich your person and your life. I do think it is vital that people gain the insight that you had so they can make whatever choice they need to—that is right for them.

  • Susan

    It’s always about us, isn’t it? We’re not ready yet and so we’re stymied until the realization hits us. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Susan: It is indeed always about us.

    Alex

  • Hilary

    Hi, is there a place online where I can hear the chant? I have difficulty working out the correct pronunciation without hearing it. Thank you for the fantastic story. I’m delighted that you and Rhea worked it out.

    Hilary: Follow this link to hear what chanting sounds like. Two versions, slow and fast. I encourage you to explore the whole site to learn more about Buddhism if you’re so inclined.

    Alex

  • Joan Winnek

    “When we came home, she went downstairs presumably to read and I went upstairs to chant.”

    I wonder what Rhea was doing/thinking/feeling while you went through your indecision. I hope you had enough space that the sound of your chanting didn’t drive her crazy. The struggle of marriage is the bringing of two unconsciousnesses together. You seem to have little awareness of hers. You changed, whoop-de-doo; what happened in Rhea?

  • Toni Bernhard

    Thank you, Alex, for sharing, so eloquently, such a beautiful story of love and personal growth. When you said that you needed to learn to take care of yourself, even in the midst of a relationship, I thought of a Buddhist story I heard many years ago that helped me tremendously in my own marriage (a marriage that’s now approaching it’s 45th year). I may not have the story exactly right (and Googling hasn’t helped me here) but, as I recall, a father and daughter had an acrobat act in which he balanced her in the air on his extended legs. He was worried that she’d fall and get injured. The Buddha (or perhaps one of his disciples) told the father that if he took care of his role in the performance, his daughter would be fine.

    I learned from that story that taking care of myself was not a selfish act, that it was, in fact, an act of generosity toward my husband. It lifted a burden for him—giving him one less thing to worry about—and it made our time together more joyous.

    Toni: That’s exactly it. Once I learned to take care of myself in our relationship, it improved dramatically. Rhea, it turned out, had been wondering why I wasn’t expressing my needs to her the way she was expressing her needs to me and was waiting for me to start doing so (rather than get anxious or angry when my unvoiced needs weren’t being met).

    Alex

  • Elizabeth Madrigal

    I was busy tonight, Doc, but it was impossible for an old romantic like me to pass on your title. Have a heart! Anyway, you are absolutely correct about our need to care for ourselves and set boundaries.

    Wonderful piece and insight as usual.

  • Iris Arenson-Fuller

    What a very honest and touching account of your process of self-discovery. This will ring true with many people. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Maria

    I relate perfectly to your feeling. Independence and chosen solitude are truly addictive. For me, recognizing this issue has allowed me to stay in a long, solid relationship. However the strong urge to live alone keeps creeping back on me from time to time. Have you been able to banish this feeling completely?

    Maria: No, I haven’t. I live with it all the time. I was just observing to Rhea yesterday that I think one reason couples tend to bicker more over time is that when you live with someone always in your personal space, each day is filled with little compromises that add up over time to impair your sense of freedom of choice (things like deciding what to eat for lunch, what to watch on television, when to exercise, when to go to sleep, etc.). It’s hard to make even little choices like that without considering your partner in some way. Even when both partners are good at expressing their big needs and getting them met, little (even tiny) needs get compromised all the time and over time can cause a build up of minor resentment. Both of us, it turns out, must constantly remind ourselves that we chose to have a life together and that it means constant daily compromise. This weekend she and Cruise visited her folks and I had the house to myself. I got a lot of work done I needed to do, but more importantly, a brief rest from those little compromises. Interestingly, being alone reaffirmed my decision to live with those compromises in order to have them both in my life.

    Alex

  • RG

    “If I couldn’t express and take care of my own needs in a relationship, how I could ever accomplish my own life’s goals?” I have a similar need for introversion, and I’m not sure I understand the conundrum. There are a lot of things I demand from my personal space because I don’t get it “out there”; my home needs to be my home. For me, the problem is the solution—finding compatibility in needs for solitude; or, barring that, accepting the incompatibility and allowing each other to get our needs met separately. Is that what you meant? I do think that certain incompatibilities are easier to work around than others and an introversion/extroversion clash is fairly problematic.

    Maybe I’m misreading it, but it seems to me that accepting yourself, your personality, is far more productive than deciding that you’re broken. Your decision that you were “at fault” seems like the extension of the Good Guy Contract. Your kids will demand that you not lock yourself up in your room for days, sure, but that’s a different kind of interaction than another adult who, in my reality, should be able to go for a bike ride without me.

    RG: The way in which I was “broken” (not my term) wasn’t that I was different from my wife or even incompatible but rather that I was uncomfortable expressing my needs (large and small) in our relationship. That’s what I changed—a definite extension of the Good Guy Contract. Certainly she should be able (and is able) to go for a bike ride without me. But what I needed to learn was to tell her I don’t want to go without feeling guilty or anxious. My point was that if I couldn’t learn to do that, I’d never be able to carve out the time I need to pursue certain goals that are important to me (like writing, for example).

    Alex

  • Kristy

    Hello Alex,

    I have been following your posts since my husband Mike forwarded them on to me. I have to say, every week, I am delighted, and “can’t wait” to read the next. My story is a bit humorous in that I grew up in an Italian Catholic household, even went as far as going to a Catholic college. In a college essay, I had not received a grade but instead an interesting comment that “I have Buddhist thoughts, and to please re-write my essay” as I believe did not meet the Catholic structure. ;) In any case, I have always been drawn to Buddhism, but have never explored it. Do you have a recommended “process” as to how to start exploring Buddhism as an adult? What’s the baby-steps process?

    Thanks again for your insights and stories; they have enriched my life.

    Kristy

    Kristy: I’d recommend starting with a perusal of the SGI website. If you find it intriguing, I could recommend several books to read. Ultimately, though, if you get really serious about learning whether Buddhism might work for you, you’d have to give practicing a try yourself. Please let me know. I’ll gladly do anything to help.

    Alex

  • Mary Carlisle

    I remember that so well the morning Rhea came to my window telling me she met this great guy named Alex and I met you a few days after that. You must have peaked her interest then somewhat about Buddhism because that’s when we started the dialogue about it, and she and I began chanting together for awhile. That was a turning point in my life as well. It’s amazing how we all connect at certain points in our life.

    I was also amazed by how you chanted for all the qualities Rhea had, like being a non-drinker and more, for example; a year later you two were getting married after you finished the campaign; now that’s determination.

    Mary: Actually, I never chanted to find a non-drinker. I chanted to find the best life partner I could. ;)

    Alex

  • Jill MacGregor

    That is great, Alex. I not only thoroughly enjoyed the story and the insight but also connected with it in a big way.

    I’ve never been married. I often feel *obliged* at my age to get to it, find the man, get hitched…but for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on—I just don’t want to. I loved your conclusion that your search was more about “growing into the person” who could successfully be in that relationship.

    Interesting point of view—I’ll be chewing on that on today. :)

    Take Care,
    Jill

  • Carolyn

    Your post spoke volumes to me. You were able to articulate what I have always felt. I want to be in a committed relationship but am loathe to give up my freedom. Fortunately, I am involved with a man who not only listens when I tell him what I need, he hears me and accepts it. Thank you for your thought-provoking weekly posts. I greatly enjoy them as part of my Mondays.

    Carolyn: I’m glad you enjoy them!

    Alex

  • Drew

    I’m impressed with your courage to open up to the whole world. After all, I see you commenting on every New York times article directing traffic to you blog. Good job; you have a message that couldn’t have enough listeners.

    Drew: Thanks. Actually, for me, what takes more courage than self-disclosure is self-promotion (as you say, directing traffic here by commenting on the NYTimes blogs).

    Alex

  • Emil

    Beautiful.

    Emil: Thank you.

    Alex

  • Carolyn

    Hi Alex,

    Your chanting seems to be a very powerful means of self-recognition, a difficult first step to becoming more the person you want to be. I don’t know whether the practice of Buddhism might be a path that could work for me, but it seems like something worth exploring. Thanks for sharing your stories—they are quite moving in different ways. Even though (I think!) I am nothing like you, it seems to me that quite a few of the challenges I struggle with are remarkably similar to yours.

    Carolyn

    Carolyn: That’s exactly what the practice of Buddhism has provided me: a powerful means for recognition of truths about myself that occurs at level deep enough to induce real change. If you are interested in learning more about it, I’d invite you to visit my “About” page and click on the link to the SGI website. If you develop any questions as a result of your reading, I’d be happy to correspond by email to answer them.

    Alex

  • I met my husband on Match.com. For the year prior to that I decided I wanted to prove to myself that I could be perfectly fine on my own. My desire for marriage was the opposite of yours. I was afraid to be alone.

    For one year, no dating. Just friends, family and focusing on personal growth. One week, to the day, after the year was up I got this random email in my mailbox: Match.com…

    Gives me goosebumps just writing about it.

  • Paul

    First, thanks as always for providing a thought-provoking article and putting your heart and soul out there for everyone to see. Many things in this week’s post resonated with me, as I thought back to when I was in my late 20s and my wife and I were “courting—”

    “…though obviously not perfect, she was clearly excellent: smart, beautiful, emotionally healthy, happy, fun, in every way my equal (and in some ways my superior), someone I could not only enjoy but learn from.” My wife and I met in law school, had similar social and political views, family histories, and dysfunctions, enjoyed each other’s company and her family welcomed me as another son. Moreover, even more importantly, she seemed to like me in a way women had never liked me before.

    “But I seemed to be waiting for a switch to flip inside me, some internal confirmation that she was the one for me.” I felt the same but I thought to myself, “So what if the ‘she’s the one’ switch didn’t flip, she could be one of the ones and if one of the ones gets away, what happens if the one doesn’t show up?”

    The following also rang true for me, “I didn’t think that marriage was necessary for happiness or that a married life was even necessarily happier than a single one. But I’d always envisioned myself being married.” And finally, “By reserving private time and space in which no one could demand of me anything.” I explained to myself (and to her) that my private place stemmed from my somewhat solitary childhood and I couldn’t give it up. So we married and had two beautiful children.

    Up through the paragraph beginning, “[t]his, then, I realized, was the true answer to why I’d felt so anxious once I’d started living with Rhea,” I completely understood (or so I thought) what you were saying, until I got to the next paragraph. I was sure you were going to realize that she wasn’t the one because of the anxiety you’d been feeling. I was expecting you to say “’The one’ shouldn’t make you anxious.” But, instead, “Rhea wasn’t just the woman I loved—she was an opportunity for me to forge myself into a stronger, happier person.” Your final phrase of your final sentence really struck me, “not me finding my wife but my growing into person who could actually have one.”

    That struck me in a way that you might not have foreseen. I tried to forge myself into a stronger, better person (girded my loins, so to speak). I thought I would “grow,” but it seemed more like “change.” I continued to try to “forge and grow” for nearly the 20 years of my marriage, which only led to an ever-deepening depression on my part and further and further estrangement between my wife and me. It wasn’t until she left that I stopped forging and growing (or, in my mind, changing) and allowed myself to be who I am. It was when I started being me that that core of loneliness slipped away and wanted/needed someone with whom to share my life. I now have a spouse (legally in California—we were married during the window) that is also “smart, beautiful, emotionally healthy, happy, fun, in every way my equal (and in some ways my superior), someone I can not only enjoy but learn from” and, to borrow from Jack Nicholson’s character in “As Good as It Gets,” “makes me want to a better man” but doesn’t trigger soul-trembling anxiety.

    It is probable that many straight men identify completely with the story of how you married your wife, which is a beautiful thing. Mazel tov! (Sincerely.) I would imagine, too, that there are gay men, at least “of a certain age,” that recognize my through-the-looking-glass version.

    Paul: Thanks for sharing your story. The key difference here I think between our stories is that my issue with being married to Rhea ended up being a weakness of mine, and overcoming it freed me to enjoy something I genuinely wanted. Your issue with being married your wife ended up being that she was a genuinely wrong choice for you. One solution clearly doesn’t fit everyone.

    Alex

  • Lil Gluckstern

    Just lovely, and please don’t stop commenting on The Times’ blog. That is how I found you.

    Lil: Deal!

    Alex

  • Thank you. This is a lesson I am learning, too. It is not about finding perfection, for that doesn’t exist. We would do well to embrace the Japanese ethic of wabi-sabi, about oneself and others.

    The only real question is, what do I need? What will bring me happiness, for then, I will be a joy to others as well. I am obligated to make my needs known, in a compassionate but direct way. For one who wishes to please, that can sometimes be difficult. But, we are being inauthentic if we cannot share our anxieties and fears and hopes with someone who matters, right?

    Lisa: Right.

    Alex

  • Maya

    I chanted to find the best life partner I could.

    In addition it seems, consciously or not, you also chanted to be the best partner in life you could be.

    Thank you, Alex, for another insightful post.

  • Rhea

    I remember how fierce that fight was and what kind of negative emotion it stirred up in me. But, I don’t remember what we actually fought about. This is a clear indication to me the conflict arose out of some turmoil I had going on inside myself and actually didn’t really have much to do with what you were, or were not, doing. We both had to change in order to become two people ready to enter into a marriage. Being in a marriage is just like being in business. The business we’re in together is the business of life and now a family with our son. What I love about you is your willingness to continue growing and looking at yourself instead of always looking outside yourself for the source of a problem. Being in a marriage with you makes me a better person. As an assertive (and that’s an understatement!) woman my tendency is to charge ahead with my ideas and plans without the other person’s input. I assume if the other person has input to share they’ll do so in the same enthusiastic, fast-paced manner that I do. You’re teaching me to step back, reflect, listen and be willing to really understand the other person’s needs and wants. God knows I need all the help I can get (LOL)!

    So far you’ve more than lived up to this excerpt from your wedding vow:

    “I promise to always support your growth. I promise to challenge myself to grow with you. I promise to be the partner you always dreamed of having as we face the world together.”

    Keep up the great blog posts. Your honesty and willingness to share your strengths and shortcomings makes you a unique character in this often challenging social world.

    Rhea: I love you!

    Alex

  • Mike

    Wow. The last line you wrote is the most telling. I, too, feel like the change must come from within. Hopefully, I am that person that can unconditionally embrace a partner for a lifetime.

    Mike: If you’re not already, you can become him.

    Alex

  • Sandy

    I had rolling goose bumps while reading it. You’re so honest and analytical. Thanks for sharing! It’s very interesting and I’m happy to be a part of it.

  • Alex,

    What an amazing honest post from the both of you. Although, I have to give credit to your wife. I’m not sure I would have stuck around while you sorted out if you wanted to get married or not. What an amazing journey this life is!

    When I first met my husband I recognized early on that he was the type of person who went with the flow even if he was not that into it. So I made a concerted effort to ensure that he was making decisions based on how he felt and would not allow him to get away with saying, “Whatever you want to do is fine with me.” This really worked for us because he was relaxed, happy, and always singing. When he stops singing I know that something is bothering him.

    This worked for me as well because I learned I did not have to always be in control, which made room for him to be the real him.

  • Andrea

    A very wise man, a psychiatrist with a tender heart, told me: “Romantic love is never unconditional.” And that one phrase made everything come together for me. We all find different ways to calm our souls.

  • Lorilee

    Alex,

    Wow is all I can say—how romantic and truly thought provoking! I met my boyfriend a year ago on Match.com and I think we are a great match and I love him dearly. We were both coming out of bad relationships and we just clicked right away. My only problem is (and maybe I was rushing things at first) is that in the first 3 months we were extremely infatuated with each other and saw each other all the time; then he backed off somewhat and it seemed he needed some space (perhaps he got scared) and said it wasn’t me that it was him needing to get himself together. During this period on our 6th month of dating I got upset about how the relationship was going and told him that I loved him but he said he didn’t want to lie to me and tell me that he loved me but he just wasn’t there yet. Then just a couple of months ago (after dating for nearly a year) I told him, “Look if you do not want to take our relationship to the next level then I don’t want to continue with it.” He then told me that he did want to take it to the next level and has made it a point to call me daily and to see each other more often, but still no “I love you” even though I have already said it. I believe he does care for me and maybe does love me but is still not ready to go there. I was wondering how long it took you to “get it together?” I am thinking this is what he was doing, as well as getting over his past relationship, and I want to be with him and be patient but, man, how long does it take?!?!! I am trying hard to be patient and not pressure him but it is getting very difficult. I hope you can give me some type of insight into the “dragging his feet” male psyche!

    Lorilee: Undoubtedly, something in him is preventing him from feeling comfortable moving forward. What I learned was that what I thought were faults in the women I was dating (that justified my not wanting to be with them) turned out to be a fault in me. In general, in situations like yours, my experience is this is usually the case (if your boyfriend truly found something objectionable about you, he likely would have left long ago). I obviously don’t know what he’s thinking but suspect whatever his hesitation that he believes it has more to do with you than him. Patterns repeat until people take personal responsibility for changing themselves, not others. You’re probably the exact wrong person to point this out to him, but if he doesn’t grapple with his own internal thought processes, he likely won’t ever be able to say to any woman, “I love you.” Unless people begin with the question, “How am I contributing to this particular problem?” they have very little chance to change their patterns in relationships. I don’t mean to be discouraging, but only he can decide to challenge himself this way. Sometimes, it takes the threat of losing something truly worth having (you, in this case) to make some men want to challenge the real problem—themselves. Good luck!

    Alex

  • Thank you for sharing this. It resonated with me.

  • Loraine

    Thank you for this article. This just confirmed my resolution to move on from my previous boyfriend. We were dating for 2 years and although I know and see that he loves me, I could sense some reluctance in him that he doesn’t want to step to the next level or at least give our relationship a direction. It made me feel that I wasn’t good enough for him, made me constantly reflect on ways that I can improve on myself. But your article gave some sense of clarity to me. It is true that we constantly have to reflect within us and be better people, but it won’t work in a relationship if only 1 person in the relationship does it and the other just keeps seeing the other person’s deficiency, waiting for the other person (me) to become “perfect” in his eyes. I do hope he can come to his senses, but if he couldn’t in time… maybe we’re really just not for each other.

    Loraine: I agree that few relationships can flourish if only one person in it is looking inward and taking responsibility for “their side of the street” but the other isn’t.

    Alex

  • jeann

    Very good to reread 6 months after 1st time. Thank you.

  • Christine Spence

    Following links from others to your post re: the cause of depression, getting an understanding there, reading your post on weight loss and then was curious about How You Met Your Wife. Wow, did not expect to be hit with direct connection…but your comment on how you still became uncomfortable and anxious when saying no or standing up for yourself hit me directly. A difficult transition from Good Guy to putting me first. I truly believed that my passive nature was a trait to be proud of. I did not realize that the relationship was negative and eating away at me. Makes some sense if I put the three posts together that there were unknown thoughts concerning the daily compromises and resentments pertaining to the treatment I was receiving from my spouse. I did not make a decision to change myself as I felt the problem was all my spouse and if I was patient enough he would mature and see that the way that he was treating me was not nice. Plus who wants their children to come from a broken home? After 32 years of marriage, 5 1/2 years of marriage counseling, on Feb 2, 2009 the world I had built collapsed. I went to work, broke down in tears on entering the building, left, went to my parents (I had always said the world would have to come to an end before I moved home with my parents…goodness I was 53; who moves back with their parents at that age?)…never returned to the matrimonial home. I have been struggling ever since. Al ot of other people feel I had been planning this for years…but I was so busily distracted with holding the marriage and my vows together that I was not planning anything.

    I have thought that I should feel better since I am not daily trying to hold it together…but after a life of constant fixing the emptiness was distracting. After becoming accustomed to living on my own with nothing to fix I am still in a void. I had got to place where I thought that distracting myself by reading books and watching movies was avoiding reaching a solution and moving forward.

    I do not constantly think of my situation, but at times it just overwhelms me with sorrow. (I am told this is grief for the life I no longer have and the dreams of the future…believe me if I was dreaming of a future it was unknown thoughts; I had no time or energy except to deal with surviving each day.) Plus I have experienced flashbacks…feeling like I was reliving the situation, right down to the smells in the house, etc, possibly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder according to my counselor. But how to overcome these reactions? I have identified my actions of not saying no and being too passive also in relationships other than just with my husband…but I have not reached a place where I recognize them before I do them and if I happen to take a step to not be as passive it does cause uncomfortableness (I even second guess myself and say, this isn’t being too passive, this is just being a good agreeable person as it doesn’t matter any which way to me…) and a great deal of anxiety. So yes, I avoid the situations that will cause me this which is somewhat exactly the same as the fairy tale world I made in my marriage where I avoided all conflict by being agreeable. Thank you…I think it is in perspective now so that I have a focus of what to work on. This feels more comfortable than “it is to be expected”…which is from my counselor and other women that have dealt with these issues…because my response is…if it was to be expected then why didn’t you tell me to expect it? LOL

    I am very glad that you identified your passiveness before the marriage. My wish today is that no one would ever have to be in the place I am in today. If only there was some way to get the message out to all that the relationship is not good if one person has to compromise all of the time and if both people can’t be them. And if you don’t know who you are then find you before you get into that serious relationship. At 55 years of age I am now going to find out who I am for the first time. For 2 years I have struggled with what do I like? What do I want to do? I had repressed these thoughts for so long that I do not know. But I will.

    Christine: Many people never do learn who they are or what they want, fearing to challenge their inability to say no and their passivity. Congratulations on recognizing what you have and mustering the courage to take forward steps. It may take longer than you want, but you will reap great rewards from trying to reform yourself. Best of luck to you.

    Alex

  • JC Ryder

    Thank you for your heartfelt, inspirational words of great reflection and wisdom. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

  • Dee

    Strangely enough, I found your article while I’ve been doing my own one million daimoku to meet my husband. No coincidence this one!!!

  • Steffan

    This post combined with the Good Guy Contract hit home for me as well. I feel like I have a very similar personality to you—at the very least and propensity for introversion and cooperation. I am a Myers-Biggs INFJ.

    That realization is profound. That you realized you preferred to be alone and single as a way to avoid conflict and having to assert your desires and boundaries. I see that very much so in myself. I’m twenty right now.

    It’s hard to disappoint people, huh? At least for me, I know the pain of disappointment so in trying to “do unto others” I go to great lengths to make sure I do not cause others that pain. I have realized before that I often take responsibility for other people’s reactions to me—which isn’t technically my responsibility. The bottom line is, it’s extremely tough to be sensitive, thoughtful and a person who can see things from other people’s perspective while learning to assert our needs and wants in the midst of another person’s (especially when they conflict). Perhaps the change begins to occur for us when we realize we are actually being insensitive and doing them a disfavor when we don’t assert our needs and wants because we are making the relationship lop-sided and imbalanced.

    I know I will still struggle with this though due to my sensitive and empathetic nature.

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  • dawa tashi

    Today, I found great non-Tibetan Buddhist teacher. I feel very happy and lucky today. Tashi Delek! Thank you.

  • I’ve just read this after searching for a link about 1 million diamoku. Thank you. What a story, and I really related to this line (in fact I laughed when I read it because it was SO familiar):

    “I became aware that I was hesitating at least partially because to make any choice was simultaneously to not choose everyone else.”

    Indra

    Indra: Glad the post resonated with you.

    Alex

  • Mare

    Well, wow. I was on match and e-harmony for 10 years (from ages 33 to 43) and only had one relationship that lasted about 10 months. All the other people I met were one or two dates and nothing more. I had many friends, three to be exact that met their matches through those services and they married and had children. You got very lucky to meet someone.

  • Danielle

    Hi, Alex,

    Thank you so much for this post. I have read this many times since it first appeared on your website. It is resounding with me more than ever as I begin the final steps towards marriage.

    I am also a Buddhist in the Soka Gakkai and I have practiced for 13 years. I have seen my life change in the most unimaginable ways and I am developing into the person I have always wanted to become.

    I can feel however a deep fear of committing to marriage through a fear of being controlled, which really boils down to fear of conflict and not being able to express my needs and wishes. My partner is also a Buddhist; he is really a wonderful human being—everything I chanted for, and I had many concrete validating experiences to know that he was the right person for my life! But of course just as your wife is, he is able to express his needs and wants more readily than I. He has a tendency to micromanage; my sister and mother are like this and my ex-boyfriend was, so I am aware I am constantly meeting these types of people! Sometimes I feel myself just wanting to escape but I go back to the Gohonzon and determine to deeply respect my life and his and then I see the situation with fresh eyes and not from the perspective of fear and delusion.

    I have been really encouraged to determine to bring out before marriage any life tendency that would cause suffering in the marriage. I feel that this is it, because rather than tackling my own weaknesses I always want to walk away.

    I really want to know what your goal was in changing this life tendency of not being able to express your needs??

    Thanks, Alex :)

    Danielle: My goal was to figure out if I wanted to marry Rhea. The surprise revelation was that I didn’t want to marry anyone because I couldn’t stand up for myself. Once I recognized this, I made a conscious decision to take my weakness on by marrying her. It didn’t resolve the moment I realized it was a problem. It resolved after years of being married to someone who forced me to challenge it. Like you, I didn’t want to face my own weakness. So I thrust myself into a situation where I would be forced to. (I never really doubted I could overcome my own tendency to avoid conflict. If I had, I would never have gotten married.) My advice to you: figure out what the most courageous action is that you could take, and take it. Good luck!

    Alex

  • Cecilia

    Alex:
    a) Well, sanctified butt-holes, this post has a TON of comments. I think I will add to it!
    b) So… when I think of things, I sort of think in… like… images. Like somebody paused a movie halfway through… so when I think about the future, depending on my mood, I see two different images: in the first, I’m sort of in front of this Christmas tree, and there’s a ton of people around me, and I’m holding up this baby, and there’s this faceless guy holding my hand, and its snowing outside and it makes me feel all fuzzy inside, cuz I’m really really happy. And in the second one: I’m in this like, ginormous room, and I’m wearing scrubs, and I’m a accomplished surgeon, and I’m super rich, and stuff, and well… this one just makes me feel like… proud.

    So: The way I see it, I can’t have both lives. I have to choose. Which would you choose?

    (As a afterthought, I just read my comment through, and I come off as some kinda crazy lady. I promise I’m perfectly sane.)

  • Neelam

    I think you really hit the nail on the head (I know your post is older but I just read it now)—that it IS possible to have your life and some independence but still be in a committed relationship like marriage. I guess you just have to be with someone who is open to that and not threatened by it. It’s not easy—I’ve been in the same situation for ages. After being married & divorced it’s not easy being “ready, willing, and able” to get married again. But all it takes is some introspection and the knowledge of what you truly want and what’s blocking you from getting it!!! Thanks for sharing.

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