Winner: Scott’s Favourite Questions of 2014 #1
I love my husband. I really do. And I 100% believe he loves me. But 90% of our exchanges are criticizing each other and complaining. Hardly any of our contact is enjoyable anymore and a lot of it is pretty negative. We can tell that we’re going to start hating each other and we already feel like our marriage/lives went the wrong directions. We’re lost but what do we do?
You know why it’s hit-and-miss getting these ideas through to people? Because they read what I write, or listen to what I say, and they assume that what I’m talking about is loftier and more complicated than the actual truth. Little kids can do this. It doesn’t require adding anything to you. You have to subtract “You” until all that you’re left with is clarity. When our ego’s out of the way and we can see things clearly, having positive relations with others is much, much easier.
You simply have to accept one idea: that reality is not out there, but instead that it is in here. You don’t experience the world. You experience your thoughts about the world. Unless you practice watching for it, for most people it’s subconscious. Their focus is not on watching their ego, it’s on being their ego. Most people have no awareness of the thinker Their life is a stream of thoughts, but they never wonder who’s thinking them. That’s the advantage my accident gave me. It made me wonder about thoughts and who was thinking them. I was an accidental Buddhist by five.
So reality isn’t what’s happening, it’s what your thoughts are. You will feel what you think. So most couples think uncharitable thoughts about one another and so they get the feelings that go with the thoughts. The problem is when they assign the blame for those feelings on the person they are thinking about. That’s ridiculous and it will get you nowhere fast. No one is reaching inside your head and squeezing your hypothalamus. It’s not their fault that you’re thinking what you are. That’s your choice, 100%. And even though that right there is the secret to your eternal freedom, no one wants to grab it because it seems like a huge responsibility rather than what it really is: a huge opportunity.
So here’s how it is in a relationship: Most couples don’t get along simply because they make one simple choice: they focus their consciousness on their judgmental thoughts about the behaviour of their partner (past, present or even future), rather than focusing it on how awesome any human being is, let alone the one in seven billion they chose to marry. In short, if they’re that bad leave them. But I’d think about that carefully. Because you also have to start asking yourself how appealing you are. Because the divorce rate for second marriages is higher than for first ones, so clearly a lot of people didn’t feel they traded up. Yes, if it’s painful in any way, leave. But if you’re just suffering over opinions and old events, then that’s a silly reason to end an otherwise good marriage and/or breakup a family.
You wrote that you genuinely love your spouse and you believe he genuinely loves you. Can you see that the only—AND I MEAN ONLY—thing that’s standing in your way is a veil of thought? You have stopped paying attention to (aka focusing your consciousness on), the qualities of the person in front you. There were actual reasons you got married. Most of those reasons will still be true. You just started quietly taking them for granted, which is another way of saying that you just don’t stop to think about the value in those qualities anymore. You assume they’ll be there so they’re invisible. Until you start dating. And then you realize all kinds of qualities that your current partner has that you’ve become blind to….
People naturally love each other. It is only our personal thoughts that build the narratives that create the sense of separation people feel from others. If you were going to break that spiritual bond, it’s most likely that your first peek into enlightenment would come from seeing your spouse in the way that Mother Teresa saw Jesus in every leper. That way you don’t have to improve your marriage, instead you can become clear-headed and realize that the only difficulties you have with people are thought-based, self-created, conflicting narratives with very emotional outcomes. Egos are forever intersecting with other egos. There’s no peace in that. Better that we quiet our minds and notice the incredible, stunning beauty of every single aspect of this magnificent universe—your spouse included.
It’s easier than you think. Keep a quiet mind. Smile. Hug. Do fun things. Notice each other. You’re good people. The rest will happen naturally.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.