WORDS BY LYNDON JONES
There was a time where if a man or a woman committed to something, it was going to be seen through to the end with diligence. It didn’t matter how they felt. Back then, a man’s word was everything, and for them, marriage was no different. It didn’t matter if a husband cheated or if there was speculation about a child’s likeness to their father. Marriage was the ultimate show of selflessness. Marriage and commitment were synonymous, and the cornerstone of our progression. Love was labor and labor was love. Although I have an appreciation for the strength and perseverance of our ancestors, during and after my short marriage of four years, I realized that there was something very important that my elders could not relay to me properly.
My wife and I had a nice home, cars, and both of us were gainfully employed. She was loyal. We even communicated our wants and needs fairly well. Still, I knew that I wasn’t happy. I had no clue about what to do other than to seek happiness elsewhere. I was an adulterer with no remorse. She was a wife scorned. There was a missing peace, which eventually led to our divorce. It was very civil. There were no hard feelings, only questions. Questions that I was determined to find the answers to, and I did.
The main question did not pertain to just my marriage, but to all of the failed marriages I had seen throughout the majority of my life. It seemed that no one was capable of the highest form of commitment. I wondered what happened. What did generations before us have that we didn’t? Then it hit me. I discovered that commitment has been infused by an element that my elders did not have the luxury of embracing—feelings. They made it possible for us to own much of what we have today, including the ability to express the way we feel. I was not happy in my marriage and unlike my grandfather’s grandfather I now have the privilege to honor the way I feel. Love and commitment have new meanings. And both are equal, yet separate.
In this light, I now know that if we are going to honor our own feelings and truly honor who we are, we must first understand why we are who we are. We must seek internal peace and transparency of self with the same level of committed diligence that our ancestors used to survive, with one difference—we must embrace who we are and how we feel. If I had discovered that internal peace earlier in life, I believe that I would have avoided years of hurt and pain, and ultimately, a failed marriage.
The process I’m referring to is self-discovery—owning and accepting who you are. Unfortunately, before entering into my marriage, I had no idea who I was or what effect my past had on my life. All I knew was that I wanted someone else to make me happy and to complete me, and I can safely say that my ex-wife was looking for the same. We were both searching externally for something that was inside of us. Very few people realize that their past has a direct effect on the choices and decisions that they make as adults. It was not until the divorce that I decided to get to the root of the problem, and there I found myself. Unfulfilling marriages are entered into by unfulfilled people. It was my time to deal with me, and this is what I had to do…
Go back. Way Back!
For some, it’s abuse (sexual, mental, physical, etc.). Others may experience parental abandonment. My issue as a child was verbal abuse and a lack of validation from my father. There were no verbal or physical expressions of appreciation. I had to accept the fact that childhood trauma had a major impact on the choices I made as an adult.
Trauma for a child is any painful event that is beyond the child’s comprehension. I had to revisit the moments that I remembered and make sense of them with adult intellect. Even today I have to undo my tendency to have childlike emotional responses to adult situations. I revert because of early emotional scarring that caused my development to be arrested. It’s a daily battle to see the world as a grown man and not the young boy who could not make sense of what he was witnessing.
If you take this step of going back to your childhood, you will find the answer to why you are the way you are, why you attract certain people, why you react to situations the way that you do, why you need, why you’re vulnerable, etc. It’s only then that one can start to uncover who they are. This begins the healing process that many before us never got the chance to experience.
Once I understood the root of who I was—my character, personality, thoughts, and insecurities, etc.—I realized that in order to move forward, I had to forgive myself and the people in my past that hurt me. No matter how severe or painful, it had to be done.
Just as I began to learn who I was, I realized that everyone is a product of their own personal experiences, and most people can only give what they’re capable of giving. I even had to forgive myself for all the wrong that I had done to others. I was carrying tons of guilt that compromised my judgment within all of my relationships. I made concessions and compromises that were unhealthy and detrimental to my own growth. If you don’t learn to forgive, you will not be able move forward into a healthy relationship.
I accepted everything that happened to me. I owned it all. I knew the wrong that I had done to others. I faced my past, I understood who I was, and I forgave myself, and those in my life that hurt me. I reached a point where I could talk openly and freely about anything in my life, all because I owned it.
This process was the most freeing experience of my life. It allowed me see the flaws not just in me, but also in every person that I encountered. Other people’s flaws were no longer turn-offs, they became endearing.
My decision-making process was flawed by my own insecurities, guilt and lack of self-worth. I had to forgive in order to release myself from the cycle of bad decision-making. I had to take responsibility for my actions, behaviors, thoughts, decisions, relationships, etc. I used the knowledge of who I was to take deliberate steps towards finding a healthy relationship. If I had only known that a healthy knowledge of self would allow me to genuinely like who I was, I may have been a better friend, a better son, and a better brother, and most importantly, a better person.
There Is Hope.
Going through this journey gave me a greater appreciation for what my ancestors endured. How could they face themselves at a time when social injustice was so prevalent? For many of them, marriage and the commitment to family was all that they had, it’s where they found strength. But, obviously, there was no room for introspection. I can attest that facing yourself is not easy. It takes work. And oftentimes it’s painful to look at the chaos that you’ve caused. But, if we are to truly honor the struggle of those men and women that came before us, we must do what they could not—honor who we are.
I see so many people abandoning the union of marriage. I encourage you to think twice about this. I do understand that the nature of marriage has changed, but we also need to be mindful of the commitment to family that serves as the building block of prosperity for future generations. I believe that with a renewed and healthier focus on self, we can restore the ever-deteriorating structure of marriage and family—this time based on two people that are aware of their flaws, in love with themselves, and prepared to do the necessary work to honor marriages of the past and serve as examples of pure commitment for generations to come.
Are you concerned that more marriages fail than succeed? Does that effect the way you view marriage and your probability of success? Why do you think past generations were able to stay together longer? Have you seen successful marriages growing up? What have you learned about marriage from your parents and grandparents? Are you willing to take responsibility for the role your past experiences plays in the failure of your relationships? What are you willing to do to change bad patterns? What did you think of Lyndon’s journey and revelations about marriage?
Speak your piece…