Are You In a Conscious Marriage That Works for You and Your Spouse?
A conscious marriage is one between people who: (1) have a particular interest in understanding how they and others tick, are motivated, and find meaning; (2) engage in that exploration in order to show up in a more genuine, self-expressed, compassionate and vulnerable way; and (3) are willing to take responsibility for their own actions and reactions; for getting clear about their values and living in accordance with those values; for honoring themselves and others; and for generating deeper connection with others.
The characteristics of people in a conscious marriage reflect an underlying desire to grow: toward greater integration, self-expression, self-responsibility, compassion, empathy, power, abundance, connection, satisfaction, and usefulness. For many conscious people, to stop growing is not just to remain still—one continues to move, but if it is not toward growth, it is toward stagnation and decline.
A conscious marriage means the spouses are growing together, over time.
In relationships, this implies a willingness to be vulnerable. And to be in touch with and express authentic feelings, even in the face of fears those feelings might be judged or rejected by others.
It also implies a willingness to engage in uncomfortable conversations. Uncomfortable conversations are any in which you and/or your partner feel pushed to your edge: to express needs and make requests, to be vulnerable, to feel feelings (and stay engaged in the midst of those feelings). Such conversations present the greatest opportunity for mutual growth, happiness and satisfaction a marriage can offer.
At Conscious Family Law & Mediation, we are big proponents of marriage. Marriage creates a context in which both partners agree not to abandon the relationship at the first signs of trouble. And the very (courageous!) act of entering into intimate relationship more or less guarantees trouble. Intimate relationships put us in touch with our deepest fears (e.g. abandonment) and insecurities (e.g., I’m not a good enough lover). They bring to the surface all the “issues” we have not yet dealt with; the ones that get in the way of our being the most powerful, fulfilled person we can be.
In sum, marriage creates a context in which our most challenging issues are brought to the surface—and holds us there in the discomfort. Over and over again, marriage forces us to make the choice to face and work through those issues, or to resort to blame and avoidance.
How do people in a “conscious” marriage decide if it’s time to get a divorce?
Divorce is a challenging process for most people. But even before embarking on divorce, many face an equally agonizing passage: deciding whether or not to get a divorce in the first place.
There are many articles and quizzes on this topic.* Here, we’re wanting to add content specific to those who think very carefully and “consciously” about what marriage means.
If a conscious marriage is spouses growing together, then a marriage without growth together is probably no longer serving such spouses, and the union either needs some re-visioning or perhaps needs to come to completion.
So the ultimate answer to the question of whether it’s time to get a divorce may come from asking: Are you and your spouse more or less equally committed (or willing to become equally committed) to growth? In our view, the clearest situation in which a divorce is appropriate is when one partner is committed to growth and the other is not, and is not willing to become equally committed.
Ask yourself the following questions to help you figure out where you and your spouse stand on this issue:
When (inevitable) conflict arises, are you equally willing to consider your own responsibility for the situation, rather than looking only to blame and change the other person? Are you equally willing to genuinely apologize?
Do you have the same arguments with the same outcomes over and over, despite your willingness to take self-responsibility?
As you change and grow, is your spouse threatened, or excited and curious about what is happening for you?
Are you equally willing to be vulnerable with one another? Is it safe for you to be vulnerable with your partner?
Are you equally willing to try to understand what you are feeling and to express those feelings?
Does your spouse tend to be curious about what is happening for you, or does he or she consistently assume you are a fixed object that he or she has already figured out?
Are you and your spouse equally willing to have uncomfortable conversations? During those conversations, are you equally willing to seek self-responsibility, listen to one another, limit assumptions, stay curious, stay respectful, and honor yourselves and each other?
Marriage is a commitment. In addition to agreeing to do your best to work things out before abandoning ship, it is, for most conscious people, an agreement to stay equally committed to growth. The answers to the preceding questions may help you reach clarity about whether your marriage can continue to be a source of growth and nourishment, or whether it is an unacceptable anchor on your evolution and fulfillment.
*Here’s links to some additional articles on how to decide whether to divorce: