Dear Adeline and River,
A subtle, dangerous thing happens when you are married for a while. Actually, it goes beyond marriage and extends to all long-term relationships. In the context of a marriage, however, it feels more urgent.
What happens is you begin to think you know all there is to know about the other person. This reality came into sharp relief last night when your mom said to me, “I learned something new about you tonight.” Those are not words you hear often after nine years of marriage.
Curiosity piqued, I pressed. What followed was a crackling interaction full of life, intrigue, and mystery. Somehow, we captured lightning in a bottle and spun back time to an era of first dates and butterflies. We sipped a delicious Arizona varietal, asked questions, listened, and discovered. For a moment, we suspended our false belief that there wasn’t anything more to know. Tongue in cheek at first, we played the game. It wasn’t long, however, before tongues were decisively removed cheeks and we wholeheartedly engaged, without a trace of irony.
Girls, there is always more to know. Humans are deep, complex, ever-changing, loving, fearful, insecure, and courageous creatures. We want to be known and pursued. One of the greatest gifts you can give another human is the assumption that the landscape of their soul is vast beyond measure. Just beyond your sight are mountains, valleys, rivers, towering cities glistening in the sun, and horrifying dungeons locked away in shame and secrecy.
Never assume that discovery is ended. When you do this, you build a prison. It’s as ridiculous as the Roman Empire claiming they had conquered the world. In fact, in this assumption, you lock people out and shut down any hope for adventure. Eventually, you may lead the other person to believe that there is nothing more as well. This is death to a relationship.
Girls, who do you think you have figured out? Take a moment and step back. Ask yourself, “what if there is more?” What if you have only explored one forest – a forest you know very well by now – but are blind to the vast wilderness beyond? What if there is a lake beyond that forest that flows into a river snaking to an incomprehensibly massive ocean? And across that ocean curious life teems and unknown mountains soar.
Will you continue to tell yourself that this person is a small and familiar forest? Or, will you take those first courageous steps beyond the familiar? What will you find?
You will never know unless you try.
This is a beautiful letter. So very true. I find as apparent every day you discover something new about you and your partner too as for both of us the situation is new. So we have to react and adjust in a way we never had before. We grow, we might even change a little bit and we adjust to the new challenges. On so many occasions I watch my husband interact with our kids and I see a new side to him. And I think it is amazing.
Lovely advice 🙂