This blog post might as well have been called “An Ode to my Husband.”

We met a little over 12 years ago and got married 10 years ago. All my convictions of why marriage wasn’t for me, why nobody would actually want to marry me, how I didn’t deserve that kind of bliss were shattered in the space of two weeks of dating – long distance, no less – after which he proposed.

Since that proposal was such a cute story, I’ll briefly share it here.

So, we’d been dating for two weeks in early 2006, when we figured out we both liked the number seven. Having had a few beers, he said, “We should get married on 7-7-07!”

“Holy cannoli,” I thought, “how do I get myself outta this one?” He doesn’t know what he’s saying! The clever spark came quickly and I said, “Well, only if it’s a Saturday!” (which, from where we were standing, was one chance in seven).

This was before smartphone times, so we couldn’t easily check the date on the spot. But as soon as we got back to our hotel room, he launched his computer and checked the date (honestly, I’d forgotten all about it) — “7-7-07 IS a Saturday!” he exclaimed.

“Oh shit,” I thought, “I think I just accepted a marriage proposal!” And so it was — with or without the influence of beer — we were committed and the hunt for engagement rings started.

The day we got married, I knew this was the guy for me and I thought I’d never be happier. And then the amazing thing happened… At every anniversary, I’m stunned as to how much our relationship has grown, yet again, and how much my happiness has expanded.

Of course, we have our ups and downs. Yet, at every anniversary, I feel richer for it. This year was – you guessed it – our 10th observation!

So, what is it that allows for the growth? I’m convinced that the opportunity for growth and ever-expanding happiness, at the core, comes from one mantra my husband brought into the marriage.

You’re never happier than your spouse.

The way this mantra instinctively plays out in our relationship is that we’re very mindful to give the other the space to be themselves.

And that’s not just something to say (if we’re religious about something, we’re religious about that). That space spans from the physical to the symbolic.

Physical Space

For the physical space in our house, for instance, he’s stewardship over the space downstairs, while I hold over the space upstairs. I use the word “stewardship” rather than “ownership” purposefully here. Both of us create a space to our liking in our respective areas.

Yet, since you’re never happier than your spouse, I’m not going to buy a pink couch (though I’ve been tempted) because he wouldn’t enjoy hanging out there. And the purpose of our house is to live together.

Similarly, he’ll not play psychedelic music downstairs – at least not in a way I can’t tune out with my noise-cancelling headphones – when I’m around. He did, however, invest in the stereo system to have that experience. And though it’s outside of the realm of experiences I personally long for, I don’t question that this is the right decision for his space and happiness.

When push comes to shove, we know who gets to decide about which physical space. Truly and deeply respecting that space and hence whatever decision’s made, is the natural consequence of such stewardship.

Creating and respecting physical space, then, eliminates friction and allows for growth.

Time Space

The second dimension of space is time. There always seems to be room on our calendars for his concerts and my retreats. We make it possible because we’re religiously dedicated to that freedom.

Then, coming home and spending time together is always a choice. Not only that, the person who comes home, after just having had a very meaningful experience on their own, brings back an expanded happiness that entrances the one who stayed home.

A lot of the inspiration for growth comes from our times apart.

Symbolic Space

In both time and space, there’s a non-judgmental acceptance to our interaction – the trust and knowledge that he knows what’s best for him and I know what’s best for me.

This acceptance creates a symbolic space where we both can freely explore our next moves. When we talk about what’s next, it’s for processing and input purposes rather than for opinion and approval purposes.

The resulting sense of freedom and opportunities for growth are priceless.

Virtuous Cycle

In a way, creating and respecting space in all its dimensions really starts a natural flow of giving and receiving that feels bountifuller (I know that’s not a word – but, hey, what’s freedom for?) year after year.

And it all started with a simple mantra: you’re never happier than your spouse.

The key to live the mantra is to create and respect physical, time, and symbolic space for the happiness to grow and expand into.

And so it is with any other relationship I can think of as far as I can tell…

 Photo Credit: Christiana Rivers, Unsplash.com

With more than 10 years experience in academia as a Professor of Economics, I know what it’s like to be self-disciplined, have all the analytical, writing and public speaking skills one may dream of and, yet, ending up with an empty cup in the process.

I also know what it’s like to refill that cup and engage in every activity with a sense of purpose again. Many doors opened themselves up to me once I regained that upbeat, energetic and positive attitude from the core.

 


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