Duncan Riach wrote this article on his Medium blog.
She stroked my leg under the table in the Student Union. I liked that, so I married her. I’m serious. This is what I’m like; I tend to go all-in immediately. I commit like crazy. At least this is what I used to be like. I’ve changed a lot since then.
Soon we had sex, first in bed, and then in the shower. It was pretty good. Three months later, I proposed to her in bed in Paris. That was the same bed we spent most of our time in while in Paris. I proposed to her because I didn’t want to lose her.
Next, I went out and spent the last few hundred pounds of my bank overdraft on an engagement ring. I took her to the top of the Eiffel Tower and officially proposed to her there. I did this mostly because I was trying to be romantic, trying to do what you’re supposed to do.
A few years later we married, and flew off into the sunset to start a new life in America. By the time we divorced, we had lived together for around eleven years, and had been married for nine. That was a long period of my life, and it was rich in learning. Here’s what I learned.
I was about 22 when I got married. At that age, my personality was just about crystalized. It would take a couple more years, until the age of about 24, for my pre-frontal cortex to fully develop. I was a child when I got married, and even more of a child when I got engaged. I didn’t know what I wanted, or even who I was. I didn’t have the ability to be aware of my emotions, or to know what I felt about my thoughts.
As we get older, our personality fixations hopefully soften, and we develop more dexterity in our ability to cope with things emotionally. We develop increasing choice and self-awareness. At least this is what happens when we are open to growth, integration, and feedback. This kind of change occurs particularly rapidly if we increase self-awareness through meditation and therapy or coaching.
I started meditating at around the age of 27, and I started to change a lot. I became less accommodating. I was less willing to just do whatever my wife wanted without taking into account what I wanted. That was a big change in our dynamic. I had been the provider, the problem solver, the planner, and the one who made everything work smoothly. Now I started to let go of that. I wasn’t interested in making everything go smoothly anymore. I wanted to chill out a little and do nothing. I wanted to put my feet up and relax when I got home from work.
In any relationship, the partners mesh together like a pair of cogs, with teeth interleaved. When one of the people starts to change, it can wreak havoc on the relationship. In that marriage it did. The breaking point was when my son was not returned to me (I’ll explain later). That’s when I started intensive psychotherapy, which of course led to more change, which made our marriage even worse. In hindsight, I probably should have visited an international lawyer instead of spending the next few years fighting for a marriage that was inevitably falling apart.
Don’t get me wrong, change is not bad. In fact, change is good. Increasing self-awareness is very good, very important. It’s what’s necessary to live a fulfilling and healthy life. I recommend meditation, therapy, and coaching to everyone. The thing is, we all change, and we change a heck of a lot in our twenties, especially if we’re meditating and getting therapy or coaching.
I recommend not getting married, which is, by definition, a life-long commitment, until you’ve done a lot of inner work.
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