We are in the 30th year of our relationship and the 29th year of our marriage. It has been quite a ride. I want to share with you some of the things I have learned and to say thank you to Rhea.
When I met Rhea I was divorced, living alone. Rhea lived opposite with two little girls aged four and two. My previous marriage (which lasted four years was doomed from the beginning: two people in pain with very limited emotional and self-awareness, hoping that the other would fill the emotional hole. I had already spent some six years seeking truth, connection, peace and happiness. I had already “woken up” but was still at the very beginnings of my life’s journey of self-discovery, self-knowledge and self-acceptance. (I am still right in the middle of that journey; even if I die at ninety I will still be right in the middle of my journey). It’s like many things:
The more you know, the more you know that you don’t know much at all.
For one and a half years I had kept myself free of sentimental entanglements. In fact, I had been celibate during this time. I chose celibacy to free myself of the distraction of sex, to obtain some clarity some quiet time. It is something I recommend to anyone wanting clarity after a romantic relationship has finished. The unexpected outcome was that for the first time in my life I had female friends rather than female conquests/potential conquests. I wasn’t a very nice man.
When I met Rhea, although I had already made some first remarkable steps, I had not changed nor grown nearly as much as I imagined I had. My life was well organised. I had a good job, a flashy car, a big house, exotic holidays and I dressed well, did a lot of sport. In other words, all the trappings of success. I noticed that, in spite of this, I was often driven by a feeling of emptiness. One thing that I had clear was that to be with Rhea was a choice not a need. (I certainly didn’t need to acquire two small children). My clear decision in my relationship with Rhea was that my love for her meant that I would always work for her happiness, even if it precluded me!
I have learnt so much in the last thirty years. Rhea has taught me constancy, what to love means; what it means to be loved, kindness and patience. Together we have shared adventures, grown individually as people. Also we have grown together, closer. We are each the other’s greatest cheerleaders. The foundation of our relationship is a deep trust one in the other. This trust extends to every aspect of our lives. (Except chocolate of course).
Until I met Rhea I did not know what it meant to love someone. Nor to be loved. Sure, I had experienced many times being in love – that delightful hormonal aberration that ensures the survival of the species but I had neither encountered nor understood the real work of loving, cherishing, constancy, being with someone for the long haul. Her constancy and compassion meant that, even when the demons of my past raised their ugly, insecure, angry heads, they were met with understanding and love (rather than drama) – something I found hard to comprehend at first.
Real love is to be found not just in the big decisions – marriage children etc, but usually in the minutiae of everyday living: listening, kindness, consideration, comforting, forgiveness, warmth and the sex surprisingly, has gotten better with the passing years. Weird eh!!
At the age of 18 I said and believed completely that it was better to be feared than to be loved. Having never consciously experienced love, I settled for fear – something that I had experienced much of. When I think back to that statement made in public and with great conviction, my heart fills with compassion for the young man so full of pain, fear and so alone who had to consciously generate the enthusiasm to keep living.
I obviously have done a great deal of work to overcome/change the hurtful inheritance of my childhood but my greatest support has been my teacher, Rhea. She has always taught by example. I do not know how she put up with me in those early years but I am and will forever be grateful.
I used to think that being married for a long time to the same person would be boring but I have discovered that drama is overrated. So perhaps the greatest surprise is that I still find myself falling in love with Rhea, drawn to her in many different ways.
I live a life that, never in my wildest dreams I would have imagined. I am truly and deeply fortunate.
So I will end by saying with all my heart:
Thank you Rhea. I love you and I know that you love me.