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|The Three Marriages|
The Three Marriages
Finding the connections between work, family, and self
By David Whyte
The current understanding of work-life balance is too simplistic. People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance. Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another.
Human beings are creatures of belonging, though they may come to that sense of belonging only through long periods of exile and loneliness. Interestingly, we belong to life as much through our sense that it is all impossible, as we do through the sense that we will accomplish everything wehave set out to do. This sense of belonging and not belonging is lived out by most people through three principal dynamics: first, through relationship to other people and other living things (particularly and very personally, to one other living, breathing person in relationship or marriage); second through work; and third, through an understanding of what it means to be themselves, discrete individuals alive and seemingly separate from everyone and everything else.
These are the three marriages, of Work, Self and Other.
The First Marriage: The One We Usually Mean
Marriage is a word loaded with associations; not only the longed-for associations with the mythical horse and carriage that carries us off in perfect felicity, as Jane Austen described it, but also the whispers and echoes it finds in our mind, depending on the particular partnership our own parents made. Each of us has a profound inherited notion of marriage or partnership from the success or failure of our own parents in their commitment to each other and their ability or non-ability to bring us up.
To the unconscious mind, the coming together of our parents gave birth to our own growing and was the foundation of our present adulthood. We look at the pictures of our astonishingly youthful mother or father all those years ago, looking intently into the camera and see ourselves waiting for them in their future. Their commitment, however long or however transitory, is the ultimate background to the foreground we now explore as consenting, independent adults. To children, the union of their parents, good or bad, in a still photograph or in a moving memory, is the mythic meeting of the two gods who brought them into life and who provided, by their presence or by their disturbing absence, the surrounding universe of their growing.