Photo Credit: Danielle Cohen

Photo Credit: Danielle Cohen

The Most Revolutionary Thing I’ve Done Was Stay.

I am one of those people who is utterly in love with love.  You know what I mean? The feeling, the connection, the bliss.  Love is such a GOOD THING.  But for all of us experiencing love in a relationship setting, we know this much- It can be so profoundly, ecstatically, mind-blowingly good… and yet so insanely hard. At times so hard it feels like ending things must be the answer. I hear people say all the time, it shouldn’t be like that, love shouldn’t be hard. 

And maybe there are some relationships out there where it comes so easy and karmically… it’s just snagless. I suppose some people have done all their work around it and so it’s a totally different experience then my own.

But for me personally, and for some people I have connected with conversation around relationships, I find that those in longer-term relationships, be it marriages or committed partnerships, staying together and feeling the homeostasis of a healthy union can be hard ass work and some points the idea of leaving feels easier than the long haul of staying. 

The hard work of relationships is like being up to your elbows in mud, naked, with your heart raw and exposed.  Your feet are blistered like you’ve walked a hundred thousand miles barefoot and your arms are sore from holding the basket of medicine you try and gather at all times. Your body is limp and vulnerable from asking to be carried, or utterly exhausted from refusing to ask for support at all.  All your wounds have been revealed from the inside out.  And your eyes ache from all the seeing you have to do. Nowhere in this world has anybody else seen you both in your most beautiful… and as your ugliest.

This is insanely vulnerable. And a lot of the times the walk is totally uphill.

I have a lot of stories about me and my husband .  Truly, I could write a book.  I always say that we have had 10,000 or 10 million marriages just in our single one. We have been through so much and incarnated deeper every time we’ve left and come back together.  We always knew our marriage couldn’t stay the same, even from day to day, we needed constant movement and change… and that still is true.  So we allowed it to always change.

We also allow things to die.  We allow ourselves to fight, to burn up, to break up, to speak what we feel, to unleash, to hold space for the other.  We allow the other to walk away.  To say stupid shit. To need each other. To reject the other.  We allow for all the emotions and waves to hit our relationship and we practice never showing up as anything but our whole selves.  Sometimes we don’t like everything we see.  Sometimes this honest works immediately and things are better in moments.

Sometimes it takes months. 

We believe in the Mystery of Love and the workings of what it means when we say yes, I’ll stick it out. And I think we were curious who the other person was turning into. Always.  Who would he be tomorrow? Who would I be? How will we learn to love next?

Life isn’t like a textbook. It makes no sense. There is no map or manual or rules. Over the years, I have learned to speak up more and he has learned to listen.  He learned to call me on my shit and I learned to {still learning this!] really look deeply at my own shortcomings and own them and be honest with myself.

Even though my marriage hasn’t been perfect, and at times the love between me and my husband has been down right painful, the most direct route to my own personal revolution has been to stay in it. I know that every time I step toward him in love and understanding, I feel like I am loving myself, and healing myself, and growing into the human I was always meant to be. 

I have always believed in us.  And I believed in the hard parts.  Because the hard parts are always something to press against, to bang against when needed.  The hard was something to crack open and chisel into something new.  The hard was something to stand on, tall and firm, or to lay against in exhaustion and know you will be held.  The hard was a place to sit patiently and wait.  Because really, hard shouldn’t mean unhappy.  Hard should mean you are doing something like birth, it hurts and it’s exhausting, but it’s transformational.  Hard should feel like you’ve had an adventurous day and your body needs a good rest.

Like I said.  There is no guarantee.  There is no payoff.  I live my life like he may not be there and I am always free to walk where I must.  Even in the hard times, I don’t expect it to always “work”.  There is nothing to “work”. There is only doing the work.  And it’s this work, the work of love—without any real prize at the end—that fuels me, feeds me, and keeps me here on the ground.

Marybeth Bonfiglio is a mother, wife, writer, and creator who lives in Portland, Oregon. She is an earth-trained herbalist and ancestry schooled tarot reader and the co-host of a podcast about Love. Learn more about her on her website