One thing I get asked sometimes is how Damien and I arrived on the same page with so many of our life choices - adventurous living, parenting, homeschooling, etc.
Damien and I have been committed with our whole hearts to each other from the beginning. We take our marriage vows very seriously. But those marriage vows did not guarantee that we would make two separate lives into one. That two very independent minded people could build a common vision.
It seems to me there are two ways to live married life. With the first model you can walk separate, sometimes parallel paths and come together at various points on the journey. You might make an effort to reach the same destination but you walk different trails to get there.
The benefit of this model is less accountability to your partner because you've both decided to do your own thing in certain areas. Of course, you also run the risk of veering so far from each other that you never do arrive at the same destination.
The second model is how we have aimed to live married life. The majority of our journeying is done together, on the same path. We sometimes will walk alone on the little paths or side trails that shoot off the main path, but that is only for a short time and for a clear purpose. Walking the same path is the goal. For us, this translates into having a common life vision and direction, completely shared income, similar core values, accountability to each other for how we spend our days, shared interests, and parenting on the same page, to name just a few.
Although we're on the same path we have very different roles in how we earn an income, manage our home, and raise and educate our kids. We have different secondary interests and also very different personalities.
How do we bring this all together to walk the same path, towards a common vision, instead of walking our own paths and risk walking away from each other?
Here's three very practical things we've done in our marriage to bring our paths together.
1. Spend time together
Duh. I know at first this looks like a no-brainer but honestly our rush-rush, go-go, busy society conspires against this very basic principle. You are going to have to fight for it. You are going to have to say no to many good things to prioritize time with your spouse. And if you're coming from a place where your paths have diverged for awhile, you might feel like it's a sacrifice. Which indeed it might be. No one said this gig called marriage was easy.
I am not suggesting a particular date night formula or a schedule you must follow for spending time together. We have never "dated" regularly, yet we have a fantastically close and intimate relationship. One of the ways we've cultivated that is one day a week, spending time together outdoors. This is the time each week that Damien and I really connect.
This was so important when we had different work spheres - mine at home, his at an office. But even now that we are home together every day, we still need this regular time away from our usual living and working environment. When we're at home we're tempted to do our usual work. So we get into the outdoors together to remove ourselves from that temptation.
What we love about one day a week is that with the kids occupied in nature, Damien and I have a chance a talk and connect. Being in beautiful natural places has a way of opening us up, in our hearts and spirits, to really connect with each other. To listen and be heard, without distraction.
One day a week outdoors may not work for everyone. I understand that. But if you don't have a full day every week to spend with your family I would ask yourself why that is. Is your schedule too full? Relationships take time. You can skip the outdoors part if you want (I wouldn't recommend it) but you can't skip making time for each other.
How does spending time together help you walk the same path? The more time you spend with someone the more you appreciate and love who they are. You hear their ideas, their heart. They hear you. This naturally grows love and understanding. And in that way you work towards the same goals. Simple as that.
2. Support each other's dreams and aspirations
Damien and I are very much on the same page with our life vision but we are different people with unique interests and personal aspirations. This is healthy and this is what makes marriage interesting and exciting. Who wants to be married to a copy of themselves? I'd drive myself crazy!
Integrating who we are, as very different people, has been one of my biggest growing challenges as an adult.
If we felt we had to give up our identity and personal dreams to walk a path together I'm pretty sure that would be a recipe for divorce. But when we know our spouse will support our dreams and walk with us towards them, that's when we walk the same path, towards a common vision.
The truth of this though, is that someone is always giving and the balance of who is giving and who is receiving will seem lopsided at times. Marriage is not a scorecard and when we start thinking it is we're tempted to walk separate paths.
Marriage, for us, is a lifetime gig till death do us part and there will be seasons where Damien's dreams are front and center or my dreams are front and center. But the amazing thing is that the more we share our lives, and choose to walk the same path, the more Damien's dreams become mine and vice versa.
Shared dreams are one of the beautiful blessings of marriage because two people working together towards the same goal are likely to be more successful than two individuals following their own paths.
3. Sometimes lead, sometimes follow
Shared dreams are the goal in our marriage but we don't usually start at that place.
There have been quite a few times in our marriage where one of us felt strongly about something and the other did not. The one that did feel strongly had to make a decision if they were willing to carry the leadership burden on that goal or dream. The "reluctant" spouse was willing to follow, walking the same path, but wasn't going to do the work of figuring it out.
For example, Damien has felt strongly for years about the importance of adventure and physical activity in his own life and for our family. When he first proposed we hike one day a week I was a little taken aback; defensive and resistant. This was way outside my grid.
There was a bit of a push and pull for a time in our marriage over this but I respected that this was important to Damien. And he was willing to take the lead and do a lot of the work in the beginning. Over time, I grew to feel strongly about this same goal in no small part because he was willing to do a lot of work to make it happen. And I could see the benefits to our family and my own health. Now his goal is just as much my goal. But it didn't happen over night.
In other areas of our marriage I have carried the leadership banner. Our style of homeschooling for one. I'm the one who does the reading and research, designs our program of study, etc. That responsibility is mine because I'm passionate about it. Damien looks to my leading in this area and supports this vision.
I don't think it's healthy in the long term for one spouse to carry all the work of an idea. The goal is to merge individual dreams into together dreams but at the beginning your spouse might just go along until they experience the benefits for themselves.
Walking the same path to reach a common destination is not always easy. Any journey or adventure has struggle. It's the struggle and tension that brings the growth.
Many people throw in the towel on the struggle, either giving up on their dreams or giving up on their spouses. Or they take the middle road where they walk together for some of the way but follow their own path for most of the journey. Mediocrity is another word for middle of the road. Mediocre is the last word I want used to describe my life or my marriage.
What are your thoughts on sharing the same path?