Did you ever watch ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ when it was on TV? I did, and I used to really like it. So much so that I’d watch back-to-back episodes on TBS and think that it was hilarious… but after a while it lost its humour. It wasn’t that the show itself went downhill; the writing quality remained the same, as did the acting, but somehow the constant negativity and bickering became less than appealing to me.
It wasn’t just ELR, it was all sitcoms that revolve around marriage. Most of them depend on the same story line: the dopey, half-witted husband who can never do anything right, the over-bearing, martyr wife who burns dinner and never puts out, and their pursuit of happiness in their largely unfulfilled lives. There came a point where I wondered, was I getting a glimpse of my own future in marriage? Was this really what it was going to be like? When you see past the “funny” situations, the whole sitcom view on marriage is just really sad and depressing.
What was even sadder is when I realized that this portrayal of marriage accurately mirrors a lot of people’s realities. They wouldn’t think it was funny if they couldn’t relate to the content. I wouldn’t have thought it was funny if I couldn’t relate to it. Married or not, a lot of people get stuck in patterns that create a perpetually negative relationship: an atmosphere governed by the infamous, primal monster within us: the ego.
The ego exists only for the self and needs constant emotional fueling. The ego makes us defensive, needy, jealous, adulterous and resentful. (It also makes for at least 9 seasons of hard-to-watch TV.)
A while back I read a post written by John at realtruelove.wordpress.com that revolved around this issue of the ego in relationships. He said that most relationships “default to be ego-based.” meaning that the relationship “exists for recreation, (to provide an escape), to add fun, entertainment, comfort, convenience and utility to a person’s life.” While all of that may not sound so bad, all of these reasons depend on the other person doing something to make our lives better. As the ego often does, it detracts responsibility away from itself, and puts responsibility on an external person or force for its fulfillment.
When our partner inevitably fails to fuel us with these perks and good feelings, those guided by their egos will blame their partner instead of looking inwards, where true happiness springs from: “Ego-based relationships exist for the comfort and benefit of the ego, not the… transcendence of it, which is why for the ego others are always expendable, interchangeable, replaceable, and never truly real or unique”.
As John explains, there are relationships that are ego-based and there are those that are soulful. Unlike an ego-based relationship that we create “to hide from our true selves… and validate photo-shopped versions of each other”, a soulful relationship “ is a means through which we… come to know ourselves as we really are… and who another really is, and to do this together, with as much compassion and understanding as possible.” There is still give and take in a soulful relationship, but it is done with much more “generosity and gratitude”. It becomes “something we are called to invest ourselves in, nurture, care for, take responsibility for and work at”.
Soulful doesn’t mean perfect. The concept of perfection doesn’t exist in any one of us and it definitely doesn’t exist in any pair of us. Marriage can be extremely trying, and difficult to watch on TV and in real life, but if both partners commit to living soulfully, by facing their egos and growing together, then marriage can be “a centerpiece in our lives, a place where we make the fruits of spiritual practice tangible and visible.”
Marriage isn’t easy, because no matter how conscious you are, you will lose sight of your ego once in a while. But if you’re lucky enough, when one of you is lost, the other will find you, and you can inspire each other to remember to look inwards once again.
To read John’s blog go to realtruelove.wordpress.com