On July 1, Brandon and I celebrate being married for 10 years. It both feels like yesterday and forever ago. Time is weird like that.
As you might expect, we're being a little reflective over the past 10 years - both the 5 B.O. (before Overflow) and the 5 since Overflow opened. One constant through all 10 years and even before is my activist nature. Since I was a kid, I've been trying to make the world a better place in whatever ways I can. So, when I reflect over the past 10 years, my mind automatically leans toward what I've learned about social change.
Here are 5 things I've learned about social change from being married. I hope they inspire you in your activism, in your marriage, or both!
1. Assume you know nothing.
Even after knowing someone for so long and spending so much time together, it is definitely helpful to our relationship when we don't assume we know how the other person thinks or feels but instead ask them to share. Saying "What's your perspective on this?" opens the door for communication. People are complicated - whether you're married to them or you're coming alongside one or more to help them improve their situation in life. I believe there is value in seeking to understand and assuming I know nothing. To put it another way, being right eventually loses its appeal. Relationship is more important than being right.
2. When the feelings wain...
When the feelings of being "in love" go away, it will be hard to keep going. It will be hard but that's when the real transformation happens. When the feels aren't there, we have to go deep and learn to reconcile our thinking and our feelings to one another. Activism often starts with feelings - usually empathy, compassion, sadness, or anger - but what happens when those feelings fade out is really important. I believe those who keep going despite their feelings or lack thereof are the ones who experience the greatest success. Both marriage and activism teach us more about ourselves than we initially think. Consider this their gift.
3. Trust that better times are coming.
Hope. Then, hope some more. Valleys don't keep going forever. There are mountains and oceans on the other side of the valleys. When the going gets tough, trust and hope that whatever is on the other end is worth the struggle. Hope gets us through those times when the feelings wain and the real transformation happens.
4. Admit when it's not working & be willing to try something different.
This is probably the hardest lesson for most people to learn. Change is hard. Yet, change is the only constant in life. Plus, if we want different results, we have to do things differently. We can't keep doing the same things and expect different results. I believe this is true for date night and social programs, for household chores and distributing aid, for shared budgeting and economic development, and more.
5. Remember to love yourself too.
This is something I believe strongly. You can't give away what you don't have. Good things come from the overflow not from nothing. We have to love ourselves. We need time to do things simply because we enjoy doing them. We need to be confident in who we are and how we're made. From this place of self-love, our ability to love others is endless. I can say that the lowest time in my marriage came when I least loved myself. It was only after I began to build my love for myself that I was able to give love to Brandon. The same is true for activism. From the love we have for ourselves, we have plenty of love to share with those around us and around the world.
Bonus: If you're going to complain, come to the conversation with an alternative to suggest.
I know I said I'd stick to 5 but I couldn't help but throw this one in here. Take it as you will. I offer it without comment. :-)
Comment and share your thoughts. What do you like most or least from this list? What have you learned that I didn't include?