"If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were."
This quote feels like the worst possible cliche', but sometimes cliches have a ring of truth to them that just cannot be denied.
I had a conversation with a friend this week in which we were discussing marriage. Both of us have recently had moments in our marriages where we were just not sure we wanted to carry on - and both of us have found this moment to be oddly affirming of the relationship at the same time.
Sending my husband off to Burning Man on his own made many of the people I talked to nervous. Aren't you afraid he'll___________? (Fill in your worst relationship fear.)
Fifteen years ago I would have been, but now I truly feel that he has to be free to do those things I fear most in order that he not need to do them. It's ironic and hard to understand on some level, but the freedom to leave, to stray, to cheat, to be yourself in all of your worst and best ways, is utterly necessary - I believe - for a healthy relationship.
On the flip side, my husband said he was amazed at how being away and having total freedom made him love and appreciate us and just want to come home and be the best husband and father he could be.
And yet it was only hours after he came home that we had a moment in our marriage that we had not yet gotten to - the moment of choice.
It is a moment that I think all couples get to - some sooner, some later - where they have to decide if they are going to keep going or turn back. When you are dating this moment is not always easy, but there is less on the line. When you are married or have been together for a long time, or have children together, this moment can scare the bejesus out of you.
It's the moment when you have to chose to stay, to work, to persevere even though - at that moment - you may not want to and it may seem easier or preferable to go.
If either one of us had chosen to walk away, it could have all been over. The thirteen years of marriage, the fifteen years together, the family gatherings, the co-parenting, the best-friending....all of it. But we didn't. We turned around, faced each other again, and made it through.
I have no illusion that this is the last moment like this we will have. I think the longer you stay in a relationship the more likely you are to have them. Sometimes a long term relationship can feel like a noose around your neck.
Other times, of course, it can be as comfortable as a fuzzy old bathrobe, and - if you are really lucky - as fun as a roller coaster ride.
When I was younger I thought I had to be ever vigilant, keeping other women at bay, watching my husband at all times for signs of infidelity.
Now I know the truth: If you love someone set them free....and demand your own freedom.
Only under these conditions can the relationship thrive and flourish and end up being somewhere you both WANT to be.