Maintaining an Atmosphere of Heart in Marriage
Oct 10, 1999
Atmosphere, of course, is what we all breathe on a daily basis. When I moved to Los Angeles for a short time, I experienced the uncomfortable results of automotive pollution. The atmosphere was thick and cloudy, and filled with questionable particles. As a result, it was difficult to breathe.
I believe that there's an invisible atmosphere of love, or heart, between husband and wife that is as palpable as the physical atmosphere of oxygen. In an even broader sense, aren't all human beings sensitive to some degree to the emotional atmosphere that surrounds them?
In a beautiful spring garden, each flower emits a pure stream of oxygen, replenishing the atmosphere of the garden. When we walk in such a garden, we feel soothed, and at peace. When a husband and wife love each other in a completely harmonious way, and have no ill feelings lurking in the corners, then at that moment, using the above metaphor, they are emitting a pure stream of love into the atmosphere of heart in their home, creating a feeling of peace and calmness in their "heartistic garden".
Unfortunately, our hearts are turbulent and tend to waver in our ability to constantly create an atmosphere of heart in our homes. Husbands and wives usually love each other when they get married, but then, as the years go by, the love between them often decreases or becomes muddied by numerous wounds that they inflict on each other. We then see newspaper accounts of famous people divorcing each other after twenty, thirty or even fifty years of marriage. What happened to the atmosphere of heart between these couples?
Unlike flowers, which automatically clean the fouled air from their gardens, we humans have to make a conscious effort to clean and maintain a beautiful atmosphere of heart and love. Regrettably, often not much attention is paid to this process in the married lives of couples.
Much like a car that spews out a cloud of dirty exhaust, married couples may, at any time, act or speak in a way that creates a "cloud" of anger, resentment or hurt feelings. Often it's unintentional, for who begins their day with the goal of hurting their spouse? Nevertheless, clouds are created and the atmosphere of heart becomes leaden and cold.
Starting from the beginning of a relationship, when perhaps there are no clouds between the couple, and their garden is pristine and sparkling, one can see that the pollution of a marriage is a gradual affair, over a long period of time. Cloud after cloud is created, but not brushed away -- not eliminated through a self-cleansing process.
I deeply feel that husbands and wives need to develop what I call "heartistic antennae", so that they can each sense every quiver and blip in the atmosphere of love between them. When the atmosphere becomes cold and tense in the slightest degree, both partners should feel that change of atmosphere and automatically go into "cleaning overdrive".
How does one clean the atmosphere of heart in a marriage? Each infraction needs to be individually dealt with in order to completely remove the pain caused by that misdemeanor. How many times have you watched a movie where the couple gets in a fight, and then the man or woman just walks away, without resolving anything? This kind of behavior leads to the accumulation of baggage in a marriage, of heartistic blocks that soil the atmosphere between them. Often, baggage develops to such a degree that it is virtually impossible to sort out. The garden has become so overgrown that the couple just gives up.
A good gardener will mercilessly eliminate all the weeds in the garden when they're still sprouts. Our gardens of heart are the same. When something happens to cause a misunderstanding or a fight, the couple should communicate their feelings to each other until they understand each other (no matter how many hours of communication it takes.) Then, based on their new understanding of each other's feelings, they each have the responsibility to approach the other and apologize with love and humility.
Communication and apology centered on love does indeed work, but sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to truly find out what's wrong between the husband and wife. For the sake of the atmosphere of heart between them, it makes sense for the couple to commit themselves to resolve each problem immediately, before the day is out, and before their garden becomes hopelessly overwhelmed with brambles.
After the cloud of hurt and anger is gone, the husband and wife have the ongoing task of consciously creating and expanding their heartistic garden by carefully caring for each other's hearts. At every opportunity, on a daily basis, the husband and wife can express love to each other in many different ways. Very much like physical flowers that create a garden's atmosphere by "breathing" oxygen, the husband and wife should both determine to "breathe" the atmosphere of pure love into their surroundings.
Sometimes it becomes clear to the husband or wife that they don't really feel love for each other. Perhaps one partner loves the other, but the spouse doesn't respond very well. Although some couples have extreme circumstances, such as physical abuse or infidelity, many husbands and wives are simply heartistically separated. What can a couple do to generate love between them when it has ceased to exist -- or perhaps never existed at all?
One of the most beautiful characteristics of true unselfish love is that it is so life-giving to the person who receives it. If one partner in the marriage determines that he or she will endlessly give unselfish love to the other, without any limitation, under normal circumstances the spouse should eventually respond. It may take a long time, which places a very great burden on the partner that determines to initiate and create an atmosphere of love. That sacrifice is lessened by the joy that comes from loving others and the conviction that the atmosphere of heart will indeed be created over time.
Creating the atmosphere of heart requires utter sincerity between husband and wife. Many couples make a habit of speaking to each other with sarcasm, or joke about each other in a denigrating way. Real love and heart can only flourish when a profound trust exists between the couple, because the atmosphere of heart requires that the hearts of both become, and remain, completely open to each other. In the atmosphere of heart between husband and wife there are no blocks, no baggage and no secrets.