Think about your relationship to your partner, your work and your inner self. Is that 3 different things, 3 interrelated things or one whole?

According to David Whyte, most of us are in more than the one “marriage.” One is with a significant other (even if we are not legally married), but also ones in which we have made secret vows to our work and to our self.

In his book, The Three Marriages, he explores those three marriages, their commonalities, their mutual relationships and the way they can together contribute to a life.

David Whyte, who is a poet and Associate Fellow at Templeton College and Said Business School at the University of Oxford. I can’t think of any other poets who use poetry and concepts of creativity in organizational development. Apparently, Whyte does in working with companies to foster “courage and engagement.” He views this as part of  individual and organizational change and calls it “Conversational Leadership.”

He subtitles the book “Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship:”

“We can call these three separate commitments marriages because at their core they are usually lifelong commitments and … they involve vows made either consciously or unconsciously… To neglect any one of the three marriages is to impoverish them all, because they are not actually separate commitments but different expressions of the way each individual belongs to the world.”

All three renewed dedication as the years go by. We hear so much about having a “work/life balance” but he believes that to separate these three (split life into two parts) in order to balance is harmful. He doesn’t believe you can sacrifice one marriage for any of the others without causing deep (psychological) damage.

Whyte grew up in England and now lives in the American Pacific Northwest and along with six books of poetry, he has written three books of prose.

He has a degree in Marine Zoology and has worked as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands, lead anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon and the Himalaya.

Looking at some of his poems, you might see that they often live in the different marriages too.

Some are in the usual realm of poetry, while some enter more deeply psychological, theological and philosophical areas, and others look at work. I suppose many poets use these areas, but with this book of marriages as the lens in front of me, the separations seem more apparent.

Her is how his poem “Start Close In” begins:

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

One of the articles read this past year, said that “The equilibrium between productivity and presence is one of the hardest things to master in life, and one of the most important. We, both as a culture and as individuals, often conflate it with the deceptively similar-sounding yet profoundly different notion of “work/life balance” — a concept rather disheartening upon closer inspection. It implies, after all, that we must counter the downside — that which we must endure in order to make a living — with the upside — that which we long to do in order to feel alive. It implies allocating half of our waking hours to something we begrudge while anxiously awaiting the other half to arrive so we can live already.”

I am committed to that first marriage – the traditional one with a partner. The one with work is going through some transitioning.  The third marriage, engaging the soul and senses, feels to me to be the one that supports the other two. There is some things of the traditional marriage that he carries into the others. Living with the Self, and Divorce, Forgiveness, even Remarriage. Any of these marriages can fail.

Can we surrender ego to something larger than it?

This is not a question of balance or balancing amounts of time and resources.

Yes, you can have all three marriages work at the same time and  what we learn about life and ourselves in one marriage, makes us better partners in the other ones.


Listen to a brief excerpt from the book

Whyte’s  website

 

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