Years ago a therapist suggested to me that a relationship, or a marriage, is a container. She was helping me to see that I needed to get in that container with my partner and be held by the relationship itself even when I could not be held by the other person. I loved the idea immediately.
I later began to think of my marriage as a bowl. I collect old yelloware bowls of all sizes and I especially like the big ones used for mixing. Bowls are containers, relationships require mixing, and sometimes relationships require kneading, time to rise, punching down and rising again.
A container. Or a mixing bowl. That’s what commitment gives to a relationship. It holds the space. Not having a commitment means you can drift and slip and slide. It’s similar I think to the constraints of poetry. A villanelle or a sonnet is a container and by being forced to stay in the container creativity is unleashed.
David Richo, in his book, “How to Be an Adult” writes about relationships in a similar way. He says, “A working relationship is a crucible in which the human tasks of holding on and letting go can be fulfilled.” We have to hold on and let go at the same time. Marriage creates the container, the bowl, the crucible, which allows two adults to hold on and let go over and over.