Unschooling and Marriage

This page was created to keep some writing from Always Learning, and a few other things about the relationship of co-parents. There are other pages that could be of interest to someone thinking about maintaining a partnership, too. Some are in a box to the right, and some at the bottom of the page. All link to others.

—Sandra Dodd, December 2015

Becoming a Better Partner

Spouses Unschooling can make us better partners!

How to avoid trying to control a spouse

Peace divorce, yachts, motorcycles:
Don't let unschooling ruin your marriage

Tori Cotta, to the Always Learning discussion:
There is such beauty and hope in the stories here—even in the ones that describe current struggle, because the decision to write, to ask for help, suggests a way forward. Thank you to everyone who writes, and to those generous mothers who take the time to thoughtfully respond. And especially thank you to you, Sandra, for launching this ship and keeping it afloat.

I know that my life is indescribably better for the time I spend reading here. When I began reading 8 years ago I hoped that my kids would be happier because of my efforts, but I never imagined that my relationship with my husband would also flourish. I have a real partner because I'm more able to be his partner.

I've also come to treasure things like the pile of dirty socks that I might have complained about. Instead my husband has time to rebuild a little sailboat with our kids and to introduce them to his joy in being on the water. He's also got time to build a milking stanchion for my cow and to enclose our patio to keep my chickens (and their poop) in the yard. I love our very messy kitchen because that's where my son confidently made smoothies for the first time for himself and his sister. It's where preparing food is an act of love whether its a homegrown dinner or snacks from the nearest gas station. I keep meaning to photograph the soles of our bare feet--as likely to be covered in glitter as dog hair. Our lives are rich with room for all the projects, animals, and adventures that each one of us takes on. There's a feeling of abundance that I think our friends feel too when they spend time in our home.

I've learned, over time, that intellectual understanding isn't comparable to what we learn through experience--it's a bit like trying to learn to swim by reading the manual. What makes our happiness as a family is not what we get from each other, but what we generously give.

Many thanks to everyone here for giving so generously!

Marta wrote of changing her name from Marta Pires, in 2015;
When Bruno and I got married 7 years ago, I didn't take his name. Instead, I kept my maiden name and we got married under the system of separate property. Looking back, I think I did it because I was influenced by my family and feminist friends (all psychologists, quite surprisingly, and who would subtly talk about how one can lose his/her identity when getting married, etc...), and maybe even by the messages that the media send out regarding marriage nowadays. What a sad way to start a marriage, huh? In fear of getting a divorce and of what can happen in the aftermath, instead of striving for and actually doing things that build a wonderful and loving partnership.

Anyway, our daughter was born and sometime later I found Sandra's radical unschooling discussions and my perspective on life changed. It started out with how I saw my relationship with Conchinha. One of the unexpected benefits of wanting us to be partners instead of adversaries was that my relationship with my husband slowly started to change too and for the better, just as Sandra has mentioned many times in her talks when addressing the unexpected benefits of radical unschooling. It had always been a very beautiful relationship, but there was still some nagging and measuring, and resentment and negativity on my part. That changed hugely and our relationship has flourished in ways that I honestly did not expect.

Fast forward to today and we went to the Civil Registry services last Friday [in August 2015] and I took his name. I am now Mrs. Venturini Machado! (Marta Venturini on my facebook profile to make things simple). I'm so happy that I decided to do this and I feel that my husband was super thrilled that I did it too. Yay all around!

I know I sound like a broken record, but thank you once again Sandra and all the unschooling moms that so generously share their wisdom and their lives every day. What you have done and continue to do is so important. When you share what you've experienced, what has worked and what hasn't, that has huge ripple effects and it changes the lives of people you'll probably never even know of. You've certainly changed mine in so many beautiful ways that it's impossible to list them all in one e-mail. ;-)

From a discussion on Always Learning in late May, 2016. I will leave this here without a name:
When I was left reeling with the discovery that my husband was involved with another woman I very quickly realized that my desire for a faithful husband took a very very distant back seat to my desire for a stable and comfortable home for our boys (they were 5 and 1 at the time). I certainly wanted a solid marriage and monogamous relationship, but for the sake of our boys I decided that I could, and would be able to make a happy family home even with another involved in some way. So far it doesn't look like that will be necessary. More positivity and patience and less talking from me has softened the divide between us and things have been getting better.

I am in general a very positive person so it was hard for me to realize (mostly through the writings in this group) that I was very negative and controlling in my relationship with my husband. I still fall into old patterns regularly but it's getting easier to see it and make better choices. It is amazingly powerful to be able to hear something I disagree with and respond with "oh, that's interesting, can you tell me more?" and not argue (or roll my eyes or be dismissive in any way). It's been really hard for me but my husband is slowly becoming more comfortable sharing opinions and ideas he thinks may be counter to my own and that is priceless.

I will be another voice adding to the recommendation to read Al Turtle's site. You making better choices and changes WILL change your relationship. As Sandra has said it only takes one person to make the relationship better. It may or may not be enough, but better is better. The better you can make things the more comfortable you can be and the less pressure there is on your husband to be different than he is the more room there is for him to grow. Pressure to change who we are is more likely to lead to resistance and resentment than any improvement. This group has been pivotal in helping me repair my marriage, I hope it can help yours too.

The pivotal group was Always Learning unschooling discussion, at yahoogroups. Here is another paragraph from higher up in that same post:
Since he already feels like a failure and that there's no hope for the marriage I don't think letting him know how this has affected you would be beneficial, it would likely be more fuel on that fire of having let you and his family and himself as a husband down. What might help though would be to share with him every wonderful thing you can see about him, from your and the children's perspective. See the scared lonely child in him that is pushing away reminders of his failure to be what he thought he should be and help him to see every way that he is a success, he probably can't see them on his own anymore.

"See the scared lonely child him" above is empathy, and acknowledgement of the wholeness of the man's life. In becoming someone's life partner, you are offering to let him entrust his whole life to you—his whole self, not just his future, or the shell of him, or what you would like for him to be. You marry what he has been, and what is inside of him, discovered or undiscovered. Be nurturing and gentle and kind, even if hes a tough manly man you would prefer to depend on for your own various needs.

Mutual support means mutual.

Quoting from something I wrote in 2013:

Nurture your partner

One of the best thoughts I ever had was remembering that the little boy is still inside the man. His hurts and fears are lurking. His memories of good times and bad times before I was in his life are still in there. Sometimes little boys need a hug, or to play. But they probably don't need MORE mean mothering. Sometimes little boys were deprived, told to wait, told to help, not to play, whatever it was.

If you have awareness of any of your husband's childhood frustrations, remember that those are a part of him and sometimes will be closer to the surface. Sometimes I do one or two little life-improving things that I wouldn't have done if I hadn't said to myself "Do a couple of life-improving things"—like change the sheets, take out the trash near my husband's desk, take him some lassi or juice when he's working in the garage or outside, buy something he likes, at the store.

My husband is not a child, and I am not his mother. But I knew his mother, and I know stories of him as a child. I'm the person he chose to help him move into another stage of life, with confidence and security and love. That was 35 years ago, now, that we first "dated," and we've been married for nearly thirty years. He felt safe with me, and I wanted to keep it that way. I felt safe with him, too.

The rest of that is here in English, and as it was published in German.

Divorce (prevention of) Happiness, and unschooling Creating an Unschooling Nest