Photo Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage
In her blog for the iVillage blog series CelebVillage, actress Katherine Heigl (who stars in the upcoming action comedy One for the Money, in theaters Jan. 27) shares her thoughts on her marriage of four years to singer-songwriter Josh Kelley.
Josh and I were recently asked at the American Music Awards how we make our marriage work in Hollywood. We answered the best we could but when the interview went live, we suddenly found ourselves to be the poster couple for successful marriages. My first thought was, "That's a hell of a lot of pressure. We better make this work!" My second thought was, "What is my real answer to that question once given an opportunity to think about it?" The topic of relationships with a partner or spouse is a pretty relatable one, and it's something people have been trying to figure out since the beginning of time.
I was talking to my girlfriend Jaime recently about marriage in this country and why so many of them fail. She's been so intrigued with the idea of it that during her many travels around the world, she began to research how different cultures and societies think, act and feel about this long-standing tradition of a union. She told me about a civilization in South America that dates back to Incan times that has a practice of holding a four-day festival once a year where every man and woman of age in the village dresses up in costume and masks, celebrates, sings, eats, dances and ultimately physically connects with anyone who may catch their fancy -- whether they are married or not. The villagers have four days to act out all their fantasies, sexual or otherwise, with no consequences to the relationship they may already be in. The result is that their divorce rate is so low it doesn't exist.
I guess the thought behind the practice is that by allowing this kind of sexual freedom to those who are in committed relationships, you remove the taboo, the desire, the fantasy. The men and women in this society know that if they want to keep the relationship they are in even after the festival, they must treat their spouse with reverence and respect the year preceding or they could very likely lose them to the allure of the sweet whisperings of another villager.
I have no desire to physically hook up with any man other than my husband and have been a serial monogamist from the moment of my first serious relationship at 20. I have never been able to connect with a man sexually without it becoming emotional, without giving a piece of my heart and soul to that connection. I always loved the idea of Samantha on Sex and the City, but it just isn't how I'm built. I understand that every human being on earth wonders if the grass might be greener in other pastures, but I could never imagine myself really going there or really wanting to. I guess the relationship I'm in is so consuming that the idea of a dalliance with another man sounds exhausting. It's hard enough to make one connection work -- I can't imagine, even for four days, splitting myself between two!
What I took away from the story of the village was the idea of not taking your partner for granted. We all do and will throughout the course of our lives with each other -- after all, that's just human nature. But I wonder if being aware of it can help me to do it less. I very easily slip into negative patterns of nagging, bossing, frustration and miscommunication. Josh easily slips into negative patterns of not paying attention, work consumption, forgetfulness and miscommunication. When we start orbiting around each other in this way, it's pretty easy to forget what the gravitational pull was that brought our planets into alignment was in the first place.
I have certain wishes, desires and needs and, of course, he does as well. But when we start to see each other as the enemy, we stop asking what the other needs the way we used to in the beginning of our love. All we wanted to do when we first embarked on our commitment was make the other person happy, assuming that would be enough to make ourselves happy. As time passes and the safer and more relaxed we feel in the relationship, we stop making as much of an effort -- and the next thing we know we've started taking each other for granted.
I've certainly had moments, as I'm sure Josh has, where I've asked myself if it's really worth it. Is a great marriage really even possible? Do you just resign yourself to the idea of growing old with someone you don't talk to anymore, share anything with but your children, and avoid like the plague? Yes, the giddy romance of first love fades but does love itself just wither away as if it's a season coming to an end?
It would be preachy and naïve of me to tell you I have the answers to those questions. Josh and I have only been married four years and though that may seem record-breaking in Hollywood, we're still considered newlyweds to the rest of the world. What I can tell you is that I was infatuated with this man the moment I met him. I was crazy about him three weeks later, and madly in love with him two more after that. More often than not he brings the best out of me and when he doesn't, I tell him the truth about how he's let me down and listen when he tells me the same. He makes me laugh like no one else, he makes me feel safer than I've ever felt, adored with abandon and when he doesn't, I tell him how I feel ignored and listen when he tells me I've driven him away.
I have been drawn to this man like a bee to honey and I can't quite explain it but I do know he's worth it. We stand by each other, we respect each other's thoughts, ideas, passions and fears. We compromise constantly for each other and change for each other when compromising isn't the answer. We've had some pretty explosive fights over the years trying to make our marriage work, but it's been worth it. I do not want to live my life without Josh in it and will do everything I can to make sure I don't have to -- except give him the freedom to don a costume and mask and bang some other chick.
As time ebbs and flows and we fall back into the familiar negative patterns and begin to forget the pull and grace of each other, I will slap myself and him upside the head again until we remember. That's the only answer I've got at this point in my life and relationship: Be willing to fight, remember what you're fighting for and don't forget that you're going to have to make changes too. Like they say, it takes two to tango... or three or four if you live in that crazy village with the festival!