Tracy McMillan on The Person You Really Need To Marry at TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen – Transcript
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Tracy McMillan – Relationship Author, Television Writer
When I was growing up, there was this song we used to sing on the playground, and it went like this, “Tracy and so and so, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”
And I’m like, OK, that’s it! That’s how you do life. That’s how you do a relationship. Love, marriage, baby carriage. OK, got it.
And then I grew up, and this is what my life turned out to be. Slightly more complicated, right?
Love, marriage, divorce, dry spells, love, marriage, co-parenting, another marriage, another divorce; you got the picture.
So if you’re good at math and/or a fast reader, what you’ve got there is that I’ve been married three times. Yep, three, and divorced.
What that’s supposed to mean is that I’m a total failure at relationships. And that is one way to look at it, but not the only way.
Because what I think really happened is that I kept marrying the wrong person. No, it’s not that I didn’t — it’s not that I chose bad guys. My first two husbands were amazing men who are now married to wonderful women who aren’t me.
And my third husband, well, we’re friends on Facebook now. So, all is well that ends well, right?
After the collapse of my third marriage in 2005, I realized that I’ve been marrying everyone in sight, except the one person that I really needed to marry in order to have a great relationship and that once I married that person, all of my relationships would be successes, even the failures. The so-called failures, actually.
Since we’re talking today about women inventing, I’m going to talk about inventing relationships. What I’ve found through a lot of trial and obviously, many, many, many errors, to be the thing that has transformed my life and love, and that is this idea of marrying yourself.
So what does it mean to marry yourself? It’s a big idea. It is as big as marriage itself except, if I could just summarize it, it would be that you enter into a relationship with yourself and then you put a ring on it. In other words, you commit to yourself fully.
And then you build a relationship with yourself to the point where you realize that you’re whole right now, that there is no man, woman, job, circumstance that can happen to you that’s going to make you more whole because you already are. And this changes your life.
By now, I’m sure at least some of you are wondering why you should be listening to a three-time divorcee talk about marriage? Even to herself. And I understand that.
Here’s what I have to say about that: what I’ve learned and my experience is that the places where you have the biggest challenges in your life become the places where you have the most to give if you do your inner work. I kind of want to say that again: the places where you have the biggest challenges are the places where you have the most to give.
So let me tell you a little bit about the person I truly needed to marry: myself.
I am from Minneapolis. Wooh! My mom was a prostitute and an alcoholic. She put me in foster care when I was three months old.
My dad was a criminal; he was a drug dealer and a pimp with a heart of gold — actually, they both had hearts of gold — and he spent more or less my whole life in prison. And he just got out of prison after his most recent sentence which was 20 years.
Until the age of nine, I was probably in two dozen foster homes. The thing you need to know about this story — there are a lot of details, obviously — but the thing you need to know is that I came out of that childhood with one goal: to never be left. And the way I was going to do that is that I was going to get married. That was the way I was going to accomplish that goal.
So I got married the first time to a guy I met when I was 17. We got married a couple of years later, when I was 19. He was a really good guy from a great family, he had an MBA. I mean, it was like, you know, marriage material. You know, I was thrilled. I was like, “I have a family. I belong somewhere. This is wonderful.”
And then after five years I left him. And then 10 years later, I got married again to another wonderful guy, who is the father of my now 16-years-old son. We still have a wonderful relationship. He is a really good guy.
But after four years I left him, too. And I am not proud to say that I did that, but in order to really marry yourself, you have to get sometimes very painfully honest with yourself about what it is that you’ve done. So I’m not proud of that.
And then eight years later, I got married again, when I was 40, and I was like, “OK, this feels right!”
Let me tell you what felt right to a girl who was in 24 foster homes: a guy who started to date after nine months of marriage; essentially, he started dating a 21-year-old girl. OK, I mean, it would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic. You have to have a sense of — that is why we’re Facebook friends.
So, here I am looking at this person that I just described with a terrible track record of relationships, and I’m like, “I’m supposed to marry her? This is the woman you want me to marry?”
And the answer is yes. Because here is the deal: the thing about marrying yourself is not just like cohabitating. You’re not just going to date for a while and see how it turns out. You are going to do this till death do you part. You are going to take vows.