The person you really need to marry | Tracy McMillan | TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen

The person you really need to marry | Tracy McMillan | TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen


Translator: Nadine Hennig
Reviewer: Ilze Garda 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! (Laughter) Then I grew up, and this is
what my life turned out to be. (Laughter) Slightly more complicated, right?
(Laughter) Love, marriage, divorce,
dry spells, love, marriage, co-parenting, another marriage,
another divorce; you got the picture. (Laughter) (Applause) 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 is 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. (Laughter) 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. (Laughter) 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 is 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? (Laughter) 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! (Laughter) 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. 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. 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. Then ten 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. 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. So here are the vows. Number 1: you are going to marry yourself
for richer or for poorer. This means you are going
to love yourself right where you are. You don’t say to yourself, “When you get
to the corner of Hollywood and Vine, then I will marry you.” You don’t say, “When you lose
ten pounds, then I will love you.” And you don’t say, “If you hadn’t
married that loser, I would love you, but since you did,
I’m sorry, I think it’s over.” When you marry yourself,
you walk yourself down that aisle exactly where you are. And paradoxically, I found
that loving myself exactly where I am is the only way to get where I am going. Number 2: you are going to marry yourself
for better or for worse. What this means is that most of us
are willing to love ourselves for better, I mean, sure, I am having
a great hair day today. I love me. (Laughter) That’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about for worse,
you know, the big life disappointments. Maybe you don’t own a home,
you didn’t get the career you wanted, maybe you didn’t graduate from college,
or get the relationship you wanted. Maybe it hasn’t turned out–
maybe you fight with your mum, maybe you watch too much reality TV, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter anymore. Because when you marry yourself,
you agree to stay with you no matter what. Third, you marry yourself
in sickness and in health. What this means is that you forgive
yourself for your mistakes. A mistake isn’t actually a failure
unless you don’t learn from it and unless you don’t grow. There is a saying, “You ask for patience,
and what you get is a line at the bank.” (Laughter) What that means is that life
does not give you what you’ve asked for, it gives you the people,
places, and situations that allow you to develop
what you ask for. And the thing is if you don’t get it
right the first time, life will give it to you again. (Laughter) Because life is very generous that way. It’s like I didn’t get it the first time,
in the first marriage, and I didn’t get it the second time,
maybe the third time I’ll get it. So inside that terrible experience
of that third marriage, I learned something
about “in sickness and in health”. What I learned is how to sit
by my own bedside, and how to hold my own hand,
and how to nurse myself, and how to comfort myself. What I learned is that I am
a person that I can count on. Last but not least, you marry yourself– when you marry yourself,
it’s to have and to hold yourself. What does it mean to have and to hold? Well, I think it means
that you love yourself the way you want
someone else to love you. I had always been going
through life with this sense of lack. I felt like I was kind of half a person,
and that I was missing something. I went into my relationships hoping to solve this feeling
that I had my entire life: that I was not whole
unless someone loved me. The truth was that I wasn’t ever going to feel whole
until I learned to love myself. So this business of marrying yourself
transforms every area of your life: your business, family relationships,
kids, social relationships, friends. Because when you marry yourself,
this huge thing happens: you become able to love
in this whole new way. You become able to love other people
right where they are, for who they are, the same way you’re already
loving yourself. And of course, this is
what the world needs more of. So when I married myself, and I realized
that I already had everything I needed, I started seeing it as my job to basically just light up
my little corner of the world. That’s my new job. Because I don’t need anything,
I already have it. So when I take meetings, it’s all about how can I help
this person achieve her goal? When I’m in my social communities, it is like what can I bring
to this that only I can bring? When I go on dates, it is like how can I just discover
another person maybe for just one hour which, of course, brings me a full circle. Because people always asked me
about my love life; they want to know. (Laughter) You know, the answer is,
I am still working on it. Aren’t we all? So this is where I am right now. About three months ago,
I went on a first date. About 30 minutes into the date,
I found myself paying attention not to whether he liked me,
but how I felt in his presence. I noticed that I was light, happy, joking. As I reflected on the date afterwards,
I was like, “Wow, I got really excited! Look, this is how committed
I am to myself.” I am not even on this date
trying to get someone to like me. I am more interested in how I feel
about me than how he feels about me, not because I am selfish,
but because the only relationship I am ever going to have
with another person is the one that I am
already having with myself – just going to have it with them now. So it turned out he liked me,
and we are still together. It’s cool and amazing,
but I’ve been married three times, so slow down! (Laughter) The thing is that I am not trying
to get security from him through marriage, and, God forbid, a baby carriage. I am only here to
just be in a relationship. I am not dying to hear the words,
“Will you marry me?” Because even though
those words are very powerful – and very powerful to a person like me – I don’t need them to hear it from him because I have already
heard them from myself. The way I see it is like I took myself
to the top of a mountain, or maybe to the bottom of the ocean, and I got down on one knee,
and I said, “I’ll never leave you.” And now I am married to the one person
I really wanted to be with all along, myself. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)