My path away from marital meltdown began in the smoking pile of rubble that was my final workplace implosion.
It was 1 a.m. and after months of 18-hour days launching a new show, I exploded: screaming, throwing things and threatening people. In front of a large audience on the production floor of 30 Rock, I bottomed out with a loud, messy splat.
One more incident like that, I was told the next day by a roomful of people in suits, and I was out.
I had done the same thing at home, of course, but no one had put it in such stark terms. Instead, Meg and the kids just kept their distance when I went into a tirade or withdrew to the living room with a glass of whiskey.
Both at work and at home, I knew something was off -- I felt dull, confined and frustrated despite my prestigious job and solid life -- but I didn't know things could be better. I figured that's just the way life is, and I'd have to make the best of it.
Salvation arrived in book form, not a Gideon Bible found in some motel room drawer, but a management book titled "The Corporate Mystic." It was a primer on the obscure art of workplace consciousness: becoming aware of why I was doing what I was doing, rediscovering the emotional and spiritual dimensions of existence that my years in the corporate world had extinguished.
All at once I saw how things could be different. My first step toward renewal was seeing that I actually could live differently.
This spark ignited the engine of my renewal, and a long series of executive coaching sessions, workshops and other decidedly non-corporate encounters. I saved my career by developing a vision of how my work life could be more enlivening, and then following it with heart instead of head, candor instead of politics, and connection instead of strategy.
I had no intention of doing the same at home -- that was way too dangerous. Changing my pattern with Meg might backfire, and I'd lose my marriage and my family. So for years I lived a dual life: innovative, conscious guy at work and withdrawn, uptight guy at home.
That ended not with a splat, but with the metallic clunk of me slamming my wedding band on the bedside table. After all that time creating my ideal work life, I saw how my home life was far from ideal and how distance, secrecy and limitation had turned Meg and me into little more than business partners in the enterprise of our family. I had no idea how, but after 24 years of marriage I wanted to find the way back to being lovers.
The first step was killing the relationship we had. It felt a lot like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. We loved each other, worked well together and had raised a picture-perfect family. But I had glimpsed how enlivening living my dreams could be, and I knew we were just going through the motions at home.
So Instead of focusing on staying together no matter what -- the "til death do us part" stuff -- we made a commitment to love ourselves and each other and to our individual creative expression. Then we applied the tools I'd learned for a conscious workplace to our home life, knowing that allowing our full aliveness might mean going our separate ways.
There were times when hearing what Meg really wanted for herself scared the hell out of me. Other times, I felt wracked with remorse as I recounted some particularly shameful lapse in the interest of full honesty. Or when exploring our fantasies freaked us both out.
But it worked. Over time we saw that going for what we most wanted in love brought us closer together. At first, it was hard being radically honest, staying committed to our own personal growth and experiencing all of our feelings (even the uncomfortable ones). With practice, this allowed us to fully be ourselves and to fully see each other.
After 31 years together, we've decided we still like what we see.
TRY THIS AT HOME
The first step to getting what you want is having a vision of it -- and telling your partner (even if you are scared). So, dream up your ideal vision of your relationship in as much detail as possible -- the clothes you are wearing, what you are eating, what you say to each other -- and share it with your partner. We've done these lots of ways, from talking about it, to writing it in a letter, to drawing a picture, or even creating an illustrated map. We found that the mere act of making our vision explicit greatly increases the chances of it happening. If you get really ambitious, you can extend this visioning to other aspects of your life that you find flat or boring.
The average American marriage now lasts about seven years. By that measure, Meg Dennison and Tim Peek are on their fourth marriage -- still with each other. Tim and Meg believe that relationships of all kinds are created choice by choice. They advise couples, individuals and businesses on making the best choices. They reveal the worst relationship mistakes in love and work here.