“‘Who among us entered marriage fully aware of what to expect? My model, not surprisingly, was my parents – live happily or unhappily ever after till death do us part (which they did, mostly happy). When it became my turn, I embraced this commitment naively. Being married, I assumed, was like being on automatic pilot. Wasn’t loving each other enough? You really didn’t have to work hard at the relationship; that was something you did at the office or on the ball field to ensure recognition and affirmation.
I realize now that we were not in touch with ourselves, let alone really tuned into each other. Two careers, demanding work schedules, and eventual disgreements over child rearing, left us little time or inclination for examining how we had changed within the marriage. Too late, my wife sought professional help. Who, me in therapy? Oh, no, that was a sign of weakness and vulnerability for something I should be able to work through myself. I became truly conscious of the state of my marriage only after it had failed.”‘
As we consult with prospective couples who seek our services as officiants, we reflect on the perspectives they bring to their relationship (at least in terms of our connection with them). How conscious are they of the implications of the commitment they are about to make on their wedding day? Yes, they love each other and, in our present world, may be living together. What more is there to learn before matrimony?
We ask our couples a series of questions to assess the seriousness of their commitment. These questions are especially important to us because we advertise ourselves as “officiants for life”. We try to put the couple at ease during our first contact (face-to-face or by phone) by asking both informational and more reflective questions:
- How did they meet?
- Of all the men/women they have met why choose this person to be their life partner?
- How was the proposal carried out?
- What kind of family were they raised in?
- What type of ceremony do they want?
- When we celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary vows, what would they like to be saying about the state of their marriage?
We can usually make an assessment of the couple’s commitment to each other and to life in general from their answers to such questions. At the same time, we may also identify potential “red flags” in the relationship:
- Does the couple basically regard the wedding as just an excuse for another party? ( “yes” – red flag)
- Is their reception likely to be accompanied by excessive drinking? (“yes” – red flag)
- Does the groom’s seeming lack of involvement in the wedding process reflect a potential indifference to the challenges of marriage” ( “yes” – red flag)
- Does the bride radiate enough respect for her partner and is he aware of that feeling she has/has not for him? ( ”no” – red flag)
- Are both partners really in touch with their feelings and are they at ease expressing themselves to each other? ( “no” – red flag)
- Does the partner or couple marrying for the second time tend to dismiss the importance of marrying “second time around”? ( “yes” – red flag)
- In the case of couples with children, have they made special efforts to blend the families together? ( “no” – red flag)
The committed union of two people in love is the most beautiful relationship human society has yet devised. Yet romantic love is seldom enough to sustain a marriage. Marriage, like liberty, needs to be nurtured and defended. The strength of our company, and what differentiates us from many of our colleagues, is that each of us has more than 30 years experience in relationship therapy and/or school and college teaching. Our relational skills have been honed in the classroom and in both couples and family therapy sessions. When we offer ourselves to couples as “officiants for life”, we are prepared to provide them with support throughout their married life. Whether this takes the form of vow renewals, anniversaries, baptisms, house blessings, or relationship support, we believe that our services do not necessarily end with the wedding or vow renewal ceremony.
In our next segment on Conscious Marriage we will explore the building blocks of creating a satisfying, long-lasting marriage.
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