Right now I am in the process of doing premarital counseling with three couples whose marriage I will be officiating this year. It is always interesting and actually fun for me to have this time with these couples. I have a standard formula that I use as cover these topics complete with handouts :
- Characteristics of a Conscious Marriage
- They are not the same people and we may approach many things differently. (Myers Briggs tests are helpful here)
- Conflict is inevitable and it is better to explore than defend when conflicts occur
- How to have an affair proof marriage
We also plan the wedding and in the course of this tend to discuss family issues and dynamics. I enjoy the process of hearing them talk about their relationship and their openness to sharing and learning. By the time I get to the wedding day, I genuinely care about them and I feel blessed to be literally front and center as they make their vows.
I look back on thirty years of weddings and can point to some that have lasted and others that have not. Today I found myself thinking about one particular couple who seemed so evenly matched. They had met in school, dated and lived together and seemed to be an ideal couple as we had these conversations. Their wedding was beautiful, creative, fun and almost (although I don’t believe in this!) perfect. I can still see their first dance as the bride and groom held each other and looked into each other’s eyes.
So, what a shock it was for the bride – and for me – when four months into this marriage, the bride saw some text messages on the groom’s cell phone that revealed a relationship with another woman that was – pick your word – “inappropriate” or “unhealthy” or maybe “wrong.” A confrontation ensued and he announced that he didn’t want to be married anymore. And that essentially was that.
That experience was very humbling for me personally. I learned that I don’t always know what is going on within others. And that my seemingly wise words may not carry the weight or the import that I would like to think. As I look back on this time, I wonder what he was thinking and feeling and unable or afraid to say to his fiance and to me? I wonder if they got on the “wedding train” and stopped all further questions about making this supposedly life long commitment.
This all happened many years ago and they have gone on to marry others and start new families. I wonder how they make sense of it all now: a bad dream, a learning experience, a mistake?
For me, it helps me to hold my “counsel” very lightly and to remember that what makes a marriage good and lasting is essentially a mystery. I suspect that love and respect helps, and probably maturity and a willingness to compromise.
I have learned that I do my little part in the beginning and need to let the rest go.