By Lauralyn Harter
For some girls, their wedding day is something they always dreamed about. The thick, shiny white satin, the glittering tiara perched high on their heads like Cinderella or some imaginary princess. The groom is a blurry image in a tux...Ken? G.I. Joe? Whatever. Does't matter. What matters is the gown, that gown! And all the attention on the bride.
Other girls grew up sans the dress dreams. Maybe it was because they preferred climbing trees to fantasizing about being a bride, or maybe their parent's less than perfect marriage or divorce were reality busters to the frail fantasy of happily ever after.
For lots of women, the "M" word is just as scary to them as it is known to be for some men. Divorce claims half of all marriages (or is it more by now?) and children raised with divorced parents or witnessing extremely dysfunctional or unhappy unions naturally grow up dispelling the myths that marriage is like Cinderella's Ball - a lifelong happy date. There are stages of relationships, and for some the fear that they will get stuck in a "bored" stage or "maybe they're not the right one after all" stage hinders their ability to commit.
I was one of these women. Deathly afraid of committment, though in all honesty, I had no clue I carried this fear with me into every relationship. Excuses masked the real fear - he's too sensitive, too trendy, too old, too young, too (fill in the blank). There was always a reason for me not to stick around for long, not wanting to waste my time.
When I met my fiance, I couldn't deny the instant bond. It was like I had found a best friend who I hadn't seen in years. Everything felt natural, nothing was forced, including my feelings. I didn't try to project love onto him, hoping he would fill the image of everything I hoped and dreamed for. I just sat back, for once, and let things transpire at their own pace. And the rare moment of patience paid off.
When he proposed I didn't get emotional, I didn't cry. I felt like my head was spinning, my heart was racing and I couldn't understand a word he was saying. It was a mixture of excitement, happiness and total and utter fear. Ohmigod, we're really going to do this!
Throughout the engagement, we slowly planned our wedding day. Ken (that's aformentioned fiance's name) said, "I can't wait to marry you and for you to be my wife. I wish we could do it tomorrow." He said this with so much sincerity and eagerness that I replied, "What's the rush? Are you pregnant?"
In truth, I wasn't ready yet. I needed the engagement period to lie back in our decision like a hammock, get comfortable in it, sway back and forth and get used to the new feeling. During this time, fears popped up like groundhogs: if he showed a temper - oh God, am I going to have to deal with his temper FOREVER? If he didn't wash the dishes - Am I going to be the one cooking AND cleaning the rest of my life? You name it, I analyzed it, over and over and over again until my good sense (or my friend's voice) kicked in and said, STOP! You are an amazing functioning couple who communicate, love each other unconditionally and always resolve your arguements, no matter how hard that can be at times. You are similiar and different in complementary ways, you balance each other like a seesaw. You share the same values, priorities and vision for the future. You are both spiritual individuals who are open to constantly growing and evolving and learning more about life, and each other.
But, my fear interjected, but...my fear stuttered...BUT NOTHING!
It wasn't until I was engaged that I really understood how much my parent's destructive marriage affected me - it wasn't the divorce (that was a relief) so much as the day by day witnessing of two miserable people in a miserable union, bound to each other out of faith to the Catholic church, family pressure and of course, the child, but not because they loved each other. In fact, their hatred ran so deep and everyday was so stressful just to be around them, I wondered how unstable two people must be to live like that for 16 years and never once seek help. I think some dysfunctional couples actually thrive on the chaos, others have ego's so big that their "pride" overtakes their desperate need to seek help to save their family.
So here's what our parents, unhappily married, unhappily divorced, or happily divorced, never told us: there is one absolute guarantee about marriage - it will not be perfect. It will not be a storybook ending every day. There will be plenty of Kodak moments, sure, and times where your heart will swell with so much love and affection you think it might burst. But it will not always be smiles and giggles.
Some couples go through a period of years where they've disconnected and must find ways to renew thier love and strengthen their bond. Others have sporadic days here and there where nothing goes right and moods are low and tired.
(After all, even if love is destined in the stars, human beings have free will. Committment is a choice.)
This is normal. This is to be expected. No one ever said parenting is easy, so why would anyone assume marraige would be? Anytime we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we share our lives with all our flaws and live with another person's flaws, nerves will fray without a doubt. Feelings will occasionally be hurt. Misunderstandings will happen.
So, mental note for Ms. Spears, Mr. Trump, J.Lo and all the other souls out there who misunderstand marriage: it's not for the weak of heart. It's not for the change of heart.
A committment is not something you slip in and out of like a dress - though J.Lo, having had about three different wedding dresses, may disagree. It's work. Hard work. It's a lesson in devotion, maturity, unconditional love, trust, loyalty and faith and it's sad to see how many people are failing this lesson miserably and leaving divorced kids like me associating a wedding day not with a dream but more with a nightmare.
Pre Cana, offered by the Catholic church has been an amazing experience for us. If you are not of the Catholic faith and your parish or temple doesn't offer pre-wedding counseling sessions, I would strongly suggest booking a few sessions with a couples therapist before saying I do.
(Even after saying I do, the church has a wonderful En Cana program for married couples)
A friend of mine, who was in a miserable relationship, ironically once said to me, if you have to see a couples therapist before you're even married, isn't that a bad sign?
No, that's a very good sign that there is nothing you as a couple are unwilling to explore, face head on and work out in your relationship. In fact, I would question anyone who would be hesitant about it. Couples therapy isn't only for couples "in trouble." It's a wonderful way to begin your marriage on the right foot, open to communicating and knowing exactly what your issues are or will be (do you both want kids? How many? How do you feel about fiances? Your in-laws? The list goes on...)
Couples therapy before marriage leaves little surprises after the wedding day, unless of course the couple isn't being honest with each other. And in that case, they better know some good lawyers.
More on the big wedding day next time...
To Elope or Not To Elope?
You know I have an opinion and I'll share it will you here on LongIsland.com. Until then, have a great week and if you're married, here's the Question of the Day to ask your spouse:
What's the last dream that you remember? What's the last nightmare you had?
Sharing dreams is a wonderful way to get inside your spouse's head and get a glimpse into their anxieties, fears and desires. Get in touch tonight!
Food For Thought
Top Reasons People File For Divorce:
"Outgrew the relationship"
Children (Infertility, sick child, death of a child, one doesn't want children)
Aside from abuse, obviously, so much for "'til death do us part." More like 'til stress do us part!
Maybe we need to start learning more coping skills individually and as couples instead of making more divorce attorneys and child psychologists rich.