I always say that when two people get married there are three things you need to consider. You, the other person, and the relationship you both create. A couple creates a relationships based on values, beliefs, feelings, desires, needs, and wants: all this is constantly growing and being negotiated. Getting married is an event for two people that allows them an opportunity to manifest and test out many aspects of their relationship.
Having been recently married and being a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I understand the joy and pit falls of marriage.
As a therapist, I want people to also recognize that often there are three more things at play. One, you both deciding whose family you both want to re-create. (Usually you fight for your own—love it or hate it!) Second, you both fight for your own FANTASY of your ideal family. Third and the best, you are working to create your own REAL family, which is a painful and lovely process as you work through your family of origin issues, work through your fantasies, and compassionately and curiously see what you make together. As you can imagine, this process shows up in the creation of your ceremony and celebration. Can we say, “Pre-marital counseling?” My friends have found this to be the best part of marriage process: a neutral third party to support them.
I’m about to rock your world a bit. You may agree in your mind, but your heart or gut may say, “No WAY! This lady is crazy!” But hang on, you will thank me years from now.
The best way to avoid a great deal of a pain is to know this simple reality: your wedding (i.e. relationship) is about YOU TWO and NOT about your families.
You choose to include your family as an expression of your love and NOT due to your fears of loss or feelings of obligation. Yes, there is a difference. Obligation comes from shame and guilt. Love is given freely from a place of desire. No one owns you and you choose your loyalty. Kind of a scary thought when you are getting married that your spouse owes you nothing?! They are making a choice to commit to the RELATIONSHIP in the long haul, but they do not have to stay. You are only bound by love, desire, and the knowledge you both will work through the challenges together (e.g. trust, safety, and security).
This may seem culturally insensitive—trust me—my own family has a hard time with this. You decide to bring your families into your relationship but no one can force you. REALLY! You may have to deal with a great deal of heart ache and feelings of abandonment, but that is what differentiating from your family is all about (e.g. being an independent adult). Breathe a sigh of relief that you owe them NOTHING even if they are paying. WHAT!? Yes, even if they choose to give you that gift; it should not come with strings attached: that’s how gifts and love really work. Obligation that is due to money or support is indentured servitude, which is illegal because people were exploited.
Mind blown yet? Good.
If you can’t do that, don’t take the money and start now in asserting yourself as a team or partnership that can make choices for themselves! That’s so much more fun and freeing! What?!? Marriage is about freedom? YES, but that is another article.
The key is that you don’t need to reject or abandon your family to stand on your own, though you may feel that way or your family feels that way. This is called boundaries. On the same end, you do not need to accept them as well. You are free to do as you like as long as you don’t exploit, manipulate, abuse, punish, etc. others.
Think of it like your own birthday party for two. Do what makes you two light up and smile. Use your fantasy as a way of letting your partner into your inner world. Be playful and explorative. Be supportive of your partner when they share their fantasy and know it is deep unconscious material that allows you to be intimate. You can hear it without needing to DO something with it. Find elements of you fantasy, reality, and traditions you want in your relationship, and ask yourself what you really want to remember 10 years from now. Throw it out, let it settle, and then find the parts that work later. (This works in sex as well, but that is another article too!)
For example, my friends thought about what they valued most as a couple and what they loved to do together. They looked at how they could manifest this in thier ceremony. For example: They love yoga, nature, being near water, loved ones hanging out, holidays, relaxation, and mementos from trips.
They got cheap food and linens. They let go of ‘shoulds,’ ‘musts,’ and ‘oughts.’
They rented a small and very affordable retreat center in the Sierras to have a place for people to hang-out, swim, do yoga, and then party at the end with a personal ceremony. It was so full of THEM and everyone loved it! They poured their money where their hearts lead them. It was a tough journey discovering who they are as a couple, but they are transformed by going through the process. They are such a stronger team and have such a better relationship with their families.
If you are ready to explore how your fear, fantasies, and family are making your wedding planning or relationship painful and how to move into a more pleasurable union, contact me for a free consultation: Abby Volk LMFT LPCC. email@example.com 415-878-6030 www.counselorsf.com