Why do we have engagement parties and weddings?
The most obvious reason is that we want to celebrate with our friends and family, and share the joy of the occasion with the people we love.
In reality, it is sobering to contemplate what is happening. We all know that marriage is hard. Family is hard. It’s filled with ups and downs, struggles, and learning experiences. It can be both joyful and devastating.
Unfortunately, some (or most) marriages don’t work out. Children are affected, and the divorced parents are left lonely and trying again. And maybe the parents stay together for the children, miserable.
So what are we really celebrating?
Let’s go deeper.
Another reason we have these celebrations is to make an official statement in front of everyone that these two people are making a commitment of marriage to each other. We are inviting our friends and family to not only celebrate, but to participate in the ceremony and in the marriage itself. This process has two effects:
- The couple now feels the expectation from their friends and family, the expectation that they will have a successful relationship,
- Everyone now is invested in the success of that relationship, creating a support structure and shared responsibility within the community for their success.
With all of this expectation and shared responsibility, with everyone wanting them to succeed as a couple, why are there so many failures of marriage still?
The system has backfired in both directions.
- Instead of a positive expectation, what people have done is created a culture of gossip, pressure and shame.
- For example, instead of, “I know you can do this, you are a woman of forgiveness,” it’s become, “What are people going to say about you?”
- Instead of shared responsibility and support, couples shut themselves off from others, pretend to be independent from other couples in the community, refusing help and not even considering to ask for help out of fear of relinquishing their independence, fear of “losing face”, fear of showing others their failures and vulnerability as human beings.
In reality, having a relationship is astronomically difficult
especially in the trying times that we live in, as we and our children are bombarded by messages of adolescent independence, rebellion, and individual self-fulfillment without regard to others; and as we are distracted by the constant call of the internet, TV, our mobile phones, and the pressures to be sexy and productive in an overworked and overstressed society.
We are human beings, and Love IS relationship, be it emotional-sexual intimacy or simple love relationship that is not sexually polarized. Love of God, love of the spiritual teacher, love of others, is all relationship.
So what do we do?
Let’s return to a higher way of thinking, a “spiritual” community of support and love.
Married couples in celebrating others:
- Reach out to the couple and let them know that you are there to help and support them. Invite them to your home for dinners and/or go out together as couples.
- Males reach out to the male, and females reach out to the female, again offering support. Exchange phone numbers, reach out with a phone call, go out on one-on-ones to have heart to heart talks, being a great listener, offering emotional support and careful, positive advice.
- *Remember to be willing to “lose face” in front of them, whether as a couple or as an individual. If you want to show that your relationship is perfect and that you have all the answers, you are just continuing a destructive tradition. Tell the truth! Be honest! Show some of your faults and struggles, and in turn share how you and your spouse deal with those things in a loving way.
Couples who are dating and preparing for marriage:
- Take marriage preparation classes through your local church, and take them seriously.
- Read books together about communication and relationship. At the early stages of the relationship, this seems unnecessary, but in reality it will help you get to know yourself and your partner at a deeper level early on, preventing bigger problems in the future.
- Take 4-8 sessions of couples counseling in preparation for your marriage. This will open you up to really see what you and your partner are all about, instead of waiting until months and months after you have gotten married.
Married couples, with other married couples:
- Spend time with other married couples, sharing stories, offering support to each other, helping each other. Sometimes, just saying it out loud and finding that another couple has had a similar experience is liberating and refreshing.
- Men spend one-on-one time with men, and women with women, offering each other a listening ear, emotional support and advice.
- Expect each other to overcome ourselves, to transcend our egos in love relationship with our spouses.
- Don’t support each other’s negativity! Never put down the other person’s spouse. If your friend is down about their spouse, never confirm their negative thoughts about them. Support them emotionally, understand their feelings, and even understand and acknowledge that maybe their spouse made a mistake; but then encourage them to grow beyond their own negative reactive emotions, to grow beyond their own feelings of betrayal and rejection, to grow beyond their need to blame and be independant. Turn them back toward their spouse, to love and forgive and learn through the experience.