Do you read the New York Times Vows section?
(Back when I lived in NYC as a single woman, my male bosses referred to it as "the girls' sports section." GRRRR. But I digress...)
I still check it out, every week. It's fun to see page after page of photos and announcements of couples married the day before -- where they got married, how they met, what their careers are.
What grabs my attention most are the weekly "State of the Unions" articles, in which a Times reporter revisits one of the couples whose weddings were featured.
Sometimes the pieces are depressing, about how couples drift or divorce. And some are downright sweet -- like last week's by Jane Gordon Julien.
Stuart and Alexandra were married in October, 2001, at Coney Island, a special spot to which they still make annual visits.
Do you read the "Modern Love" column in the SundayNew York Times?
I know I should read International news or the Op-Eds first, but Modern Love is always one of the first pages I turn to. The personal essays are always so intimate and thoughtful.
"Nursing a Wound in an Appropriate Setting," by Thomas Hooven ran last November.
It's his story about how his girlfriend of 12 years ended their relationship.... 3 weeks before the wedding.
It's a lovely, heartfelt description of heartbreak, recovery, and eventually finding the right love for himself.
Hooven describes a key characteristic for a healthy relationship; he put it so beautifully, that I decided to make a video for you about it.
Watch my YouTube video: "Is Your Relationship a Basketball or a Vase?"
Sometimes, I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness talking about what a big deal getting married is -- that it's a challenging time of life that can bring up big issues for brides and grooms.
But then I read this in my favorite "Social Qs" column of the Style section of the New York Times by Philip Galanes yesterday, and I felt less alone:
QUESTION: My fiancé and I have been fighting over retirement planning. We are both 30, so this is not an imminent problem. He says there’s not much we can do right now because our combined incomes barely meet our frugal living expenses and college debt payments. I know he’s right, but I can’t stop worrying, which makes him feel like a loser. Please help me plot my next move.
This is exactly the type of problem brides come to me with: I can't shake this worry (our retirement), even though I know it's not really grounded in fact (because we're only 30). And it's affecting me and our relationship (he feels like "a loser.")
Do you have a nagging worry that you can't quite shake? What is it? Can you define it?
Writer Philip Galanes first answers the question in his witty and charming way:
ANSWER: In these difficult financial times, remember that even the most industrious ant (co-starring in Aesop’s fable with the sybaritic grasshopper) only saved enough to last through one winter, not a 30-year retirement in Palm Springs. Times have changed, so take it easy on yourself (and your fiancé). Happily, you are young. With hard work and economizing, your financial picture may improve over the next 30 years.
Then gets to the heart of the matter:
And while I hate to add to your cost of living, consider speaking with a shrink if your anxiety doesn’t abate. Your worry may, in some small way, be tied to the giant matrimonial leap you’re about to make.
He nails it. This bride has displaced her anxiety about getting married onto their ability to retire in 30 years. Amazing, isn't it, how complex and convoluted things can get?
This is exactly where I go with brides -- where I work with brides: getting to the core meaning of what this "giant matrimonial leap" means to you. Because for this bride, it's not about financial planning or their retirement savings. It's about something else entirely, but it got displaced onto the retirement savings worry.
If this bride were to Skype with me, we'd unpack the problem together. First, I'd ask her to help me deeply understand her anxiety about retirement. I want to know the nitty-gritty details that keep her tossing and turning at night. Then we'd talk about her own relationship to money and savings; her family history of money and savings; even her grandparents retirement and family stories about retirement. I wonder, in the back of my mind, if there are any family stories around marriage, money, old age and retirement that are haunting her now. We'd also explore her relationship with her fiance and the plans for their life together -- her feelings about his career and work ethic, her feelings about becoming financially interdependent with him for the rest of her life. And so on. And so on.
And so on. This is how I work with brides. We dig deep and we discover, together. And insight can give clarity, context, and emotional relief.
Every bride is unique. And every bride tends to displace her natural, normal, developmentally-appropriate anxiety about getting married onto something else (like retirement) in her own unique way. My job is to help brides unpack and understand her own experience, so that she can feel grounded and prepared for her marriage ahead.
Have a worry you're eager to get to the bottom of? Contact me for a free 15-minute video consultation now. I'm happy to start unpacking with you!
I know that you and your fiance are busy, busy, busy.
You've got two demanding jobs, two families who want your time, two sets of friends you're bringing together.
Your relationship is going through a lot of big and exciting changes.And, oh yes, you are planning a wedding together. You guys have LOT on your plate.
What's really important right now -- and always, in a marriage -- is staying connected and nurturing your relationship. Even amidst all the hubbubb and to-dos.
Here are 3 very simple things you can do:
1. Pop That Champagne Cork. Don't let that beautiful orange bottle of Veuve Cliquot sit on ice, waiting for a special occasion. Research shows that couples who regularly celebrate the good times have higher levels of commitment to each other, intimacy, trust, and relationship satisfaction. Did you decide on a wedding venue? Did a meeting at work go well? Get a new car? Close on a house? Get a raise? Book the DJ? Celebrate together, even the little things.
2. Increase The Nice By 5. You and your fiance have hundreds of emotional interactions every day. It's not humanly possible for all of them to be perfectly sweet. Take note of those little lapses -- when you are mean, snide, dismissive, critical, defensive, withholding or worst of all, when you roll your eyes at him. For every not-so-nice moment, research shows that you must have 5 positive interactions to compensate. A kiss for no reason. "You look handsome in that color." A hug. In stable marriages, there are at least 5 times more positive interactions than negative ones. Keep this 5:1 ratio in mind, and increase the nice by 5 after the nasty.
3. Just Do It. Maybe you're both really stressed out with work and the wedding. Maybe you've been together for a long time and that stay-in-bed-all-weekend phase is ancient history. It's normal for sex to become less of a priority for couples. But research shows that after 5 minutes of even "going through the motions", the powerful bonding chemicals vasopressin and oxytocin are released, and you're likely to start enjoying yourself. Regular sex improves your mood, makes you more patient, damps down anger, and leads to a better, more contented relationship. So, don't think about it: just do it!
So simple, right?
Don't you think every couple you know would benefit from learning about these 3 simple things?
Will you share this article with your friends?
PS Research cited here is from 2 books on marriage that I wholeheartedly recommend: For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman.
For every bride who worries about her relationship because you're no longer in the stay-in-bed-all-weekend-and-order-in-Chinese-food stage: this op-ed by psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky in the New York Times: "New Love: A Short Shelf Life":
If we obsessed, endlessly, about our partners and had sex with them multiple times a day — every day — we would not be very productive at work or attentive to our children, our friends or our health. (To quote a line from the 2004 film “Before Sunset,” about two former lovers who chance to meet again after a decade, if passion did not fade, “we would end up doing nothing at all with our lives.” ) Indeed, the condition of being in love has a lot in common with the state of addiction and narcissism; if unabated, it will eventually exact a toll.
So if you and your fiance are actually able to take your hands off each other and function in the world as professionals, partners, family members and friends, read the full article.
Lyubomirsky defines the differences between passionate love and companionate love -- a valuable and important distinction for every long-term (or about to become long-term) couple to keep in mind.
There's nothing wrong if you're not spending entire weekends in bed together anymore; hopefully, you did that when you were falling in love with each other. And sadly, you only get to fall in love for the first time with your fiance once.
Right now, however, you're probably getting big "hits" of passionate love for him as you plan your wedding, have special weekends away, take vacations, dream of your honeymoon, and plan your futures together. As Lyubormirsky explains, women seek new experiences (planning a wedding sure is one, wouldn't you say?), and get a greater "hit" of happiness from novelty than our guys do.
Rich stuff, this article.
So applicable to your life as a bride.
I can't wait to get my hands on Sonja Lyubomirsky January 2013 book“The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does.” I'm going to give it to myself as a New Year's present.