Adventures in Marriage - Poking the Bear Part 2

So in early May I wrote to you about that time I called a marriage and family counselor looking for something to grasp on to as I prepared for my wedding day (Check it out here if you didn’t read it yet).  I wasn't looking for help with our relationship - I was looking for a way to step into my marriage with intention and care.I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly, but I knew I wanted some guidance and help to explore this whole marriage thing.

We ended up going to two sessions and then summer kicked in and everyone was away on holiday. We didn’t wade too deeply into the pool really, but we certainly poked the bear. It’s been a month since our last session, and we are getting married in six days. EEP!

So what did I learn from pre-marital counseling?  

To start - it’s hard to feel satisfied when you didn’t quite know what you were looking for in the first place.

I live in a pretty secular world and I think I was really craving some kind of spiritual or intentional practice as a way to prepare for the wedding (which is, of course, in and of itself, that ceremony). I wanted a way to reflect on the pieces of me that I am shedding as I leave one phase of my life behind and enter another. I wanted a way to carefully consider those pieces of me that I will carry forward, as gifts to my marriage. I wanted a way to ground into and solidify those pieces of myself that are foundational to me, to my identity, to my strength and resilience. I didn’t get that. But I got clarity that this is what I was looking for and I've been reflecting a lot on these things. 

We did poke the bear and we did wake it up: and it made things somewhat uncomfortable for a short while. It got me thinking, and it got us talking. We got real with ourselves and each other about values, priorities, and expectations. And that’s the whole point.

Esther Perel shared a video that really hit home for me the other day. In it she says…

Typically, people come to a therapy session and then say here, I am an expert on my partner, I’ve studied this person, let me tell you about him or her, fix them and I’ll just sit here and watch. What really changes a relationship, is when you come in and you are actually capable of saying, I came to see what it is I do, I came to examine my own contribution to this story, I came to take responsibility.
— Esther Perel


My biggest take away is that my shit is still there. The things I have been working on in myself FOREVER are still haranguing me. "GOD DAMNIT"! I want to yell. "Have I not got this shit figured out yet?" I felt anger, frustration, disappointment, and sadness as I realized I STILL need to learn to let go, chill out, quit thinking I can control everything and go with the flow. I can worry myself to death with future problems and right now my life is smack dab in the middle of future planning – with another human – in a way I have never done before. CAUSE I AM GETTING MARRIED. Sure I’ve been in long-term relationships, but I have never shared a bank account, I have never been financially dependent on another human in the way that being a mom can make you, I’ve never had to give this much consideration to the different values, perspectives, and expectations of a partner.

I’m not sure our shit ever really goes away. I think we get better at dealing with it, and I think we call certain partners in to help us really dig into it. If that is the case, then I’ve definitely got what I need in my man.

Life can have a lot of stresses in it. Especially when you are merging families, planning kids, a new home, and careers that support your passions. As someone who likes to process and analyze and daydream and scheme I can easily get lost in the soup of it.  I learned that conversations about these things are good and that taking it all too seriously can kill the joy. I learned that just admitting that there's lots going on and it’s kinda stressful – just allowing myself to see the stress for what it is - is freeing. I learned my man manages stress differently than me. I learned that tickle fights, teasing each other playfully, and quality couch time NOT talking about all the heavy things is crucial fuel for my relationship. I learned that problems will solve themselves in time with intention and a little faith. 

I was talking to my friend Ruth the other day and she summed it up so nicely.  “Marriage is a long thing,” she gently nudged. “Don’t try to do it all at once! You never get ahead of yourself. I’ve been married for 21 years and every year can be like a different relationship. Embrace the flow of change even while making something solid.”

When we poke the bear, we may indeed stir it from its slumber. It may rise up slow and groggy, or startle awake angry and irritated. It is in this moment, when together we stare it down, comfort it with love, or run screaming at the top of our lungs, that we grow, separate and together, and build the bonds that make our marriage last.

I am getting married in six days, to a wonderful human, who loves me even when I’m kind of a jerk, calls me on my shit, tickles the angry out of me, listens to my heart when I ask him to, teaches me things, and is willing to hold my hand, walk into the bear den with me and deal with the consequences no matter what. I could not be more grateful and excited.  

- The Happy V