It's no wonder that with my pending nuptials, I've had weddings on the brain lately. William and Kate only exacerbated my obsessions, but I have to admit that I've had a lovely time planning our wedding.
As the countdown ticks away (three weeks or so), my thoughts are not only circling weddings, but marriage itself. This is a tricky subject, and everyone has their own opinion on what makes a successful marriage and how this type of partnership should work. Coming from a divorced family, I've had serious worries about how to make sure mine is a marriage that will withstand the test of time. Dear comes from a parentage that only ended when his mom sadly passed away from Pancreatic Cancer -- two days shy of their 42nd wedding anniversary. When confronted with my endless questions of what is marriage, how to make it work and why the hell do we do it in the first place, I decided I needed to do some research.
I asked a couple of friends for advice on their marriages, especially in the early stages (since my friends that ARE married are all under the 5-year mark) and it quickly became apparent that -- duh -- every couple is different. Every couple deals with arguments, hard times, groceries, chores, and splitting up family holidays completely differently. As much as I appreciated the advice I was getting, I realized that I was curious as to WHY people get married nowadays. Why, in the day and age that it's much more widely accepted to have kids, live together, do everything you would normally do while being married without actually getting married: why do we keep doing this? Yes, it's nice to have the tax breaks and a big blowout party with all your friends and loved ones ... but the average wedding costs between $27,000 - $30,000, and that's a LOT of money to spend on one day. So why do we do it?
There's a man named John Gottman who has made a bit of a name for himself in couples counseling. He and his wife (another marriage counselor type) claim that they can predict, with up to 90% accuracy, whether or not a marriage will end in divorce, simply by observing a couple, any couple, for 15 minutes. I was recommended a copy of his Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and it contains some good advice for couples who are new or established. He has some great exercises that are all about getting to know each other, how to speak to each other during arguments, and pitfalls to avoid. John Gray's Mars and Venus Together Forever was also helpful in describing how a man's mind is different from a woman's mind, but tends to repeat itself and it reads like it's dumbing down clinical speak (which I suppose it is).
By far, the best book I have read on this subject (and I'll admit: I'm probably not done yet) is Committed: A Love Story, by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). A woman at a knit group recommended this to me, and I jumped at it because I Eat, Pray, Love was one of the best books I've read in a long time. This book is a follow-up where Liz and Felipe (the dreamy Brazilian man she falls in love with at the end of EPL) are faced with the one thing they agreed they never wanted to do: get married. Felipe hits a snag with US Customs and the only way he'll be allowed back into America is if he and Liz get hitched. They have to travel around for a while while his immigration status goes through the leagues and depths of bureaucracy, and Liz takes this time to do research (ha! Irony, that is) on marriage to try to make her peace with it. It's an incredibly well-written book and while it doesn't offer suggestions for how to handle your own marriage, it does contain a history, and general thoughts on the subject itself (including expectation, autonomy, ceremony, and others).
I've found a few other books that talk about this subject (a few? Try hundreds), and while I still want to keep reading up on the subject, I also think I need to take a break. Reading all these books about it only makes me overthink things, and I'm already a worrier ... so now that we're on the edge of the three-week countdown, I'm thinking that it would be much less stressful if I put my energy towards letting it ride ... I've made my decision, and I couldn't be happier with it. I love my Dear, and I'm so thrilled and lucky to be able to marry my sweetheart. To me, he's the most heartbreakingly handsome man in any room, and there aren't too many people who can make me laugh as hard. We have a great partnership, and we have everything that we need to take the next leap of faith. I'm tying on my Dear-shaped parachute and venturing forth.