Thus begins the cascade of anxious thoughts that usually have the word “enough” somewhere in the sentence: Do I love him enough? Am I attracted enough to him? Do we have enough chemistry? We’ve all been bread on the romantic fantasy – pumped into our psyches from Jane Austen to Hollywood – that you just “know” when you’ve met “the one” and your massive “chemistry” will propel you into ecstasy as you fulfill the fantasy of the perfect engagement that leads to the perfect marriage. While my clients may rationally know that this is a fantasy, successfully shattering the fantasy and rebuilding the conditioning on solid ground requires intentional work and often guidance. If this work isn’t done, one or both partners will carry the false beliefs about love into their marriage and the ground for having an affair is laid – so to speak.
When an engaged woman or man calls me for counseling during their engagement and are so fraught with anxiety that they’re feeling sick, I try to impress upon them the fact they’re the lucky ones: the anxiety became so disruptive that they had to seek help and, by doing so, they found me and became more prepared for their marriage than the ones who flew through the engagement focusing more on their flower arrangements than their inner world. For there is nothing more important during an engagement than becoming emotionally prepared for the marriage transition.
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I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t promise a lifetime guarantee, but I can offer my clients a greater likelihood of succeeding in their relationships by providing them with the tools that will allow them to walk through the portal of marriage – the wedding – with as much consciousness as possible. Being conscious means recognizing that the engagement is a time to analyze your relationship, often putting it under a painfully high-resolution microscope. Being conscious means recognizing that the engagement, while on one level is a time to plan your wedding, on a deeper level is about preparing yourself emotionally and psychologically for marriage. Being conscious means accepting that you might not feel happy or excited for much of your engagement as you find yourself in foreign emotional territories and have to grapple with the enormity of making a lifetime commitment to the one you love. Being conscious is not always easy or fun, but it’s the only way to walk through any transition and emerge on the other side prepared for what the new life has to offer. And being conscious means you reduce the likelihood that you’ll have an affair in your first year because you’re entering marriage with your eyes wide open.