As we celebrate tomorrow’s BIG EVENT here in the UK – The Royal Wedding, here is one of the chapters I contributed to in the new book “All in One Marriage Prep” that I sent to Prince William and Kate Middleton.
As regulars of my blog will know I kindly received a lovely message back from Buckingham Palace thanking me for my gift.
Congratulations you are getting married –
“The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.”
~ Barbara De Angelis. Relationship Expert
Would you get in your car and set off from London to Edinburgh without a map or turning on your Sat Nav?
So why it is that most couples don’t ever think of what they are trying to achieve with regard to their aspirations dreams hopes and expectations with regard to marriage and having a family?
Did you know that sex, money, and children, are the most commonly argued issues within marriage?
So that’s why it makes sense to have that “chat” before you tie the knot but most people I meet never really discuss these issues before they get married as they feel it’s all a bit “unromantic” but finding out whether your partner wants children really is a major issue within a relationship.
I have met many people through my work as a Parent and Relationship Coach, who come to me after they discover that their partner really doesn’t want children, or they come to me after they discover that their partner doesn’t feel “ready” for children.
Naturally, people get married for all sorts of reasons: because they have fallen madly in love, they want to start a family, they want to celebrate and acknowledge their love for each other publically, or they want to settle down or they want to have children.
Others get married because they want to make themselves feel secure, they fear being alone, they feel they are “getting on a bit,” they want the big dream wedding or they are getting married for the sake of the children, or I have even known some people getting married as they want to recover from a divorce.
You may have many more reasons why you want to marry but the most important thing is that you and your partner have fully discussed your reasons and that you’re both really confident that you share the same values, beliefs, motivation, intentions, common goals and direction, as well as the same sort of humour – as a smile is a curve that puts a lot of things straight in a marriage!
As small children we learn about relationships by watching our parents and these messages often sink deep into our unconscious mind, waiting to pop up when we become wives or husbands ourselves.
It’s perfectly natural to have doubts and fears as well as high expectations about getting married – it’s one of the biggest decisions we make in our lives. But as long as you and your partner can openly share your feelings, support and reassure each other, and openly communicate about all sorts of things, chances are you’re on the right track.
I remember coaching a couple who came to explore work-life balance issues discovering that one of the partners didn’t want children.
It came as a huge surprise to the fiancé who had to take the next week really pondering about the implications of what his partner had said.
I’ve also worked with people who came to me for divorce coaching as they both went into the marriage knowing that one of them didn’t want children but the other partner secretly believed that they would change their mind over time. They didn’t.
A simple exercise
Here’s a simple but really effective exercise that I do with couples that come to me for Coaching.
Grab a cup of coffee and a pen, turn off your mobile phone and make sure you won’t be interrupted for the next half and hour or so.
Find six sheets of paper each and write the headings below at the top of each sheet.
(These headings are taken from one of the common marriage ceremonies. You may have chosen something different for yourselves, so choose to work on those instead if you prefer)
To have and to hold
From this day forward
For better, for worse
For richer, for poorer
In sickness and in health
To love and to cherish
Take as much time as you need to write under each heading what you think each one is about. All the things you hope, dream and wish for yourself and your partner and also be totally honest with yourself about your doubts and your fears. Just relax and breathe deeply and slowly and allow whatever comes up to come out on to the paper.
You may be surprised but this is an excellent way to gain clarity, direction and focus about what marriage and having a family means to you.
On the first sheet write:
To have and to hold – what does being a couple mean? Where do you stand on faithfulness, loyalty, respect and sharing? How much time do you want to spend together and apart? What things will you share and what should be private?
From this day forward – what are your feelings about commitment? How do you feel about divorce? How might the relationship change over the years? Where do children fit into your plans? How many children do you want? Do you share the same views on religion, education and discipline? How will you feel if you can’t have children?
For better for worse – how will you keep intimacy going in your relationship? How will you manage differences? What will you do if big issues arise?
For richer for poorer – what does marriage mean to you financially? Will your attitudes towards employment change? Do you have the same values around working, money and spending? What do you feel about staying home to look after children, carrying on working, or childcare – whose job is it to bring up the children? How will you share getting up in the night, staying off work or changing nappies?
In sickness and in health – how will you support each other during ill health and times of sadness and difficulty?
To love and to cherish – how will love be demonstrated in your marriage? How important will sex be in your relationship?
Once you’ve finished, take some time to talk through what you’ve written. Think about where some of your feelings have come from.
If doing this exercise leaves you feeling uncomfortable or with concerns about your relationship, try getting clear about why you love this person and what you want and expect from a relationship and then find some quiet time to talk your feelings, worries, anxieties or concerns through with your partner or a trusted friend, or a trained counsellor.
A high-level marriage isn’t just a ring and a piece of paper it’s the way you treat each other every day. So take time to ponder the important issues before you commit and make sure you are clear about the general direction you are going because when your toddler keeps you up 4 nights in a row looking for her Cinderella handbag you need to have the bigger picture very clearly in your head about where you are both going and why you are going there together.
Here is another very illuminating exercise that I also do with couples that I work with.
Looking back from your rocking chair
I want you to imagine you’re well into your 90’s, your children have grown up and had families of their own. Picture this very clearly in your mind.
You’re surrounded by your wonderful family.
How does that feel?
What would your son or daughter say is the best thing about having you as a Mum or Dad?
What do they love most about you?
How do they describe you to their children?
How do you want them to describe you to their children?
How would that make you feel?
What steps can you take to make sure that happens?
If you could ask your future self just one question, what would it be?
What would be the answer?
What have been the highlights in your family relationships?
What will your children tell their own kids
What kind of parent do you want them to be?
What values do you want them to demonstrate?
When they look back at their childhood, what do you want them to remember?
What memories have you built in them that will last forever?
What wonderful stories about their childhood will they share with their own children?
What steps can you take from now on to make sure that happens?
Building happy family memories definitely doesn’t depend on how much money you spend on your kids or whether they’ve got the latest I-pod, Gameboy or trainers. It depends on the time and attention and love you give them. It depends on the funny moments, the traditions, the being together times.
So take some time and consider the answers to those questions and think about what memories you would you like your children to have.
Write your thoughts down – it clarifies and focuses you on what you want to achieve
Now take a deep breath and smile.
Remember a smile is a curve that puts a lot of things straight!
I wish the happy couple a wonderful life together, happiness, joy and loads of laughter.