Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Weddings, dresses, and messes? (Harold’s response)
First, let me say how glad I am that the big wedding day has arrived. It seems like Rob and Celia have gone through a tremendous amount of growth since their online debut on Digital Marriage. I certainly hope their journey has been an educational one for engaged and married couples in cyberspace. With that said...
Have you ever built something up to be a towering, show-stopping issue only to find out that it really isn't--or maybe it only holds such power in your mind? Think about your own intimate relationships. What are some instances where you've believed that certain action or inaction would be the catalyst for calamity of near global proportion?
Celia has been trying to protect her mother's feeling for a long time relative to her father's level of involvement in the wedding, particularly as it involves his "other family." She has sweated through decisions only to see that some of her assumptions and worries appear unfounded. Her mother seems to see what I think Celia was also hoping--that her wedding day would be a transition point, a day of healing for the family.
We'll see how it all works out. But, the early signs suggest that Celia's wedding dress isn't the only "old" thing that has become "new." I see some old ways of relating giving ground to some news ones. I see some old assumptions being replaced by some new realities. That is exciting because that is the ultimate beauty of marriage--bringing together that which was separate.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Weddings, dresses, and messes?
Celia asked Rob to trust her as
a partner about their financial future and everything else they will face
together, and Rob heard her and agreed.
Rob’s crisis of panic passed and their wedding day has arrived.
was in the “bride’s room” of the church where for the last couple years she had
worked as the part-time choir director.
But today she was getting married here, and she was confident that she
and Rob were starting out well.
before the mirror, she waited as her older sister Catherine took a couple
stitches on the hem of her dress.
Catherine had made over their mother’s beaded princess wedding gown from
the eighties into something quite stylish, a simple sheath made from the fabric
of that dress’s full gathered skirt, with some minimal beaded lace detail. This project had begun as a way to save
money on the wedding, but it had evolved into a challenge of sorts wherein they
had determined to use only the material from the old dress and absolutely
nothing else. Catherine had
created a small pillbox hat from the stiff bodice of the old dress and attached
a sophisticated pouf of net from its crinoline as the veil.
touched up her lipstick as Catherine trimmed the thread and stood up. They looked in the mirror
together, equally pleased with the final result, and hugged one another
carefully so as not to muss the look.
over Celia’s shoulder during the hug, Catherine said, “Dad’s here.”
turned around and looked out the window toward the church’s parking lot. Sure enough, it was her father, looking
slightly older than when she had last seen him four years ago. Celia had wrestled with the decision to
invite him since the family had never really made peace over his leaving. Suddenly, though the wedding felt very
small – their decision to keep it to twenty-five family members and a handful
of close friends meant that there was no avoiding him.
she realized he was not alone. “Oh
my God,’ she said. “He brought
enough, he was with his second wife Jeanne and their daughter Charity, whom
Celia had not seen since she was a baby.
Once she had decided to invite her father, she had explicitly asked that
he not bring his second family along to
the wedding, since she feared that would be stressful for her mother. She did not want to have to take care
of her mother on her wedding day.
was stunned to have been so directly ignored. Then she saw her mother, looking svelte in her
mother-of-the-bride ensemble, walk up to her father and embrace him as if he
were an old friend. Having
done so, she shook Jeanne’s hand pleasantly – Celia’s mind raced to remember if
they had ever met before; sure, when the parents were still managing Celia’s
visitation, they must have. Then
Mom said hello to Charity and turned to walk them to the courtyard.
invited them,” Celia said out loud as the realization hit her. “Did you know about this?” she asked
Catherine. Catherine shook her
does Celia do next?
Friday, October 02, 2009
Putting the “honey” back in the Honeymoon (Harold’s response)
Fear is an amazing emotion. I recently read this new book titled, Fearless by Max Lucado. I loved the book. You can read my review of it at http://www.haroldarnold.com. God wired us to experience fear. Fear is essential for survival. We fear harm to self and others so we take defensive steps to protect ourselves and those who we care about. But, the other side of fear is its negative consequences. And, there is little rationality to many of our fears. We think thus fear the worse.
Well, Rob has been experiencing a plethora of somatic (body) and psychological symptoms of fear. Fear about the future and all that it holds weighs heavily on Rob's mind. And, it has caused him to try to act and reduce that fear. Rob isn't alone. We all become entranced by these fears. These fears often cause us to engage in maladaptive patterns with those who we care about.
Rob and Celia are doing a good thing in this episode. They are facing the situation and exploring what is going on. I think they'll come to see that the anxiety caused by a fear of the unknown and change are the real culprits here. The sure way to overcome fear is faith. Rob has to have unwavering faith that he has a fiancee who is ready to embark upon a lifetime journey with him. Yes, there will be difficult bumps in the road. But, they have the tools to handle them. And, when they struggle they always have their therapist Carolyn to provide support.
What fears are impacting your relationships? Have faith!
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Putting the “honey” back in the Honeymoon (Joanne’s response)
The issue Rob and Celia are facing was born in part in Rob's inclination to process internally, draw his own conclusion, and declare a plan of action. This makes for decisive, in-control single people, but it can cause trouble in intimate relationships wherein shared decision making is the ideal. Rob knows this unconsciously; it is why he wakes up with his heart racing in the middle of the night, panicked and feeling alone. This is an example of how individual boundaries protect not just an individual, but a couple. By speaking up, Celia is protecting not just her voice and her honeymoon, but she is alerting Rob that this way of being in partnership is not partnership -- yet. She wants and expects better for herself, for Rob, and for their marriage. Turning toward the one you love when you are in need is not just a luxury available in good marriages. It is a requirement for growth in all intimate relationships.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Putting the “honey” back in the Honeymoon
Rob and Celia are finally
face-to-face to discuss money and honeymoon. Celia opened their lunchtime
conversation by telling Rob, “I will probably never make more money than you,
even when I do get a full-time job.
If this is a problem, you need to let me know now.”
that Celia was in front of him, holding his hand and speaking directly about
what she felt, Rob felt terrible.
don’t mind that you make less money,” Rob said. “I’m sorry about what I said earlier.” He paused. “I have been worrying about money more and more lately.”
have you been worrying about money?”
Celia said. “Our income
will be the same but our expenses will actually be lower for the first few
months when I am no longer paying rent on my apartment. I hope to have a real job by the time
my student loan comes due next year.
And if I don’t, we can cut expenses somewhere else.”
had had this conversation before, and Rob had signed off willingly on the plan
at the time. “I know all
nodded. “OK.” She withdrew her hand from his and
began to unwrap the other sandwich.
“But it doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me that you are feeling this
way right before our wedding. So
what’s going on?”
was a good question, why with no warrning for the last month Rob had been
waking up in the middle of the night with his heart and thoughts racing over
his future – their future – house and kids and college funds and even paying
for a wedding decades in the future for some potential daughter whose
conception was still years away.
And medical expenses! How
long could he count on the good insurance his firm provided him? And retirement. He felt so alone during those times of
panic that he had no idea how to begin to share it with Celia.
don’t really know what’s going on,” Rob said. “I have no idea.”
He went back to eating his sandwich.
Celia said. “Do you want to get
Rob said without hesitance. As he
heard the words come out of his mouth he was reassured by the sound of his own
assurance. “Yes, I do.” Rob looked up at Celia and saw her
clearly for the first time all day.
This was a real person he was marrying, a real, smart person who knew
how to be a partner. He remembered
Celia’s ministrations to him when he had the flu last winter, when Celia had
decided she was ready to get engaged.
Suddenly he realized that when he woke up panicking in the middle of the
night, she would be there, and he could turn to her. About money, or about whatever this is about, or about
whatever this would be about in the future. And then it would be all right.
were they fighting again? Right --
does Celia respond to Rob?
Friday, September 25, 2009
Facing the Fears (Joanne’s response)
Remember when the royal marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Di came to an ugly and public end? I remember reading one account of Diana's reticence before the wedding when she realized that Charles had no intention of ending his relationship with Camilla. "But your face is already on the tea towels," Diana's sister told her when she voiced her concerns -- as if to say, too late, this train has left the station, you have dug your grave now lie in it, and so on. Ignore the red flags, the sister seemed to advise. It is too messy to raise them now.
Bless Celia for raising the flags and risking a mess. I appreciate that she realizes,when perhaps Rob does not yet, that this issue (whether it is money or something deeper) may delay their wedding if it is not resolved, and that is OK with her. Because Celia can handle the possible consequences of speaking up, she is strong enough to do so. Diana, or at least Diana's confidant, did not believe the consequences of speaking up were worth the price that would be paid. Celia is keeping the long-term perspective on the marriage with each short-term wedding decision she makes. Oh, that Diana had possessed such wisdom.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Facing the Fears (Harold’s response)
I love this episode. Boy meets girl for lunch. Akwardness is evident. What do I say? Then, there it is...
Celia has put the cards on the table to bring this supposed "money issue" to the forefront. Is this really about money? In our last posts both Joanne and I sensed that something else was going on. Maybe Celia senses it too. When your gut feel is telling you something, Celia's gives us a perfect example of how to respond--at least in intimate relationships. First, Face it! When facing the issue both parties benefit when this is done in a loving attitude. Celia shows this by gently taking Rob's hand. This non-verbal action says that "I care about you." The second step is, Name It! Celia bluntly states that there will always be a disparity in their income. So, what do we do with that? She has now put it squarely into Rob's grill.
The next time you and your partner have a disagreement use Celia's model. Face It! Name It! Leave us a comment for what happens. BTW, don't forget about showing that non-verbal love action before you face it.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Facing the Marriage Fears
"Ann Arbor’s a great place! It’s a college town,” Rob said over the phone to Celia, as he tried to convince her that his accounting conference would provide a romantic yet nearly free honeymoon. “I am trying to take care of both of us here.”
Celia sighed on her end of the phone. “If you need to tell your boss about this by two o’clock, then I need to see you for lunch.” To her surprise, Rob immediately agreed – Celia had feared he would either refuse to end the conversation now or hem and haw about changing his lunch plans at the last minute. Celia would have to reschedule a meeting with the church organist, but if Rob could be flexible, so could she.
Celia waited for Rob at a table in the lobby of his building. She had bought sandwiches, chips, and bottles of ice tea from the snack bar. She would typically have picked a sandwich and already started to eat, but she thought she would let Rob pick first from the roast beef or turkey. It seemed like a nice gesture and a nice gesture might go a long way. But toward what? Try as she might, Celia could not figure out what direction to take right now. It was a real possibility that this lunch conversation might end with delaying – or canceling – the wedding. At least that would be the outcome, Celia thought, if Rob persisted in pushing his perspective without giving hers any credence at all. She watched the elevator doors for Rob.
There he was, looking buttoned-down in his khakis and pressed shirt. Celia’s mother had been thrilled to learn that Rob ironed his own shirts so that Celia would not have to. It was a quaint notion from another time and place that Celia would “have” to. But, perhaps “maid” will be in her job description in Rob’s mind, especially if he has a problem with Celia making less money. Ugh. When did this thing get so ugly? Or maybe there had always been an ugly thread lurking right beneath the surface. I should be glad it’s out before the wedding, she thought, as Rob spotted her and walked her way.
The awkwardness was palpable as Rob pulled out the chair opposite Celia and sat down. Neither of them had said hello, and they had not made eye contact after their initial spotting of one another. He began unwrapping a sandwich. He had not even looked at the labels to see which one he wanted.
Mid-unwrap he stopped and looked at Celia. “Hi,” he said.
Celia did not reply at first, but reached over and took his hand. “Hi,” she said then. They sat in silence for a long moment, looking at their intertwined fingers on the table between them. Celia tried to sense her love for Rob. It was there, but muted.
Rob broke the silence. “How are you?” he said. Celia could not tell if he was trying to ease into the conversation or if he was waiting for her to apologize.
“Rob,” Celia said. “I will probably never make more money than you, even when I do get a full-time job. If this is a problem, you need to let me know now.”
How does Rob respond?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Financing the Honeymoon with Ruining the Marriage (Harold’s response)
This is one of those points where Joanne and I disagree--well sorta. Joanne suggests that the latest conflict between Rob and Celia isn't about money yet the conversation seems all about money. So, I say the conflict is about money--well sorta. What accounts for this apparent disconnect?
Well, what is happening to Rob and Celia is the same thing that happens to a lot of couples in intimate relationships. We argue and focus on surface issues often without realizing that there is a significant emotional reservoir underneath that is fueling the issue.
On the surface of the current conflict Rob is determined to save money on their honeymoon and advance his position at work. Celia is just as determined that this money-saving idea is ridiculous. Rob and Celia can continue to argue about the economics of their respective stances. They may even come to a compromise. The bigger question, however, is exactly what is underneath Rob's concern? If they don't figure it out you can be sure that it will rise again.
My suggestion to Celia is to deal with the issue at hand with an eye towards understanding what is driving Rob's seemingly odd request. So, deal with honeymoon financing but make an investment in the marriage by treading lightly.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Financing the Honeymoon Without Ruining The Marriage (Joanne’s response)
Since Harold attaches the titles to our weekly chapters, his latest title confirms what I suspected from his last comment: he still thinks that this is about money. While there may be legitimate financial concerns about planning a honeymoon, Rob and Celia are not arguing about money. They have some money for a honeymoon, though it won't be three weeks at a Hawaiian resort. They had talked about a week at a Great Lakes resort within driving distance of Columbus, a good example of a romantic honeymoon on a budget. Nor had we ever heard a concern voiced about their post-marriage finances. Rob has already been paying for his bachelor pad on his own -- they will live more cheaply as two in one home. Of course a prudent couple plans for their financial future and they will soon take on a new batch of student loans. But for some reason Rob is panicking. He is therefore stubbornly attached to this honeymoon idea as a defense and is therefore unable to hear Celia. They need to understand what is at play here before they head down the aisle -- or at least agree to figure it out later.
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