What would marriage preparation look like? Would anybody be interested in pursuing a psycho-social educational program that would prepare people to make better and more informed decisions when it comes to marriage? I am an optimist as well as somebody who is interested in preventing marital problems before they get started, so I would say “yes.” Here is a program that I would like to create.
Marriage preparation begins the first day of your life as you are born into a family that will teach you an enormous amount of information and instill family values and patterns about how to conduct yourself in relationships. The amount of closeness, snuggling and cooing that you receive as an infant will be the start of your education into intimacy and sexuality and how you will deal with those issues as a young adult. I will never forget the scream from my spinster aunt, who was trying to help out in a crisis, when she “lost it” while trying to change my nephews smelly, poopy diaper. She runs out of the room, gagging and looking to vomit; I had to lunge to catch Kevin so that he wouldn’t fall off the changing table. Grabbing him into my arms, I now have poop all over my shirt and hands. Kevin is screaming because he has assimilated the frightened energy that was being conveyed by my aunt. What I needed to do was to comfort him and tell him that everything was OK. He was supposed to be having smelly, poopy diapers and it was a perfectly normal event. As I washed him up and spoke with him gently, I wanted to convey to him that his body was working well, that his butt and penis were clean and he should be proud of them later and they would produce a lot of pleasure for him someday if we don’t screw him up. Even at that young age, Kevin is building up an inventory of events that will form his attitudes and sensibilities about his sexuality.
So, we can see how early our sense of self starts to build. Somethings affect us more than others. We can bury alot that only comes out later in problematic behaviors. Our parents are our first relationship and sexuality educators. We were watching them like hawks, seeing how they related in good times and in bad, what they got angry about, how they made up, how long it took, who usually made up first. Were we allowed to run naked or was it a crisis to do that, more so if grandma was around. How were you told not to touch yourself, and why it is OK or not OK? Our sexuality education started formally in junior high school where we attend a formal class. But, our values, our worries, our insecurities were usually already planted at home.
I would recommend that every young adult 21years or older begin the journey of answering LIFE’s big questions: What is my purpose in life? Why am I here? What do I want to be doing while here to accomplish my purpose? What am I passionate about? How can I combine the answers to a career that will enable me to live with passion and accomplish not only my purpose but support my partner to reach his/her own. Continuing to ask and answer these questions is a lifelong, challenging process. I don’t think you should think about entering into a serious relationship until you have begun wrestling with these questions. Why waste time? After a few dates ask the question, “what is your purpose in life?” The answer will tell you whether or not it’s worth going forward.
I know, regrettably, that many of us older adults have not challenge ourselves with these questions, and this is why we have high first and second marriage divorce rates. I think there needs to be a program over several months that helps young adults confront and begin to answer some of these questions. It won’t appeal to everybody; but, I believe, that there are enough thoughtful, self-aware and right-minded young adults who see the potential quagmire that they have in front of them. “How do I live with passion and purpose? How do I find my soulmate if I haven’t found myself first?” These young adults would like to have some psycho-social educational program where they can get direction to challenge themselves and their peers to ask those big questions and seek answers. The title of such a program might sound something like this: “Saving Your Marriage, Before It Starts.”
The concept would be to have every young adult take a look at the positive and negative issues that they have received from living in their family of origin. There is always a lot of good gifts; you would have the young adult find those, accept them and honor them. But you can count on a few potentially crippling issues that are being passed from generation to generation – like, substance and spousal abuse, bullying, disrespect for women, overall fear, shyness, low self-esteem…on and on. My belief is that you have to open up and deal with the issues your parents left in your backpack…figure out how you thrived and survived, what defenses did you develop in childhood – and decide if those patterns and values will serve you well in your future relationships.
The young adults would begin to see that they have been participants in a drama that they had little or no control over – they were not the authors. Now, they have the chance to begin re-writing the story; they are the authors of their story. You are older and will be moving on and out in the next few years; you can see that you have to become the master of your own destiny, your future life. You are going to have to start working on your self-development. You have come out of your family with assets and liabilities; now you have the job of working on your liabilities before you meet another person (fall in love) and get entangled with their assets and liability.
The time between 18 and 29, which has recently been referred to as “adultolescence”- because it marks the much longer time period for self-examination and self-development. Many people weren’t aware that they were supposed to be working on self-awareness and personal self-improvement.
There will always be pressure to marry particularly as you age.
Resist the pressure. Do your own introspection. There is a lot of maturity and development that is supposed to take place between high school and committing to a spouse. Right now, there are few real programs set up to help you with that. The “marriage prep” programs offered by some churches are really too late. By the time a couple comes for the program, often coerced by the fact that the church won’t marry them unless they agree to do the “marriage prep” program, the couple has already announced their engagement, the wedding venue has been booked, they are in the “in love” phase. Not the time to do real self-introspection. You need to do your own personal introspection and work on answering the big questions before you get engaged
Only you can decide how much prep you need. But it should start early; and it is good to have someone to check in with when you begin to narrow the field and understand your own family dynamics affecting and underlying your decision. Let’s keep talking and continue the conversation in the comment below.