December 19, 2009

The CFHFP: Session IV

Dear Madman,
You know how, when you graduate from high school and college, there are counselors and advisers present to help you with the transition? To guide you through the next phase? How come there isn't a complimentary service like that for newlyweds? What are your two cents on that?

Erin from Downtown LA

p.s. A whole week without a post? Que pasa?


Dear Erin,

Thanks for reading! And please forgive the week-long absence. Like millions of other Americans out there who were raised Catholic but now have no religious leanings because we cling to our computers instead of a higher being ... I have become engrossed in the Christmas shopping spirit, surfing Amazon for hours at a time and, for certain gifts, having to leave the house and make an in-person purchase. Absurd how the world works, isn't it?

And absurd too about the serious lack of preparation for the married life. You bring up a great point. The officiant reminds the bride and groom about the importance of promise and love and commitment, perhaps sharing an anecdote or two (at which point all the married folks in the audience collectively nod and smile), but that's it. No real advice. No meat and potatoes.

Sure, there's pre-marriage counseling, but let's face it: in this AWSM economic plateau, most couples can't afford both a wedding and private counseling. It's one or the other. And that conversation goes like this:

1E: Honey, I was looking over our finances, and I wanted to ask you something.
2E's: Of course, sweetheart, you can ask me anything.
1E: Well, I thought we could benefit from some pre-marriage couple's counseling, but we can't realistically afford both that and the wedding. So I just wanted to ask you which is more important to you.
2E's: Which WHAT is more important to me?
1E: Um, (suddenly sweating) the pre-marriage couple's counseling, or ... (1st cough) the ... (2nd cough) wedding?
2E's: (silence)
1E: I mean, I'm not saying the wedding isn't important.
2E's: (silence with eyebrow raise)
1E: The wedding is very important to both of us. I just didn't know if it was as important as the marriage lasting.
2E's: (silent eyebrow raise with angry arm cross)
1E: That's not to say ... of course we're going to be married a long time. Until we die, in fact. I just wanted to give you the option because I know you care about it more than me.
2E's: (silent arms-crossed eyebrow raise with frosted "I own you" gaze)
1E: You know what, I'm gonna stop now while I -
2E's: Good idea.

Of course, there are other options out there aside from exorbitant therapy from licensed professionals, like:

1. Seek out un-exorbitant therapy from unlicensed professional-seeming people through sites like Craigslist. Key words and phrases to look out for are "insurance not accepted," "fee negotiable" and "I've been doing this for a long time."

2. Read a book on the issue. For centuries, people have found motivation in the pages of self-improvement books with topics like weight loss, guitar and witchcraft. And let's be honest ... if you can read a book and cast a spell, you can certainly save your marriage.

3. Ask a married friend for advice. Buy him or her a drink(s) and let them spill their guts. And don't shoot for perfection -- friends with rocky marriages will have the most to bring to the table.

4. Make coupons for the future. One that reads, Let's Pick This Up Again After We've Had Some Ice Cream, or even better, I'm Not Actually Sorry But Just Pretend That I Am. You can print these out together before the wedding and them use them against each other once the knot's been tied. Crises diverted! Marriage saved!!

Of course, the alternative is to find that counsel in the person standing across from you at the altar. Shed that anxiety and learn to be as honest and open as possible long before you say your vows. In no time at all you'll be sharing names and bank accounts; why not get some practice in early by sharing your fears, hesitations and reservations with the person who knows you better than you know yoursefl. Step out of planning mode every once in a while and clue your partner in to how you feel, whether that feeling is "I don't know how to be a good husband" or "I want to wear knee-high leather boots under my wedding dress."

And in the instance you slip and say something stupid --

1E: I do care about the wedding, I just didn't know you needed a bouquet.

-- maybe have that always-handy coupon cut-out and on-hand that reads, "Men aren't perfect. Thank god you are."

Works every time.


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