Crying Out for Love
My fiancé and I are getting married next month, and the process of planning a wedding as a couples counselor is an interesting one. As an Imago therapist, I very much believe in Harville Hendrix’s explanation of the journey of love – how, when we first fall in love, our partner can meet all our needs, and we believe that we’ve found the person who will help us feel whole for the rest of our lives. Then, as time goes on and life gets busy, we find that our partner can’t meet all our needs all the time, and we react to feeling unloved or unsupported in ways that we have learned from an early age. Some of us pull away, some of us get angry, some of us get sad, some of us get clingy, but all of us are, in our own way, crying out for love.
Being Fully Alive
Luckily, if we lean into these feelings and become more aware of what’s happening in this period of conflict, we get to understand ourselves better, understand our partners better, and we get to build a deeper relationship built on value, respect, knowledge, and care for one another. Life certainly doesn’t become perfect, but we get to become more fully alive as we learn to love our partner for their full self, and we get to reclaim pieces of our own selves that we long ago put away.
In the Beginning
It is a strange feeling to be given this roadmap of my relationship journey, knowing that my partner and I are at the very beginning of our own, and to be planning a joyful celebration of our love – in some ways, it can feel naive and, maybe, premature. I know that a wedding can be a joyful celebration of our love and of our future together, but I also fully understand that my partner and I have a lot of work left to do – and a lot of conflict to go through – before we begin to reach the stage of that fully alive, conscious love. In some ways, it feels like we’re celebrating running a marathon after the first 5K.
Writing Our Vows
This has put us in a particularly tricky position when it comes to writing our vows. Standing up in front of our friends and family and vowing to love each other for the rest of our lives is nice, but, at the end of the day, those vows are just words. The act of loving each other for the rest of our lives is what comes after the wedding is over. We want our vows to reflect that understanding, and, knowing that there will be times throughout our lives where we won’t be each other’s best friend or partner in crime, we want to be able to say something that rings true for us. Something that reflects our knowledge that the road ahead isn’t going to be easy, but it’s one that we want to go down together.
The Gift of Hindsight
In thinking this through, I’ve been wondering about couples who are further along in their journey than we are, and what they might say if they could go back to the moment when they shared their vows with one another.
- What might you have said then that you didn’t say?
- What did you say that you might not include now?
- If you were to renew your vows now, what would you vow for the next chapter of your lives together?
- What would be similar to the vows you shared your first time around, and what might be completely different?
- How would you include what you have learned from Imago in your vows?
- How has Imago shifted your view of the idea of wedding vows, or even of weddings in general?
If you’ve got any ideas or thoughts that are coming up as you read this, I invite you to share those with your partner – or you could craft them together! And please…help a girl out and send me any thoughts you have – I don’t have that much time left until the big day!