The Importance of Wedding Therapy

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is 69 days until my wedding day, and I have been unable to let go of this heavy feeling in my chest.  I spoke about it in an earlier post, but no matter how much meditation, running, yoga and general exercise that I do, I am still feeling this way. I woke up this morning thinking about how grateful I am that my fiance and I have a “Wedding  Therapist.”

Last night PJ and I had a session with our therapist.  So many things came up, and we addressed them.  I woke up feeling some residual things from that meeting, and there is more we will talk about next week.  So, based on my experience (2 weeks of Engagement Therapy so far) , I believe it is going well.  By well I don’t mean that it is not painful and often times challenging.  What I do mean is that this is allowing me to grow in ways that I could not have imagined.  I keep thinking to myself, “I did this therapy thing already for several years.” That is true for me, but there are times in one’s life when the old wounds come up again and again.  When you are about to start a new family and break away from your old one, how could you not think about the past and the things your parents did and did not do on your behalf.

Last night, our therapist asked us things like:

So, what do you each want to do differently in your relation to each other than what your parents did?

So, what do you want to do differently than your mother did?

These questions take me to a place of deep introspection and eventually allow me to clear away old crap that does not belong to me in order to make space for the life I want (and am having now) with PJ, but it is hard.

Let me see how I answered those questions:

I don’t want to ever allow myself to stand by and watch my husband treat me or our children badly without clearly stating the problem, letting him know what my expectations are and coming up with ways in which he can “repair” the damage done.  I know PJ would never lay his hands on me or our future children, but we are all deeply flawed and abuse is not the only way someone can break your trust.

I won’t mention what PJ said in his responses. That’s for him to share if he ever wants to.  But for now, I am telling you all of this because I felt a roller coaster of emotions inside.  I felt like saying ” I will never………” several times until I had exorcised those words out of me.

I believe that parenting (and marriage) are amazing challenges, opportunities and huge privileges that are available in this life, and we are either capable of accepting and honoring the challenge or not.  My parents were not.  They actually were really awful at it.  They were really great when it came to teaching us the importance of learning and being in the world as educated people, but parenting is not something you would find at the top of their life resumes.  This is just what it is, and I have accepted it.

So now, I have the chance to do things differently and I look forward to that opportunity.  So, all of this is just to say that this wonderful giddy time is just that: wonderful and giddy.  But it is also full of some very challenging emotions for every bride, but especially for you “thriving brides” out there.  From the time he gives you the ring until you say “I do”, there will be many issues that come up (personally and as a couple) no matter how much you love each other.

And I know that you are used to being strong. Well, we all usually are. How else would we have gotten to this point in the face of and despite our circumstances. I salute you for that!  I know that you may feel that you have already been so brave in your life.  I am asking you to be brave once again, and work with a professional therapist from the time you say “I do” until the altar.   In the end, it’s up to you.  But my guess is you want things to go well in the wedding planning process and going forward.  So Dear Bride, muster all the courage I know you have and get to talking about the difficult stuff.  He already loves you (and you him), so hopefully this will help you strengthen your relationship even more.

Your job is to let him give to you and get out of the way!

Dear Thriving Bride,

Is there something extra special that your soon to be husband wants to do for you? Does he want to take you on a surprise honeymoon? Maybe he wants to buy you some one of a kind (and expensive in your opinion) jewelry for you to wear on your wedding day and cherish for a lifetime?

My advice of the day is:

Just let him do it!

I know it may be hard, and a I know your eyes may already be popping out of their eye sockets just thinking about the cost of the wedding flowers. But guess what? This could be an opportunity for you to step back, give him permission to show his love to you in the way that he chooses to. As your prepare for this wonderful journey in life together, this might also be an opportunity for you take a look at what’s going on within you and maybe discover some places where you can fine tune your already fabulous self. I don’t like to give advise without getting specific and using my life as an example. After all, I’m here to tell you what I know and you can do with it what you’d like. Surprise!But most of your reading this might just want to know that I am real after all: real as in dealing with the challenges that I present to you and not holding back for the sake of privacy. This blog is not about privacy. It is about making room for all of our selves so that others can find a place to fit in. Now, onto using myself as an example. My dear man wants to bring a Nigerian band to our wedding. I love the idea, especially because this band is just amazing and we both have connections to the band leader. I have been concerned about money and I want to “stay within the budget.”

Yesterday PJ told me that he had found a way to make it happen and possibly someone to produce it, and I realized later that I did not immediately get excited when he told me this. Instead, my mind went to this place of concern and questions and PJ (to his credit) called me on it. He simply told me that he was trying to make this happen and was wondering if my responses were coming from the right place. Here’s a little information you should know:

So, my parents are most likely not coming.

Not because they can’t make the trip, but because they are not good at supporting me unconditionally. They want to come as long as we do this and that, which seems to change all the time. I know that Peter wants to bring the band to really have a very unique  element to make our wedding unforgettable, but I also because he wants me to have the “feeling” of a Nigerian wedding and not be sad about their absence. The truth is, I am not sad about their absence.

I am sad about the feeling that I will not have people there who love me unconditionally and are always there for me no matter what who feel like parents. So, I solved that dilemma by reaching out to my Fairy God Parents (yes, that is who they are and it works out quite well) and my other parents who live here and the emotional roller coaster I was going through has settled down a bit. These people have committed to supporting me, and now I feel a lot stronger going forward.

So, if PJ wants to bring me that slice of joy that he hopes will make this day everything and more for me, then I will allow him to do so. Who am I to say what he can and cannot do for me on this special day? Once I realized what was really going on within me, I could let it go. And by the way, after the worry fades away most of us feel really blessed and really touched that we chose such a caring partner. 71 more days Dear Brides. I hope you will continue the journey with me!

How do you want to feel on your wedding day?

Dear Thriving Bride,

I believe most women have certain things in common.  We want to be loved for who we are (on the inside and out) and to feel beautiful even when we are not feeling beautiful.

I recently spoke to my “brother” Mike and asked him to walk me down the aisle.

I have known Mike since I first arrived on the University of California, Berkeley campus almost 15 years ago, and we were part of a small group of East Coasters who ended up at Berkeley.  So, we became close and Mike has seen me in almost every adult relationship I have had.

Mike is my brother by “experience”, even though we don’t share blood.  I know, that no matter what, he will show up and support me whenever I need him to.  I know he will beat  bad boyfriends and hunt down the ones in hiding.  Thankfully, I haven’t had to worry too much about bad boyfriends, but I know Mike is there when I need him.

I told you that I spoke to him the other day, but I did not tell you why.

Let me slow down and give you a little background.  In 2001, my younger brother died in a car accident, one day shy of his 18th birthday.  In 2007, my older brother died in Nigeria. I was not close to my older brother.  In fact, he sexually and physically abused me and my younger brother.  I did not have much to say to him, and when I was younger I always found myself shaking uncontrollably when he was around.  Despite this history, his death made me realize that I had no brothers.

Today is day 82.

There are 82 days until I get married. I had a pact with my younger brother: when i got married, he would walk me down the aisle.  I miss him even more now, but as I got really sad, I remembered a moment I had with Mike.  After both of my brother’s had died, I found NY Yankees cap that belonged to my younger brother and gave it to Mike while I asked him to be my brother.  He said he would, and we cried together on some street in New York city.

I miss my brother, but I needed to decide how to get the essence of my emotions and pack it into that day.  I can’t change my parents’ behavior nor can I bring my brother back, but I can feel the love and support on my wedding day from my brother Mike.

Mike said he will be there.  I get to have my brother walk me down the aisle.  Figure out how you want to feel and find ways to make it happen.  I wanted to feel loved and supported by my brother, and how lucky am I to receive this gift!

Different Kind of Bride Essentials

Dear Thriving Bride,

There are 72 days before I am to marry PJ, and the dish of the day is this:

The day started early with a morning walk, then a bathroom break at a friends house (they were also preparing to host a wedding at their luxurious Bed and Breakfast) which turned into breakfast with members of the wedding who had arrived from Austin.  All of this is to say that the day has just begun really and it is only about 12:30 in the afternoon, but the advice I have for you today is this:

Find something to do every day that relaxes you and reduces your stress level.

I was feeling kind of down yesterday after talking wedding/ budget/ wedding/ budget/ chairs/ flowers and flower girls with PJ.  You see, it’s almost its own bizarre language.  At the end of yesterday evening, we were both exhausted and wanted nothing more but to crawl into our beds and sleep. The thing is, getting married is like having a baby.  You don’t get time off. You are working and doing whatever else it is that you need to do while you are also getting ready for an important day.

The thing to remember is this: Think more about how you want to essentially feel on that day and less about the form of it.  If you want to feel luxurious, splurge on some beautiful pearls and ditch the gold bracelet from your great aunt if that doesn’t resonate with you (remember to kiss her on the cheek several times as you let her know that you would totally love to wear it on another occasion).  It is the day to be your best self, which you try to cultivate everyday the only difference being that on this day you get to parade it around.  Now, isn’t that a show to put on and be proud of!

I said “yes”, now what?

Dear Thriving Bride,

So, he must have planned out the exact moment to ask you, and I sure hope it was really special!  You’ve got that fantastic piece of  blindingly beautiful “bling” on your left hand,  and it’s a sign of pride for you as well as a great conversation starter.  This is supposed to be your moment of bliss and all you can think about is planning the wedding.

Let me stop you here.  The wedding will happen and it will be beautiful, but the most valuable lesson I have learned is that the process to the wedding is just as incredible of a journey.  Let me tell you why:

We’ve already agreed that the purpose of this blog is to acknowledge the circumstances that might make your wedding more non-traditional than those of the other women you know getting married everywhere you turn.  Your friends may spend every weekend shopping for wedding dresses with their sisters, aunts and mothers while you find yourself wondering who you will bring on that fun-filled shopping day.

Let me stop you again.  This is a guide for brides with challenging circumstances that want and deserve  just as wonderful of a wedding day as anyone else.  Maybe you are dealing with a chronic illness?  Maybe your parents have passed away?  Maybe you don’t have any parents for reasons that aren’t my business (or anyone else’s ) to ask?  It does not matter.  You have the set of circumstances that make this happy time difficult as well.  But, I am here to tell you that the other side of dealing with difficult circumstances looks like this:  you can “survive”, which is great (yeah you!), you can move away from surviving and always waiting for the next catastrophe and finally start to “live.” And, if you choose to, you may just be able to “thrive.”

I am here speaking from experience.  When we survive, we only know how to live using the same patterns of behavior that we relied on when we were deeply in the midst of the specific trauma.  When we live, we stop operating that way and realize that we have the power to make our own decisions.  And when we thrive, we live our best lives possible understanding that our stories and who we are in the present moment are two very related but different things.

I said yes

How I was instructed be subtle
when showing off the ring

 

So, give yourself a lot of credit here.  He asked you to marry him and you said yes!  Are you ready to be a thriving bride?  I hope you are because he’s ready to marry you and it helps if you can be a bad ass bitch.  Yes, I curse too!  Sometimes, these are the only words that best explain the circumstance, and this is exactly who you will become.  So keep flashing that ring, and follow me:

After you say yes, you should consider:

1. Calling up the people who you consider family (blood, experience, etc) and letting them know.

2. Making a list of all the ways in which your “difficult circumstances” affected you in the past and may still be affecting you as you plan to marry.

My list looks something like this.  I was feeling sorry for myself, so I did it in the form of questions.

1. What am I going to say when everyone asks why my parents are not there?

2. Maybe my older sister will come so I’ll have family there?

3. Who will walk me down the aisle now that my younger brother is dead?

4. How will we pay for it with my parents out of the picture.  Will PJ’s (my fiance) mother contribute?

5. Will my kids ever know their biological grandparents?

And the list goes on.  The point is to make the list when you have a minute, and to allow yourself to go through all the emotions that may happen while making this list.  Then, when you are ready (but before you actually start planning) share this list with your fiance and let him know that you’d like to talk to him about ways you can honor your feelings and still get the things that you think you won’t get based on your list.  Give it a try! And feel free to let me know how it goes.  I am a very curious person!

 

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