“Individuals about to be wedded should consider how they can purify and discipline themselves before and after marriage, and (consider how they can deal with) their preferences and traits that need understanding on the part of the other partner. These topics should be condensed and put into a notebook which will be reviewed each anniversary or whenever an occasion warrants.” –From “The Symbolic Meaning of Marriage,” By Rev. Flower Newhouse
The best wedding present any encore couple can receive is a roadmap to their future–a marriage manual prepared especially for them.
This would be a book that utilized the wisdom gained in the past and casts and eye toward their future. It tells them what marriage will be like, how they can sidestep old relationship patterns and new family issues, where they will be in five years, or a decade, how to blend existing families and how they’ll know if when it’s right to have kids or whether they will, and what to do to keep love alive in times when life challenges the vows you make on your wedding day.
It would be something that paints a picture for the future they choose to share.
This is not a gift provided by your minister, priest, rabbi or family. Although clergy and loved ones may help you along, it is something that a couple must create for themselves. Your personal marriage manual is based on who you are as individuals and what you plan to create together. It’s something that would include and acknowledge your vulnerable spots and provide a sense of direction in times of challenge. Although life throws it’s curves, a loving marriage, with a solid commitment as its foundation, can weather more than you’d imagine when you start off with a game plan and map out your intentions for the future. And it can be fun!
What you need: Buy a loose leaf note book, white and colorful loose leaf paper, scissors, glue and some pretty pens. Treat your manual like a very special homework assignment. You can do some of your writing on the computer, and later insert those pages in the manual, or write directly in the book, depending on what’s most comfortable for you both.
Step One: Create a Mission Statement For Your Marriage
The first step of any new enterprise is to create a mission statement. This applies to your marriage, as well. Brainstorm, discuss, process and bat around ideas until you come up with a Marriage Mission Statement. This is your mutual intention for marriage; it is what you want to be and build together. It can have one sentence or reflect a number of ideas. For example:
Our union gives us strength, power and fortitude to deal with all of life’s ups and downs, and it empowers us to contribute to others and the world. We are best friends, confidantes and partners, and we have many close relationships with people we consider “spiritual family.” We are a couple who inspire others with our love and who model what it is to be in a great relationship.
Step Two: Expand your Vows
The vows you speak at your wedding will tend to be romantic, and on the short side. Give the wedding vows you exchange a special page of honor in your manual and expand them into a longer definition of your intentions for marriage. You can add in all the things you thought of afterwards, or the things that were too personal to share in public. These are very personal statements the two of you can come up with together.
We treat our love as sacred and we are responsible for managing our relationship. While we include others in our circle of love, we never take our issues outside the relationship, or talk negatively about each other to relatives because this dissipates our sacred bond. We consult each other on all major life issues, purchases and plans and yet give one another freedom and space to be individual and do our own thing
Add in anything that you desire. Over time, add to the vows as your learn more about what you both hold dear in married life
Step Three: Make A Life Plan and Put It In Writing
Sound unromantic? You’ll be glad to have something in writing if you find yourself flailing about during that first year, wondering “is this how married life is supposed to be?” Make it fun to commit to your lives together on paper. A couple can create a book of wish lists and dreams as well as a timeline for their future: In a year we’ll have a house; in five years a child. But is can also contain the more emotional and spiritual aspects of life together: we’ll go to church or synagogue together; we’ll spend 10 minutes every day just gazing into one another’s eyes, etc… In the process of planning together, you will get to know more about each other, and get a sense of those areas where you are likely to disagree or need personal space. Freedom for each partner to pursue their own dreams must also be part of your plan, so that you each have the flexibility to pursue personal career goals and interests. Include three timelines and make them flexible — make them “within” a certain time line, instead of “in” a certain amount of time. The headings can be: Within One Year, Within Five Years and Within Ten Years. Be realistic but dare to dream. For example, if you know you want a house but do not have the funding, don’t pressure yourselves or be unrealistic by placing it in the “within one year” timeline. Give yourselves five years. That way, you can still focus on it, and maybe even attain it in a year … but without undue pressure.
Step Four: Picture Your Future
Visual language is powerful. Cut photos from magazines that illustrate the essence of your ideal life together and paste them in your personal marriage manual. Superimposed photos of yourself in a picture of that fabulous vacation spot, or cut out a happy family picture that represents how you’d like it to be, with the number of kids you’d like to have. Visual cues give strong messages to the subconscious. Working together to find the images, and place them in the book, will begin to expand your picture of life together. These images are as powerful as prayers. In fact, they are visual prayers.
Step Five: Document the Good Times to Create More
Establish rituals that make you both feel loved and happily married. In his book, Soul Mates, Thomas Moore talks of those little life rituals that make the soul feel content. These are usually mundane yet sacred elements of living that keep the two of you connected, keep your dreams alive and accentuate your togetherness. It’s these things — a call from the office every day, a romantic dinner at home on Fridays, going to your favorite restaurant or Inn once a year — that keep you both aligned with the goals you set forth. List these in your manual as things that you do with, and for, each other. And document them with memory pages — ticket stubs, a post card of a special locale, a menu from a restaurant where you had a romantic dinner. When you establish loving rituals to look forward to, they will never become boring. They become a part of who you are, together.
Step Six: Include Plans For Dealing With The Challenges
As Ann Morrow Lindbergh put it, “When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment… and yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of the tide of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return.” To help deal with the terror that we all feel when it seems a mate is slipping away emotionally, come up with a “slip-proof” plan for marital ebbs: We will communicate to one another in a common love language; we’ll each have a chance to air our feelings uninterrupted; we’ll reach out for help from a special support person or an impartial party if the relationship is in trouble. While you do not want to focus all your energy on “what can go wrong,” it is a good idea to acknowledge upfront that not every day will reflect the joy and union of your wedding day. What will you do on those days when you cannot see the divine light in one another? How will you find your way back home? No one knows your relationship, and your way of processing and healing relationship issues, like the two you. So set forth some guidelines or ground rules for healing your marital differences — before then happen — to the best of your ability. You will undoubtedly learn new things and improved ways to heal as your marriage goes on; add them in over time.
Step Seven: Regularly Recommit To Your Marriage
Include some wonderful ways to celebrate and recommit to love in your personal Marriage Manual. Collect romantic readings and poetry that reflect your feelings for one another. Recommitment ceremonies, or renewal of vows ceremonies, are a great way to re-stimulate and re-live your original wedding vows — long after you’ve taken that walk down the aisle. If you ever doubt your marriage but still have faith in your love, you can “awaken” your marriage by renewing your original vows and/or creating or adding new ones. As life changes, so will your intentions for marriage. You can celebrate and regenerate your love at every phase.
You can have a catered affair, just invite a few friends over to celebrate, or simply hold a private ceremony between the two of you. You don’t have to throw a party and hold a new ceremony in order to recommit your love. You can renew your commitment in a very simple and loving way. It can be as simple as reading a poem to each other before bed one night and declaring your love. One couple reads and re-reads their wedding vows every night before bed. Then they re-seal them with a kiss! This excerpt from Song of Solomon, in the Old Testament, is a beautiful example of selecting words that are simple, yet powerfully honor and express your love. You can just look each other in the eyes, hold hands and say: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” And so it is.
Every time you experience a ritual that declares your love, it’s like giving your love, your life, and your marriage a new infusion of energy or, even, a fresh start.
Â© Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway
Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway is author of YOUR PERFECT WEDDING VOWS: How to Write, Find and Select the Words that Express What is in Your Heart, WEDDING GODDESS: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss and the forthcoming Pet Prayers and Blessings: Ceremonies and Celebrations to Share with the Animals You Love.
To help reduce wedding stress, get your personally autographed copy of Wedding Goddess at www.WeddingGoddess.com .