Monday, June 11, 2007

Take Your Time And Do It Right

I love weddings! Really, I do. While I don't agree with the level of emphasis that's put on legal marriage and all of the imposing traditions which typically surround marriage, I can't deny my love of a beautiful, romantic, well-planned ceremony where two people promise their lives--for the rest of their lives--to each other.


Some folk are just ridiculous! LOL

How any clergy person in their right mind marries some people is beyond me.

Example (and a very true story):

There's a couple marrying in a matter of days. He is in his early 70's while she's somewhere in her 50's (I'm guessing). This will be his 3rd marriage and her 2nd. None of his 5 children will be in attendance, though all but one of them lives in the same state as he and he has pretty regular contact with all of them (insert red flag #1). He and his first wife (the mother of his children) split some 20 years ago under pretty crazy circumstances (he admits it was all his fault...yellow flag, maybe?). He immediately marries another woman and remains married to her until she passes away 2 years ago. Now, his new-wife-to-be also knew wife #2 as they all went to the same church together. Nothing intrinsically wrong with this, of course, but it's weirding some out. And by the way, he is also an Elder in the church.

Not sure what new-wife-to-be's whole marriage history is (other than working long hours at her previous job contributing to her first marriage's demise).

So after this man's 2nd wife passes away, within weeks he is trying to reconcile with wife #1 who isn't at all impressed and tells him to get lost. After a few more futile, very public attempts to get her back, he gives up and moves on (I'm giving the short version, but he really pulled out the stops). Now, several months ago, he starts staying out all night and is blowing his social security check on some new woman who obviously has his nose wide--I mean WIDE open. Though retired, he still does odd jobs for friends, church members and family. After meeting her, however, tasks he's hired to do are going undone as she beckons him and he routinely drops everything to do her bidding. Outside of dinging his work reputation, I guess that's not so bad. Heck, more than one man has skipped out of work for his woman. lol From a woman's pov, who doesn't want her man to drop everything when she calls? LOL

Did I mention that she also has him dressing like he just jumped out of a scene from Miami Vice? Cute under any other circumstances, but not cute here. Don't know what kind of whammy she's putting on him, but sista-girl has him allllll turned out.

So this wedding thing is really going down. And, although she no longer works and he's on social security, they are planning on 16 bridesmaids (16 bridesmaids!!!), inviting politicians, bishops and every person either of them has ever met since they've been on this planet (or whatever planet they're from. I mean, with 5 marriages soon to be between them and NO money, who has 16 bridesmaids??? And I'm being nice by not adding age to the equation either). They are selling advertising space in their wedding program (yes, I said program) and are requesting generous monetary gifts and donations from well-wishers to help recoup some of the cost of this grand affair (i.e. they will be in debt from now until Glory).

Mind you, they both live in apartments, no real income to speak of and haven't any semblance of an investment or savings between the two of them. And, after they say "I do" they are planning on remaining in their separate apartments indefinitely. No honeymoon and no plans to even move in together. Pretty much they're making their booty call legal and respectable in the eyes of the church AND having a wedding "event" as opposed to truly getting married.

And they cannot understand why key people in their lives are protesting the wedding (as in making no effort to attend) and even asking that they not jump feet first into disaster.

Again, what clergy who really takes marriage seriously, even participates in such an arrangement?

Which brings us to couple #2:

The groom-to-be is entering his 3rd marriage. The bride-to-be, her 2nd. Groom-to-be, at 40 (or close to it) doesn't have a place to live or two nickels to rub together (Sorry, I'm out of red flags, you'll have to insert your own). Has a child from wife #1 and another child, which he had out of wedlock and, to my knowledge, does absolutely nothing for. He also is grossly overweight and has severe health issues as a result (Can I just tell the truth and say he's fat and sloppy? And this is no disrespect to overweight people out there, but there is a difference between a weight problem and just a fat, sloppy person who gives no thought or regard to their health and flat out states that they have no immediate plans to). He also has severe emotional issues and is known to physically fight other grown men over women he's had dealings with.

In fact, at a family gathering recently, he went fist-to-cuffs with a member of the bride-to-be's family. Bride-to-be threatened to leave him because of this (apparently he instigated it in front of her whole family) and he promptly informed her that some not so nice things would happen to her car or her house (forgot which one, maybe both) if she did. It was so bad that one of her children refuses to live in the same house with him after they're married. Still, they're going full steam ahead with the plans.

Bride-to-be is a hardcore church girl. Very churchy. Had to say it twice just so you know. However, when she first started dating groom-to-be about a year ago, she neglected to tell him she was still married and that her husband was still very much in the picture though I don't think they actually were living together at the time, though there is no way to know for sure since she purposely led groom-to-be to believe she lived at a place that wasn't hers. On a fluke, however, several months after they were dating and, supposedly madly in love, he found out where she really lived. That was also when he found out about her husband/ex-husband. Drama.

So, it's countdown to the wedding day for now-- a wedding that I'll most definitely skip. I know that sounds mean, but for one I'm not too fond of him, not overly impressed with her (I tried, but she was really rather off-putting) and, after sitting through his first wedding, not knowing about the second until after the fact and hearing of all of the drama before this one even gets off the ground, I can't figure out a reason why I should go.

I promise you that I'm not typically one to sit in judgment of other people, their relationships and especially marriages. Hard to tell from this entry, I know, but when you see a catastrophe in the making, it's difficult to not be honest. And, since marriage is a particular topic that fascinates me, I just want to shake people sometimes and say WAIT!!! It might be greater later, but now just isn't the time...slow your roll. Like I said, I don't know how pastors even give the green light and agree to solemnize these events.

I'll pass on telling the whole story, but I was pretty much done with a former pastor when a former friend switched grooms, but kept the same wedding date, the same wedding plans, etc. at the pastor's advisement. Well, he didn't tell her to switch grooms, but when it didn't work out with groom #1 and she went to him for advisement on inserting groom #2 and he told her to go for it, I was too outdone. The whole switcharoo happened so quickly that I didn't even know about it and I was in the wedding! Of course, when I found out that she'd made the switch, I bowed out. She wasn't happy and Mr. Free said I was wrong, but I literally knew nothing about a breakup or her meeting groom #2, a proposal from him or anything. All I knew was I was expected to come out of the pocket with money for shoes, dress, hair, etc. and she wasn't even marrying her long time fiance who was the groom to be when I originally agreed to be in the wedding. Same date, same time, same everything, but the original groom (and one befuddled bridesmaid). I switched churches shortly after that. I suspected the pastor was losing it and, sure enough, a couple of years later he was ousted for some crazy--and I do mean CRAZY--stuff, but not before he divorced and remarried in a fashion just as quick as the groom switching earlier mentioned. Oops, I did say I wasn't going to tell you all of that, huh?

He takes a lot of bashing from people--especially women (ever notice how vocal women are on this topic, while men seem to offer more understanding) --for not marrying his longtime girlfriend (and baby's mama), but after watching an interview with Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy) recently, I commend him for his effort to wait until he feels ready. After cheating on his girlfriend (the infamous J-Lo relationship started before he'd quite ended it with baby's mama aka Kim), he's still trying to learn how to be a good boyfriend. Amidst a busy life where he's always on the go and always in the glow, he expressed wanting to maintain more balance in his life before taking the plunge. More couples should do this. They get a lot of flack for their situation, but at least they're not faking the funk and heading to the altar, ill-equipped, just because it's the thing to do.

On the other hand, it was her choice to do so, but I don't recommend other women even have sex with a man without being married--much less have children with him. Even if they're not religious folk, just for the children's sake, I think it sends a healthy message that we are a family. Instead of boyfriend and girlfriend, we are committed as husband and wife. Still, they are together, have worked through their issues and, seemingly, are making it work with now 5 children between them (3 together, 1 from his previous relationship and 1 that biologically isn't his, but that he takes full responsibility for). Hopefully, they'll continue to progress, grow together and trust marriage. I add the latter, because much like Mr. Free and I, Combs has stated that he's never seen a healthy marriage up close, much less one that works and where the individuals in it are happy. Because I was once there, I can understand what a confused and apprehensive state that can put one in when they're feeling pressured to take the plunge. I still haven't necessarily seen a happy, healthy marriage last (except for Mr. Free's grandparents, but they're almost 100, so they're from a whole 'nother era), but I understand what a true, biblical marriage covenant is now and, finally, what's required from both individuals in order to uphold and honor that covenant.

Personally, I believe in entering the covenant understanding and expecting it to be the most difficult, trying, life-altering, sacrificial relationship possible and with many obstacles to overcome. I don't think one should expect it to be blissfully happy, insanely sexy or incredibly fulfilling. While it can be all of those, there's a certain amount of work--hard, conscious work--that is to be expected in order to achieve this. I mean, forever is a long time and after the wedding, after the honeymoon (which can even last several years) and after youth and beauty fade, most find it takes more and more effort to be excited about marriage, but that EFFORT is one of the keys to making it last. Marriage shouldn't have an "out clause", unless of course there's infidelity involved and, even then, the bible asks that we be forgiving. Such is hard to do, but that's what I'm talking about---marriage ain't always easy! I truly believe that if more people went into it knowing that building a healthy, lasting marriage is a forever, on-going process that can be rougher than they've ever been told (cuz most fold in the process), that people wouldn't jump into marriage only to jump out years later and wishing they'd never met their spouse, much less married her/him.

Marriage has the potential to be the greatest thing to ever happen to a person or the worst, depending on how selective they are of their mate and how much they're willing to work on the entire process from dating to death.

Back to Combs, though. Well, not really back to him, but I will say this: I've never been a fan of his. Don't dislike him, just not a fan. But I do understand where he's coming from. What I'm wanting to know now is, "Why the pressure, folks?" Why do we push people to get married with all of our questions and our expectations? I've even heard some women say that within 2 years, a man should propose or women should move on. Okay, to each her own. I'm all for women setting strong boundaries on what they will and won't accept from men. But what if 2 years isn't enough time? What if you both need more time for "self" work? Or more time to work on how to have a relationship? A lot of times, couples are still in that rose colored phase at 2 years. And those that aren't still discover that they have little understanding for what makes their mate tick (outside of sex and romance). I can tell you that many, many years into my own relationship, I'm just now figuring out how much each of our childhood relationships with our parents, immediate family and even prior relationships have caused us to act and react in certain ways (not always flattering) towards one another. We read Getting The Love You Want by Dr. Harville Hendrix and were quite amazed at how much of that inner child in each of us was masquerading as an adult in a grown up love relationship. Even as a former Psychology major, I hadn't realized just how much we'd been shaped into who we are and how we respond to one another by these early relationships. I can guarantee you that if we'd married 15 years ago or even 5 years ago, we'd be divorced now. I can also almost guarantee you that, after doing all the work we've done to build our relationship--I mean, to REALLY fortify it--we will be going strong in 5 years, 15 years and the rest of our lives. I have to say "almost guarantee" however, because although I don't expect infidelity, I'm out if it rears its ugly head. I'm sooooooo out until it's not even funny. I'm so out, he'd be left wondering if I ever even existed or if I were just a figment of his imagination as there would be NO traces of me in his life at all from that point forward. Maybe he'd be more forgiving were the shoe on the other foot, but I wouldn't expect him to be, nor would I ever take my chances in finding out. I know the bible strongly favors forgiveness in these matters, but Mr. Free and I have been through a lot of dumb stuff in our earlier years and the lines are clearly drawn that there's just some things that don't go down in a marriage. At least they'd better not in mine.

But I

So, I say this primarily to women, because they're the ones who usually put that "time" limit on a relationship before they expect marriage: It's really not about time, it's really about the quality of effort you've put in to learning about yourselves, about each other and about marriage. Don't cave into the pressures of "he must not love you if he's not rushing to the altar within 2 years". I can tell you story after story after story of people who had fairytale courtships, married at about the 2 or 3 year mark in extravagant weddings, bred beautiful children and were divorced before the kids were in high school.

For example, a close friend of mine divorced 4 years ago and is still trying to figure out why. She was devastated by the shock of her husband confessing one day that he no longer wanted to be married. That's it...out of the clear blue...just like that--he didn't want to be married anymore! Though he'd begged for a child (they'd decided/agreed before marriage NO children) and she gave him one perfect, beautiful daughter, before their daughter's 1st birthday, they were separated and he was remarried shortly after her 2nd birthday. Sadly, he was then divorced from wife #2 before their daughter's 3rd birthday (another child was born of this 2nd marriage even though he and the new wife had separated before the 2nd child's birth) and he is now married to wife #3 and my friend still has no idea why her divorce even happened. Her ex doesn't know either or at least that's what he still maintains. (After 2 divorces and a 3rd marriage, you'd think he'd want to figure some stuff out.) My point is that someone, or maybe both of them, never figured themselves out first. Though they dated the required amount of time and had a, seemingly, happy marriage for 9 years, he obviously wasn't ready for the "lifetime" covenant and ran screaming...and then ran a second time...leaving a trail of broken hearts and children raised in broken homes in the process. I was rather close to this couple and was devastated in my own right as they were the only couple of my peers who I actually believed would make it. They seemed to have that "balance" that people like Sean Combs say they're seeking. Oh, and by the way, he was also an ordained minister and both of his parents are pastors. This wasn't someone who didn't have any indication as to the seriousness of marriage.

So, again, it's not about the amount of time you've been together or the seemingly perfect circumstances, there's soooooo much more to know, to pray on, to do, to learn. Don't rush and don't let anyone make you rush. Ignore the pressure and take your time, people. We've got to stop this rush to the altar because our clocks are ticking or because some sort of mental timer is counting down. Marriage is serious business. It is the the foundation on which the most important cornerstone (family) rests. And it's not just adults that suffer when it fails or when it's miserable, but children and our communities do to. And children grow up to be adults who are then almost incapable of escaping the same cycles of marriage and divorce simply because they don't have an example to pattern themselves after. True, this isn't always the case in every broken home, but more often than not, sadly, it is.

Study. Pray. Listen. Observe. But most of all, take your it right, do it one time and do it good!

Blessings to all,