I occasionally enjoy watching programmes such as Say yes to the dress, Married at first sight and South Africa’s beloved, My perfect wedding. The central theme to all the programmes seems to be the pursuit of the perfect wedding day. Perfect dress, perfect decor, the perfect car, perfect suit, perfect hair and makeup and so the list goes.
Judging by the many wedding geared TV programmes and weekly wedding updates on social media, perhaps perfect weddings are not that much in short supply as we think. Statistics South Africa gives a very different picture however telling a grim story on the destiny of these unions. The latest findings show that 150 852 people wed in civil marriages in 2014 and 24 689 people got divorced, 3,4% higher than the previous year, and mainly initiated by the female partner.
I look at brides living out their dream weddings and recognize that spark. I’m telling you brides can be so gullible. Women will move mountains to get the wedding of their dreams. Movies do their bit also by devoting the entire movie to the pursuit of a girl/boy until the altar. It’s as if the whole plan is to work hard towards getting the person, bring them to the altar and then as it is said in the fairy tales ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ It’s no wonder a wedding gets us all giddy. Only the reality is not always a Cinderella story. Whoever said pursuing stopped beyond the aisle?
Couples take a lot of time, months and even years preparing for a one-day event called a wedding and hardly any time preparing for the lifetime commitment of marriage. I’m reminded of one lady who was not willing to go through a 6 weeks marriage preparation course because it was too long and in no time at all, the marriage had collapsed. She lamented her rushed decision and wished she had given counselling a chance.
I remember when my ex-husband and I were cautioned by one couple who counselled us to consider postponing our wedding as they felt the need to help us through some areas of conflict they were concerned about. We looked at them being married about 40 years and considered them too old. We would be the exception we thought. We believed that no one in the world loved each other the way we did and discarded the counsel.
I’ve heard of two couples who after having gone through marital counselling decided to postpone the wedding. One couple got married after the postponement and the other called the wedding off. Now that takes guts. Although people see red flags during the dating stage, these are often ignored as people give the old reason ‘but I love him/her’ and in they walk into a mess.
Going through counselling gives no guarantees but what it does is help one see things from a different perspective. It opens couples’ eyes to other more important things apart from choosing either a chapel or garden wedding, vanilla or red velvet cake and whether to use tiffany or draped chairs. Counselling tends to let people get out of their puppy-eye selves into discussing the not-so-romantic matters of in-laws, whether to have separate or joint bank accounts, how to deal with conflict although it’s difficult to think of conflict when people are in love, how many children to have if any and what would happen if I get a job halfway across the world and I want to take it? Other issues such as faith, sex, past relationships and decision making get discussed. All of which could make or break your marriage.
It seemed unreasonable to some couples that churches such as Hope Restoration Ministries and a few others were not willing to marry a couple unless they had completed the premarital counselling program. Yes, in some cases people may do the counselling just to check the box and get the license to finally marry, but the seed would have been planted.
Take the time to invest in your marriage as much as you take the time to go on a slimming program to look your best on your wedding day. How about having dating couples genuinely going through marriage programs even before a date is set just to offer them a chance to approach marriage in a more realistic way? Would that change mindsets? Would that make a difference? No one is perfect, no one knows everything and counselling gives us an opportunity to learn from those who’ve gone before.