Three Weddings and the Cream-Colored Dress
This summer I am invited to three weddings, two of which are black tie and one is black tie optional. I bought a cream-colored dress with a big fancy bow and only learned yesterday that it is bad form for a wedding attendee to wear white or cream to a wedding. Who knew?
Even though I may be still learning wedding etiquette, I have some things that I would like to say to the three couples as a marriage therapist that works with distressed relationships.
The divorce rate is lower now than it was in the 1970’s but there are many more things that are competing for attention nowadays versus in the past: cell phones, Instagram, Facebook, TV, text messages, laptop computers, not to mention work, friendships, and commuting. Couples have to work harder to stay connected.
Research indicates that being in a committed relationship has many benefits. Closeness matters to us, being the social creatures that we are; it calms down our nervous system and helps up feel more confident. There are health benefits too.
People live longer
Have fewer strokes and heart attacks
Have a lower chance of becoming depressed
Are less likely to have advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis (because partner’s push each other to go to the doctor)
Are more likely to survive cancer for a longer period of time
Are more likely to survive a major operation.
Being in an insecure or distressed relationship has the opposite impact. A person has to feel that they matter to their loved one — that their loved one will put them first, no matter what. In other words, partners need to feel most important to each other. Long after the wedding and the fancy clothes, couples need to be open and vulnerable with each other. Every couple gets into a negative cycle every now and then. Couples need to learn how to re-attune to each other after they disagree. Every relationship has moments of difficulty. Couples need to talk about what they long for from each other, even when they are angry and hurting rather than turning away or shutting down.
For example, one of my couples recently said, “I shut down because I am afraid of hearing that you are disappointed in me. I don’t want to shut down again, but I need to know that even when I make mistakes you still love me and want to be here.” Sometimes couples get angry with each other, but as long as they can repair afterwards, it can enhance their bond.
Another partner recently said “I got angry with you because you weren’t paying attention to me, I was jealous of the time you spend on your hobby, so I lashed out. I don’t want to lash out, I just need to know that I am important to you.”
My hope is for all three of these couples to have the ability to talk through their problems. Research tells us that having a secure bond is an important resource. I hope this is a bond that will continue to grow for all of them.
As for my cream-colored dress, I guess I have to find a different use for it.