Over the final two weeks of 2010, FatherhoodChannel.com looks back at our biggest stories of the year.
#14: Secrets Weddings Reveal about Marriage Success (9/6/2010)
by Carson Abrir
People Magazine recently looked back at summer’s 10 biggest weddings, including tidbits and pictures from the unions of some of America’s most celebrated couples.
From Greensboro, Georgia to idyllic scenes in Malibu, Hawaii, Italy, and a private Mediterranean getaway, couples whose images are known worldwide stepped up to the alter – and in some cases into the sand – to publicly proclaim promises to love and honor, in sickness and in health, until death do them part.
Few of the two million couples who tie the knot each year in America are splashed on the pages of People. Millions of readers and fans will look to featured brides Carrie Underwood, Anna Paquin, Megan Fox, Emily Blunt, Hilary Duff, Jenna Fisher, Alicia Keys, Penelope Cruz, and Chelsea Clinton too for hints to guide them through the maze of their own relationships, weddings, and marriages.
Making the leap from wedding to marriage
As the glitz and glimmer of these expensive, highly choreographed wedding celebrations fade into the sunset, the challenges for Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher, Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, Megan Fox and Brian Green, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, Miranda Kerr and Mike Comrie, Jenna Fisher and Lee Kirk, Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mevinsky becomes bringing a similar commitment to their marriages.
Weddings reveal how couples work as a team
Cantor Debbi Ballard has performed hundreds of Jewish, Interfaith, and Intercultural weddings in Florida and around the world. She says how a couple plans their wedding reveals much about their future marriage.
“I can absolutely tell how this couple will collaborate, compromise, communicate, and support one another’s goals. When I sit with the couple for the first time, I see so many different components of their relationship. I can sense whether the relationship will grow and thrive, or crash – and burn,” she says.
Cantor Ballard says the wedding also is a chance to learn more about the role family is likely to play supporting a marriage.
“A parent might choose a ‘show’ of support by standing under the chuppa – but I don’t think that is a litmus test to how the parents will support their children after the marriage. I prefer to watch the roles of the parents, also during planning – to see if the parents have their own agenda, or if they truly, and authentically want to show up for their children – the way their children want them to. The true test is whether a parent asserts his or her own needs in the wedding – or abides by the needs and desires of their children,” she says.
Being prepared after the guests go home
Ballard says couples themselves typically decide the details of their weddings while relying on planners to search, arrange, and execute their decisions. “Especially where ‘day of’ coordinators come in – that’s an organizational necessity – no bride wants to be pressured with the details on her special day. “
Regardless of the time and expense that goes into planning a wedding, Ballard says marriage “is being well prepared for after the guests go home.”
“Couples today get so caught up in the details, and the planning becomes all about them, but figuring out how to adapt to married life, after the party, is a lot of pressure … The wedding details are important – but it is only a wedding. The marriage comes after the ceremony. It’s important to begin working on the marriage even before the couple says ‘I Do.’”
Falling in love is the easy part
Lori Gordon, a former marriage and family therapist, says, “Love is a feeling, marriage is a contract, and relationships are work.” Gordon and her late husband, Rabbi Morris Gordon, founded the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in 1983 to help couples learn skills to create and sustain successful marriages.
Her youngest son from her first marriage, Seth Eisenberg, today leads the Foundation’s national efforts to bring marriage education classes to couples and singles in any stage of relationship. “Before you do or undo your I do,” Eisenberg says, “it’s valuable to learn skills to sustain love. That includes confiding, listening, understanding emotions in ourselves and others, and learning to navigate conflicts that are normal to any close relationship.”
Gordon agrees. “Falling in love is the easy part,” she says. Marriages succeed when couples learn to sustain love. Beyond good intention, that takes skill and commitment. Eisenberg says research shows that intimacy is a skill that can be learned.
Creating lasting, happy marriages
“It’s one of the first misconceptions couples run into after their weddings,” Eisenberg says. “Although millions do it each year, we can’t promise feelings. Love, like any emotion, has its own rhythm. PAIRS classes teach couples how to create an environment in which feelings of love don’t just survive, they thrive.”
Celebrity couples could do themselves, their children, and their fans a great service by publicly participating in a research-validated relationship skills class like PAIRS Essentials, Eisenberg says. “While millions admire their beautiful wedding pictures,” he says, “seeing them become examples for beautiful, lasting marriages could make a difference for many other couples and families.”