What do you do if you are thinking about marriage and you have virtually no support for your decision from relatives and close friends?
In this series of articles, I'm examining one of life's most perplexing problems. When you are ready to be married and believe you've found the perfect partner but your loved ones-your parents, friends and relatives-believe you're making a mistake.
In my previous installment we discussed the first three steps of resolving this conflict effectively:
Step One - Carefully consider why you don't have their support.
Step Two - Control your emotional claustrophobia.
Step Three - Fundamentally listen to what they have to say.
Step Number Four
Search out the truth. Do it very carefully and as gently as you can. Truth. If you shouldn't marry this person, don't. If you shouldn't marry this person, find out before you get married, not two years after you get married. If you shouldn't marry this person you want to know why you shouldn't marry them.
I must tell you that, over time, as a psychologist, I have become a champion of the truth. I believe the truth is the single most important aspect to the working out of any situation. In order to get the truth, however, I must encourage you to become unfastened to the bottom line outcome that you think right now you want.
I would like for you to spend a few hours with your family to forget you want so badly to be married to this person. I want you to forget about it long enough that you can hear everything they have to say. All I want you to do is loosen up your hold on that bottom line desire you have to marry the person, such that you can allow the truth to begin to flow around you and into your head.
Step Number Five
Be as careful as you can in this discussion with your family to stay calm. I want you to assume two things about these discussions:
First I want you to assume that these people are acting out of love. They're not trying to control you, they're trying to help you. They've known you, in many cases, as long as you've lived. They have grown to care about you at the deepest of levels. It may well be that they care about you more than any person on Earth. So assume that they're acting out of love and you will have a greater ability to stay calm in the middle of their saying things that make you think they want you to do something you don't think you want to do.
Second, I want you to hear them out and deeply understand them; everything will go better, whatever decision you finally make about the marriage. When you get heard at a deep level, dignity is transmitted from one person to another.
These people are trying to tell you not to get married to this person and you want so much to be married to this person. Assume that if you hear them out, if you deeply understand them, everything about the situation is going to go better however you finally decide to approach the marriage relationship.
Step Number Six
I want you to remember how crucial these people are to you. They wouldn't be crucial to you if you didn't sense that they love you deeply. You could run off and get married and pretend these people didn't matter at all, but if you were to do that you would jeopardize the relationship you have with these crucial people. Most people are too busy to take much of an interest in whether anybody around them should get married or not. But if they do take an interest, it is a very strong sign that they love you at a very deep level.
I have often been asked by families to come and sit in on their crucial family discussions and, when that happens, my strong desire is to hear everybody out at the deepest of levels, to clarify the communication of each person who talks, and to make sure that people who don't talk early in the discussion do talk at some point.
I have come to the conclusion over time that family members are not master matchmakers. They simply aren't. They don't know you well enough. They don't know the other person well enough. If we left it to families to be matchmakers, I believe at a deep level that we would have more divorces by far than we currently do have.
I'm not holding out family members as master matchmakers, but I see that the best marriages are the ones that involve two people who have taken very seriously the opinions and thoughts and feelings of the persons who matter most to them in their lives. And while any one of these persons should not be allowed to make a decision about whether a particular marriage is going to be good for you or not, they may still have something to offer that will allow you to make a better decision.
In my final article on parents, relatives, and friends we're going to try to understand how the conflict you're experiencing can bring you and your loved ones closer than ever before.
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