Friday, April 5, 2013

Wedding Bell Blues

In 1969 The Fifth Dimension sang this song with Marilyn McCoo asking, "Bill, when are you going to marry me?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkMhWQgkZ8c

Frequently in my pre-engagement counseling with couples this is the issue. One person wants a commitment and the other is ambivalent or afraid to commit. Endless books have been written on the issue of "fear of commitment." But here's my take on what usually is happening.

In processing with couples, inevitably, the partner who is ready to commit will eventually find themselves asking their partner, subtly or blatantly, "Am I not good enough for you?" Often, that's not the issue. Too often it is the non-committing partner who doesn't feel good enough, worthy, or confident that they can be a good partner in marriage.

As I work with these couples, there is this magic moment when the non-committing partner gets it that their is a skill set for making a marriage work and that learning that skill set is achievable. I call this a magic moment because I witness the light bulb going off in the partner's head and hope spreading across their face.

I believe the non-committing partner is the canary in the coal mine. Marriage is scary. Deciding to stay together forever is daunting. It's natural to be fearful. The partner ready to commit often is overly confident, hoping their positive attitude and optimism will rub off on the non-committing partner. But relationships are always trying to stay in balance. One partner goes to an extreme and to keep things on a even keel, the other partner will go to the other extreme.

This balancing act is an amazing thing to watch in therapy. As the non-committing partner begins to move toward the middle and be more confident about getting married, the partner ready to commit begins to move to the middle and experience their own fears about getting married. At this point, the power struggle is over and the couple can finally start working together to plan a future together.

If this scenario sounds to familiar and you would like to work together as couple to figure out your future, you can reach me at 512-795-0402 or go to my website for more information.
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