Bula Fiji! Thank you for taking time out to read Bula Vakasaama, a column dedicated to enlightening readers about practical strategies for optimal mental health and mind wellness.
Today’s topic is about understanding the difference between preparing for a wedding and preparing for a marriage. We are approaching the school holidays and Christmas season, and many families are preparing for the auspicious occasion of a loved one’s wedding.
We often meet people who are preparing for their big day. Rarely do we meet people who are preparing for their actual marriage, a lifelong commitment to another human.
Their focus usually is on the outfits, venue, catering, guest-list, gift registry, invitation cards, photography, and so on. People forget to ask the tough questions that later begin to frequently emerge in the marriage.
This follows the usual regretful thought: I wish I had known this or that about him/her before I got married.
It’s important to pause and question if you are spiritually, mentally, and emotionally prepared for the days that would follow the few hours of the wedding day glitterati.
Knowing each other’s personal moral values and beliefs, including political stance, is something that can either make or break a marriage.
My personal experience
In my previous marriage I was kept in the dark about my husband’s real name. I only found out about his actual identity when I was five months pregnant, and that too by accident. The betrayal of that moment still affects me to this day.
I also never bothered to find out about his political ideologies and whether or not he values righteousness of deeds over loyalty. Many people value loyalty. I do not. I personally feel
that being loyal can lead to siding with those who may be doing harm to others.
I value truth, even if I have to stand alone. But my ex-husband valued loyalty so much that he would resort to physical violence to hurt me and our child, all in the name of loyalty towards a misogynistic practice in his family that women were not allowed to make decisions about money.
My hard-earned money often disappeared because he would spend it on fraudulent dealings or gambling.
And whenever I would him about it I would be physically assaulted. All in the name of loyalty to a tribal family practice.
Helpful Pre-Marital Strategies to Prepare for a Healthy Marriage
The following strategies may help you and your future spouse become aware of the different facets of your commitment t to each other in marriage. These strategies are for you both to do together in a respectful and safe manner.
Meet with a professional counsellor, coach, or a spiritual guide, to openly discuss expectations
you both have from each other in these areas: Love, Relationships, Career, Money, Politics (local and global), and Spiritual Practice.
Spend time with a mentor couple who has a solid marriage and can share their wisdom with you. Have regular conversations to discuss these relevant topics:
Values — if your values are similar, you feel valued in the relationship.
Beliefs — if your beliefs are similar, there is less conflict.
Self-confidence — if there is a healthy level of self-confidence, there is no competition, rather everything becomes a collaboration.
Mental health — talk about anxiety and how you manage it. Physical health — talk about exercise and healthy diet and how you can plan on incorporating that in your marriage.
Emotional health – talk about how you feel about the way anger, suspicion, and jealousy need to be displayed in your marriage. There is a healthy way of expressing these emotions that is constructive rather than destructive.
Spiritual health – talk about your Creator and share your inner-most thoughts about spirituality and how you practise your personal prayer (connection with God) daily to be close to your Creator.
Trauma — being transparent about trauma means that you will feel safe in the marriage and not feel anxious every time there may be a trigger. Your future partner will be able to understand why you may be acting out and support you through healing from trauma.
It’s okay if you don’t wish to share specific details but at least tell your future partner if “something bad happened in childhood”.
The questions that often arise from clients who come to me for pre-marital couple counselling is: What if there are many differences that come to light? What happens then?
Do we still go ahead and get married, or do we break up? The truth is that the best part about planning your marriage as per the strategies mentioned above is that it will empower both people in the relationship to really get to know one another through honesty, transparency, and authenticity.
If there are differences that come to light, the counsellor or mentor can help both people to unpack issues and come to a respectful agreement. This is a far better way to enter a marriage than to avoid these truths and suddenly find yourself in the middle of a battlefield where you feel betrayed or hurt.
Falling in love with the person you are marrying is beautiful.
Remember though that love is a verb and needs to be demonstrated through ways where you value each other, believe in each other, are collaborative in your daily life, enjoy optimal mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and respect each other’s trauma triggers, and help with each other’s healing.
• PRINCESS R LAKSHMAN is a counsellor, clinical nutritionist, writer, narrative therapist, and certified life-coach. She is passionate about mind wellness and an advocate for kindness and selfcare. She lives in Sydney and will soon open mind wellness hubs in Fiji to provide free mental health counselling and workshops exclusively to Fiji residents. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper. She can be reached at email@example.com