An Unusual Wedding Present: Education!
“I consider myself to be one of the most unique and
valuable wedding presents a couple can get—or give themselves!” says Anne Ziff,
licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Westport CT and
New York City. “And where did I get this idea from?” she continues.
“It began ten years ago when a couple was referred to my
practice by a physician, about two months before their wedding, when the
stresses just felt like they were too much to handle, and ‘they came to talk
with me instead of eloping’.” We learned quickly that these two young,
professional people, very much in love, had entirely different styles for
solving problems. They also, as we almost all do, came from two entirely
different family cultures. And, in addition, one was male and one female, and
so there were additional gender-related expectations, many of which were not
being identified, expressed, or met.
The first thing I attempted to teach them, after
identifying the problems and issues that had brought them to my office, was that
we were not looking for “who’s right and who’s wrong”. Rather, our goal was
“How do we move forward?” This bride and groom clearly wanted to marry, and
their doubts weren’t about that, but about everyone’s perspective on what was
the “right” thing to do. This ranged from how dressed up to be for the
rehearsal dinner, to was it necessary for ‘her side’ to make toasts if they
didn’t want to but ‘his side’ indeed wanted to?? And did guests have to stay
around for a brunch reception the day after the wedding? (Her mother thought it
was absolutely necessary; his family thought they should just take off and not
even stop by to say goodbyes.) And there were also practical issues which
they’d left til the last minute inadvertently, including where to buy the
wedding rings they’d finally agreed on…..
This bride and groom were perplexed about the new family
unit they were preparing to form, even before it existed in the eyes of the law
with the blessings of clergy. They so much wanted everyone in their families to
be happy; their own pleasures were getting lost in the busy-ness of the
preparations. They were in danger of losing sight of what they were really
embarking upon, and why and how it is a sacred journey.
We worked together on a “crisis” basis, meeting twice a
week until the wedding. In the safety and privacy of my office, they explored
what mattered most to them: starting a new life together called Marriage.
and Baby Makes Three©
Four months after our last session and their wedding, I was
surprised to get a phone call from this couple, asking to see me again. They
had begun to talk about having a baby, and wondered what the “best” timing would
be to expand their new family.
We met for several months this time, once a week, during
which they explored their fantasies, fears, and hopes about having children.
Simultaneously, they were enjoying the freedoms of being a young married couple
without a great many responsibilities.
During their second year of marriage, the pregnancy began.
And we met periodically throughout it, exploring their changing perspectives on
their relationship, careers, and roles. About a month after their son’s birth,
they brought him to my office, and we worked for just a few more sessions,
observing changes in the needs and dynamics of their new, expanded family.
(For instance, “a good night’s sleep” had taken on new meaning— four
uninterrupted hours of sleep in a row, any time of day or night!)
We explored the importance of the mother/infant bond and
its effect on the bond between the parents. Each parent talked about their
disappointments, surprises, thrills and delights, and deprivations, loneliness,
and joy. We worked together as they moved through various post-partum
anxieties and experiences, including a depression that the new Mom experienced
and was truly unnerved by.
They learned together how to parent effectively and with
love. Together, they were consciously establishing habits within their new
family, expressing themselves with an expectation of being listened to and
responded to with loving-kindness although not always with agreement. They
learned to maintain feelings and acts of love in their couple as well as towards
As their education brought real stability to their
marriage, our work together came to its conclusion. And as they were leaving my
office, they laughed and said, “We’ve been debating telling you this, so please
don’t take offense. We think of you as our favorite wedding present, even
also been the most expensive one!”