We met with our engaged couple tonight and I really enjoyed our session. We had three fairly profound topics to cover and the deep conversation that resulted has stayed with me:
The families from which we came - the point here is that every family is powerful and it is important to examine how you've come to inherit certain ways of speaking, thinking, acting. It's normal that you take on your childhood influences and it's normal that you think that the way your family did things is the CORRECT and normal way of doing things. For example, if your family struggled every month to make ends meet, you might just think that's normal. If you ate your dinner in front of the TV when you were a kid, you might adopt that as your new tradition when you marry. If you are not mindful, that is, you do not recognize these behaviors, you will likely repeat them, whether they are healthy or not. Here's the nugget: you will never fully understand your own self and your own behaviors until you understand the family from which you came.
The person I have come to be - Since our family of origin helped shape our foundation, it is important to reflect on what was exactly built. Is it shaky? Can it withstand a tsunami? How can you offer the gift of yourself to another if you haven't been honest with yourself? Sharing only your good side is a scam, and is probably, structurally, not going to weather the storms of life. A whole person is not a perfect person, people!
Family traditions - (I keep hummin' the Hank Williams song...) Anyway, the point here is that family traditions are simply the way our family did things. For example, how did your family celebrate birthdays and holidays? How did they handle crises? We tend to think that the way our family did things is the way things SHOULD be done! Not necessarily always so! Couples trying to blend their lives should reflect on their family traditions and then share those experiences with each other. From there, they should walk a white sand beach and collectively decide what traditions they want to establish or preserve and adopt as their own (beach is optional) for their lives together. This isn't going to happen overnight, mind you, and it takes a lot of effort! It's important to note that in times of stress or upheaval, we tend to default to the traditions, er, behaviors, we learned growing up...which speaks to the hugeness of those early years.
This is extremely valuable stuff for engaged couples to consider. But I don't think you need to be in the process of planning a wedding to think about these things. I don't think you even need marriage to think about this. A lot of it comes down to this - "What's my relationship with me?"