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The institution of marriage…that battered darling

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At my daughter’s wedding on August 9th of this year, I gave a speech which stems from the passages of my current work in progress, a book about how we can rethink our relationships in order to counter the growing trend of divorced/separated couples. The preliminary title is: “Rethinking your couple” with a subtitle “In order to ensure its success”.

Even though I do not possess training in psychology or expertise as a marriage counselor, I do not consider myself any less expert on the matter, as I’ve been happily married for over 23 years. So, without further ado, here is a preview of the book’s content through an excerpt of the speech in question.

Excerpt of my speech

Ah … the institution of marriage, that battered darling

Why do I say this? Let’s see now, have you ever heard the story that one of our acquaintances told us, whereby her father, at his 25th wedding anniversary stated: “It’s too bad, had I killed her rather than marrying her, I would’ve been out of jail by now “, or how about Jean-Pierre Ferland (French pop singer), who when asked following the interpretation of his song “Sing-Sing” at his farewell performance, “have you ever been in prison?” replied, “No, but I have been married three times”.

So, if these jokes have any truth to them, why get married at all? Thus, it’s Katherine and David’s marriage that got me thinking about my relationship, my 23 years of marriage (with the same spouse I must add) and to how it was possible that my marriage had never become a prison, nor overbearing, nor anything that made me aspire for better days.

Therefore, allow me to convey the little wisdom I have come to acquire over these 23 years and to share with you what I consider to be the winning recipe that has worked for Élaine and I. I can summarize it under two headings: 1-To love rather than to be in love, and 2- The three attributes of a successful relationship.

To love rather than to be in love

Katherine and David, the era in which you were born make it that your generation is accustomed to the ready-to-wear and the notion that everything fits like a glove immediately. You have been accustomed to everything being disposable and most often not being worth fixing. You have also been accustomed to instant gratification and the short-lived, the ephemeral. And here you are, about to embark on a journey that holds none of that, because to build a life together, to establish common grounds takes time, energy and most of all patience. Anyone that is or that has been in a relationship, will tell you that it’s full of wonderful and unforgettable moments (the birth of children, the first day of daycare or school, family vacations, your daughter’s wedding), but it is also dotted with challenges, difficulties, surprises and even unexpected pitfalls. It is therefore useless to deny it and play the ostrich, as these events will surely occur. You have probably already had your little quarrels, which once over, neither of you could recall how they started. You therefore need to learn to face them, but together. And fortunately , life awards us these pivotal moments, as they are the ones that shape the couple based on how we approach them.

The important thing is not to remain in love as in the first days throughout your entire lifetime since this idyllic state can only be ephemeral. A honeymoon cannot last forever; it would be unrealistic aspiring to make it so. We must therefore not only learn to love each other, but to love one another deeply.

To love rather than be in love.

The three attributes of a successful relationship

The three attributes that can contribute to a couple passing the test of time are individuality, complicity and complementarity.

What’s important from now on is that your evolution, following the magic beginning phase, enables you to complement one another to the point where for instance it is no longer necessary to talk in order to be understood, to the point where you can finish each other’s sentences, to the point that when difficult challenges arise like the grief of losing a parent for example, the other shares, feels and lives through the challenge with as much sadness as their partner.

Also, in order to become accomplices, you must live one according to the other without living one through the other, nor being dependent of one another. This complicity and complementarity will make it so that you are stronger as a couple than as individuals.
However, the greatest threat that a couple faces can be best illustrated by an English proverb that I found randomly and which goes as follows: “Being together is to become one, but which one?” So in order not to lose yourself in your relationship it’s important to remain yourself throughout. We must remain authentic, genuine, all the while allowing a certain vulnerability (view a TED video on this topic), stripping down if you wish (not in the literal sense as in what you will do for the first time tonight since you waited to get married… I hope!) But above all, you must respect one another’s individuality and promote it, which does not allow for selfishness.

Being accomplices, complementing each other, all the while maintaining your individuality.

There you have it, the essence of the message I wished to convey.

In conclusion, it’s thinking about the rite of passage that is your marriage and of the sense of such a commitment that I recalled the day that I obtained my pilot wings. You might be thinking:” what’s the connection?”. Well, here it is. On the day in question, I was all fired up, proud of my accomplishment, prancing around. However, following the ceremony of handing us the wings, my instructor turned to his students and shared a wise thought. He mentioned that, although we had every reason to be proud of getting our wings, in essence it was only a license allowing us to legally continue to improve our skills rather than an end in itself. Just as your marriage is not an end in itself as it is rather a culmination of your first stage of life together, the stage where you fell in love with one another.

The next stages are the long-term ones and some of the most important… So, your wedding today enables you to pass to the next level together, that of building a foundation for life on which you will always be able to rely.

End of the excerpt of my speech

Hoping to have piqued your interest about my upcoming work, a long-term project; I look forward to and would appreciate your comments. Maybe they will contribute to my writing and thereby turn your experiences into inspirations for others just as I am trying to do with my own.

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