My partner and I were married this year and I was also asked to officiate my brothers wedding a few months after my own. I have so many thoughts and inspirations about ceremony, marriage, declarations, wedding planning, ritual, shadow weddings, leaving the nest, making commitments, officiating, loving and maturing. I am in love with the subject.
Our marriage experience has deepened and expanded my understanding of how ritual functions in our lives and impacts us as individuals and communities. The ritual of marriage has punctuated my life in a profound way. The honor of being asked to officiate has awakened and made explicit parts of myself that feel unmistakably familiar and alive. My passion for supporting people who want to make commitments that benefit them as individuals and as couples has also deepened. I get to do this as a couples’ therapist and have seen several couples get engaged and go through a commitment process this year.
I have come to realize that marriage is one way to support and develop a secure functioning relationship - one where both people are free to feel safe and connected as well as individuated and empowered. Both mine and my husbands nervous systems have responded profoundly to the declarations we made during our marriage ritual - we boldly channeled Stan Tatkin’s wisdom and declared “I will never leave you” as we exchanged rings. Together, we decided to abandon half measures in our shared commitment to building a secure functioning relationship and our nervous systems have responded accordingly. We have a deeper appreciation for each other and also feel more secure in our own person. We have been creating and growing a lot since our ritual. I notice little things like we dance more and when we argue we do so with less fear and more friendliness.
Our marriage ritual helped us to bring our shared values into focus. My husband and I want to support others by modeling a secure functioning relationship to our family and community and by sharing our struggles and how we deal with them. Both of us share a desire for our relationship to be of service to others. This shared value has been a source of strength and has helped us to deal with our challenges and to celebrate what we do well. The awareness that our relationship is a spiritual practice has provided us with the energy, inspiration and resource to continue to deepen our commitment to each other.
I believe secure functioning relationships can serve the individual, as well as the couple and the community. Our wedding ritual has enabled me to individuate, more fully leave the nest and come into my own in a deeper way. It has also helped me integrate my light and dark sides as a person. I believe while we are committing to accepting and loving another in marriage we are also committing to accepting and loving our whole selves.
The light and the dark within us can be married as we commit to love and honor our partner in sickness and in health, in times of pleasure and in times of pain. The archetypal image of two partners - one in white and one in black comes to mind. In marriage our shadow side and our light side can be united as we offer our whole self to our partner. It was important to both my husband and myself these shadow parts be acknowledged as part of our marriage and we honored this by having a private “shadow wedding” ritual - just for the two of us. This little ritual made explicit that we were offering and accepting all of who we are, including our shortcomings and challenges in our marriage.
I have come to realize that the marriage ritual can serve to connect individual, couple, community and higher power in a way that impacts all involved. My husband and I treasure our wedding as a spiritual experience shared with dear family and friends. I feel so stoked to be married, officiating my brother’s wedding in November and to be a therapist that can sit with individuals and couples as they explore how they want to bring ritual, commitment and wholeness into their lives. Marriage is by no means the only path to individuation, secure functioning relationships or a full and happy life. For myslef, I have come to appreciate it as an important part of my process and I am excited to take this experience into my work with others and to learn more about ritual and how it impacts our lives. xo