I was surprised to be invited into a couples marriage yesterday during their wedding vows. I had barely met the bride but had chatted several times with the groom, who was a friend of my younger son. Both before and during the ceremony, the point was made that the two people who were uniting their lives welcomed a reality check from their parents and friends. They were especially willing to listen to perspectives based on experience from their elders.
Older women at the ceremony sat up a little taller. This was the stuff of fantasies. How refreshing. A young man and woman whom people had either watched grow up from childhood, or become good friends with based on commonalities as adults, were recognizing our value.
I thought about how impossible it had been to offer any heartfelt advice, wisdom, or feedback to my older son and daughter-in-law since they got married. Whereas before the wedding my opinion had been sought on everything wedding-related, after the wedding anything I said was taken as damning criticism of their relationship or abilities rather than as information. Eventually it felt too risky to venture a contribution on any topic.
Authentic relationships are important to me. But so is serenity. So I stopped talking about anything that meant something to me and refrained from commenting on anything that meant something to them. Consequently, conversations with my son and his wife are limited to unsatisfying superficialities.
Age was a factor in yesterdays wedding ceremony: The bride and groom were in their 30s as opposed to early 20s. But this wasnt the only factor in their openness.The couple had worked with a mentor for a year on becoming spiritually and emotionally ready for marriage. They had examined the phases of a relationship: romance, disillusion and power struggle, integration and stability, commitment and co-creation. They believed they had something to learn from people who had walked their road, whether it diverged and resulted in divorce or not.When I had tea with my younger sons friend several weeks before the wedding, he was eager to talk with me about relationships even though I am 25 years older than him, still a tad bitter about my ex-husbands betrayal, and a sort of second-hand confidante via my son. We had such a heartfelt connection that we both wept with gratitude. He understood that I cared about him, and I was honored that he was interested in anything I had to say.Although I was happy for the bride and groom yesterday, I came to the wedding with a pessimism I did not have before I was uncoupled. At first, I was hoping the divorce that followed for these two people so obviously in love wouldnt be too traumatic. But having been invited to participate in the marriage, the optimism of the newly wed trumped the pessimism of the recently divorced.Here is a couple that knows there will be pitfalls, chasms, abysses (well, maybe they only know about the pitfalls at this point). But they have a roomful of people who are already reaching out a hand and will show up with a coiled rope or in a helicopter if one, or both, of them stumble into someplace too deep. They are not alone in their marriage. It is a community investment.Count on Judy Kirkwood, who writes frequently for ThirdAge.com, to shed a tear at weddings and funerals.