Thursday, January 7, 2010

What do other people think of your relationship?

Regular readers of this blog may notice I rarely post pictures of weddings I've done these days. This is partly because I have other commitments and don't often 'get round to it' but mainly because I really enjoy writing more advice based articles that might help my wedding couples focus on important aspects of their ceremonies. If you feel that you're an unconventional couple and others don't understand why you're together I hope this post helps you.

There seems to be a new word in our common vocabulary: Cougar. My man at dictionary corner tells me this refers to predatory women who date younger men. While I'm sure the Daily Mail doesn't often intend the term to be a compliment, I consider it to be rather glamorous and can't think of an equivalent for men who date younger women. Would Peter Stringfellow be a Panther, for example? I imagine he'd like to be... But it made me realise that just when society seems to be becoming more open minded about relationships, up pops another term that invites judgement. For the record, I don't buy into the notion that nobody raises an eyebrow when an older man dates a younger woman.

I also work as a Humanist funeral celebrant and am privileged to hear so many people's life stories. In the past people tended to lead more conventional lives. For example, they got married younger, almost always before they had children. Divorce was less common and people seemed to become more comfortable financially as they got older rather than less.

Nowadays it isn't unusual for people to have kids before they tie the knot. Many people I marry have been married before and all but one couple I've met over the last four years have lived together before they decided to get hitched. What on earth would granny say? I'd call this progress, yet how many people now get married in their late teens? Most people today would consider that to be exceptionally young but they certainly didn't 50 years ago.

I often ask my wedding couples whether or not they get on with one another's friends and families and the majority of them tell me that they find the people in their lives incredibly supportive of their relationship. However, I often feel very sad for couples where this isn't the case and there's been tension, often because one of them has been divorced, is older or already has children.

We all speculate on other people's relationships and not always in a negative way. I would imagine most people have heard of a couple they know breaking up when they thought those two people were 'made for each other'. The fact is (and it's a great pity more people don't recognise this) there are only two people who know what a partnership is all about and how rewarding, healthy and loving it is: the two people who are in it!

In a Humanist ceremony couples have a great opportunity to tell the world how it is for them. Why you work well together and what you both individually bring to the union are lovely things to talk about at your wedding. Some people unite because they are opposites and they each bring attributes to the partnership they would lack on their own. Others come together because they are similar and find they have lots in common. I think it's important that you're supported in your marriage, so let's say what it is that makes you a special couple. Of course, if you already have support it's nice to acknowledge that in the ceremony and tell the people there how much their friendship means.

The age issue interests me because as a 34 year old woman I think back to when I was 24 and can clearly see I had a lot of 'personal development' to do. No doubt when I'm 44 I'll look back to this day and want to give my 34 year old self a good talking to. This will hopefully go on for decades and just when I think I 'know it all I'll do the right thing and pop my clogs. In other words, there's no right age to get married, we are never 'complete' people. How boring would life be if it weren't for the lessons we learn along the way?