Simon and Jacqui were a "nice" couple who happen to be one of a handful of couples whose weddings I declined to officiate. I actually don't say "yes" to every couple that asks me to celebrate their ceremony. While I'm not able to predict if a couple will live happily ever after, I do need to have a gut feeling that they've got what it takes.
Jacqui and Simon had been together for 10 years. Within minutes of our meeting, Jacqui told me that she had sacrificed her life for Simon. She gave up plans for grad school in order to work and put him through law school. She helped him pay off his student loans and she moved around to three different states for him.
She said that now it was her turn -- she wanted a wedding and he "owed" her.
Simon had taken the Bar Exam and was waiting to hear the results. Since he'd reached his goal and Jacqui no longer had to put his needs before hers, I asked him if he was prepared to sacrifice for her. He looked at me blankly. Huh? Again, I asked what was he prepared to do to help her reach her dreams. He was stumped, as he'd never thought of it quite that way.
As a communications coach, it was alarmingly evident to me that Simon and Jacqui had not had the hard conversations that are needed before getting married.
Jacqui presented herself as a martyr for their love, yet Simon wasn't able to tell me what Jacqui's dreams were because they hadn't talked about her dreams. That Jacqui felt entitled to a fancy wedding because she sacrificed for him, put an odd spin on their wedding. A wedding is a couple's celebration and not the bride's coronation!
Days after meeting with Jacqui and Simon, I met with Maura and Micah, a couple who spent years working to overcome their families' objections as they came from different religious traditions. Maura was wonderfully open in telling me that she loves Micah, not because he "is" her life, but rather because he "gives" her life. He gives her the courage to embrace her self -- her life -- and invites her to dare and create a life with him.
Throughout high school and college, Maura had body image issues. When she found herself actually dating, she wondered why Micah wanted to be with her. A year ago, when he proposed, she quickly said "yes," and then more intently began to wonder why he would want to spend his life with her, of all people!
Maura told me that as she navigated through her self doubts, the great gift Micah gave her was to help her see that those doubts were just lies she told herself. He helped her to see more clearly and freely the person she was in this moment in her life. He helped her to envision who she wanted to become.
Micah couldn't live life for her. He could, though, help her embrace life with confidence -- a confidence that comes from recognizing strengths and acknowledging weaknesses.
And in learning to see herself with new clarity, Maura has been able to see that she, too, gives Micah life -- in ways that he had never experienced before.
I'm not sure anyone fully knows who they are when they say their vows, but in order for your vows to have authenticity, you have to consider what it is about you that you prize so much you want to share it with your partner.
To love your partner and to respect and love your relationship, you must know how to honor yourself.
I declined to officiate Jacqui and Simon's wedding because they didn't have a shared vision for their life together. However, I readily accepted Maura and Micah's invitation because I had the sense that they are two people who help to bring out the best and the bravest in each other. And isn't that what marriage is all about?
While Jacqui and Simon were used to each other, Maura and Micah challenged each other to become the person each is meant to be.
As you prepare for your wedding, here are four questions to consider:
• What do you most like about yourself?
• What do you most like about your partner?
• Which of your partner's character strengths help you be a better person?
• Which of your character strengths help your partner be a better person?
Answer these questions and you will offer your partner an "I Do" with a loving and genuine "I."