My brother just got engaged. He is in his early thirties and often shows similarities to an excited child who has just skulled a jug of red cordial. He may slip a whoopie cushion on your chair, or show very politically incorrect youtube clips to my children whilst laughing hysterically or become extremely excited & hyperactive about an idea or activity. He is one we all suspected may never settle down and take a wife. But he met an amazing gal and couldn’t resist putting a ring on it. They were holidaying in Hawaii recently and he packed an esky of beer and snacks and of course, a ring box on top. As they relaxed on the sand, he asked his beloved to please pass him a beer. She opened the esky and saw the ring box, opened it and gasped at the beautiful ring inside with a huge & elegant diamond.
Him: So, will you?
Him: Where’s my beer?
Very romantic stuff. It got me thinking back to the time when George and I got engaged and it was all new and exciting. But as many of us have experienced, when passionate moments such as proposals over, you’re left with the warts and all of living in close quarters with someone who has annoying habits, their own family baggage and never, ever squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom. How do you navigate through those waters with someone you vowed to love forever but who may never change those irritating customs?! When George and I got engaged we did a marriage prep course called Prepare (I think this is the website FYI http://www.prepare-enrich.com.au/). It may have changed since we did it about 13 years ago but back then we both went to a counsellor and began by filling out a lengthy questionnaire. The questionnaire covered everything from parenting styles, family history and expected involvement, gender roles in marriage to simple things like what temperature you like the room you sleep in to be. It is meant to prepare you for any difficulties you may face once married based on your personal preferences. There are no right or wrong answers, it was simply designed to highlight your differences so you can work through them with the counsellor before marriage.
A good idea for any couple. But of course at the time you are deeply in love and everything the other person says and does is delightful. Differences are quirky and diversity is seen as a refreshing holiday from monotony. It’s almost like during any pre-marriage counselling it would help to simulate stressful conditions, to see how you would really respond. To have practice resolving issues when you’re really mad! Get rid of the hazy, crazy rose coloured glasses and see each other in the bright light of day. When planes are manufactured, they are put through very extreme tests, that simulate way harsher conditions than anything mother nature will throw at them, to ensure that they can withstand the pressure. Tests such as bending the wings up and down and testing other areas of the fuselage and engines. Check out this interesting article if you want to know more examples:
But how can this be done in a counselling session? How can stressful conditions be created to practice this concept and see how well your relationship will stand the test of time?
I believe I have the answer. Have you ever played monopoly? Of course you have, everyone has. This pie chart tells a true story. It doesn’t matter who you are playing with, or how much you love them, game boards and pieces will be flung in anger because Monopoly makes people crazy. My older kids recently played monopoly with a friend and unsurprisingly the game ended with my 9 year old daughter flipping the board over in a fit of fury and storming out of the room. It’s uncanny how often this happens to those you may suspect the least of having the potential for such crazed and manic behaviour. Take George for example. He is a very calm person 99.9% of the time. He loses his temper badly probably once every 3-5 years, usually for good reason. And his tantrum during the time period of 2002-2005 was over a game of Monopoly. We were playing with a close & long time childhood friend who is like family. The air was full of tension. The game had been going for around 2 hours. She taunted him. He snapped. Money, properties and pieces were thrown across the room and he stormed out into our bedroom and slammed the door, refusing to come out until my friend had left. If my tranquil and self-controlled husband can lose it, then who is safe? Everyone is cranky after a game of Monopoly.
My theory is that marriage and pre-marriage counselling should be conducted immediately following a game of Monopoly or possibly even during. All loving feelings toward the other person have been extinguished. You’ve most likely just had game pieces and a pair of dice thrown at your head (or done the throwing) and fake money is floating from the sky like confetti. How you respond during or after a game of Monopoly will generally be from the worst version of yourself. So if you can be taught to work out your issues at that point, you can be assured that your lifetime partnership will not only survive, but it will flourish & prosper, much like a hotel on Mayfair. But if it all goes pear shaped, you’ll know to play your get out of jail free card before saying ‘I do’. And if it’s too late for that, just keep playing your best and if you’re lucky, occasionally you may get to pass go and collect $200.