A theme appeared in my sessions with clients last week: almost everyone I worked with was able to identify that the fantasies they held around the wedding and motherhood transitions were largely contributing to their anxiety. I’ve written extensively on my website and books about how important it is to let go of unrealistic fantasies in order to move into a new life stage successfully, but it’s a topic so rampant that it’s worth discussing again.
What is the nature of these fantasies and where do they come from? The fantasy is of marrying the “perfect” spouse, a man or woman without flaws, one’s soulmate and ideal partner. The fantasy is of feeling blissfully in love from engagement through the honeymoon. The fantasy is of enjoying the planning from start to finish. The fantasy is of loving every moment of being pregnant, of gliding easily into motherhood and bathing in bliss once the baby arrives.
The fantasies come largely from the massive dispersion of false information disseminated by our culture through magazines, films, books and advertisements. From the time we’re young, we’re exposed to thousands of images that seep past the conscious mind and settle comfortably into our unconscious, waiting for a major life transition – like getting married or having a baby – before they emerge. We’re rendered extremely vulnerable during transition as the old identity sheds away and the new identity has not yet formed. In that “skinless” place, we open up a bridal magazine or flip through a pregnancy book and the images blaring out from the pages confirm the fantasy within. If the fantasy doesn’t match the image, we wonder what’s wrong with us.
What we forget is that the image is just that: a single image, a snapshot, a moment. It’s usually a perfect moment. And often it’s a moment that’s made more perfect by thousands of dollars of technology. In short, it’s a manufactured moment. It can’t possibly include the hundreds of thousands of other moments, feelings, and realities that the pregnant woman, for example, experiences. So we see a gorgeous “couple” (both models, of course) enraptured in a blissful embrace, her brand new engagement ring glittering in the forefront of the shot. You’ve had that single moment, too. But you’ve also had thousands of other moments that aren’t so blissful, some of which have caused you to question whether you should be marrying this person. If this couple in the ad were real, they would have moments of doubt as well. Everyone does. But we don’t see those moments of doubt depicted very often (and when we do it’s usually in the context of a relationship that really does need attention).
I’d like to include a photo with this blog but what single image could I possibly include that would express the gamut of what people in transition really feel? It’s not possible. Which is why I write this blog.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., pioneered the field of bridal counseling in 1998. She has since counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, “The Conscious Bride” and “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner,” and her websites, www.consciousweddings.com and www.consciousmotherhood.com. She’s regarded as the international expert on the wedding transition and has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Phone and Skype sessions available internationally for all types of transitions.