My Dear Readers,
There may come a time when you or others will have the privilege of having your marital vows blessed in the eyes of your family and community. However there are times when you are under so much pressure that the intended day of joy becomes a nightmare you seek to avoid.
Below is such a story….
Dear Visible Man,
I am somewhat embarrassed to write to you about my situation. I would ask that you don’t use my name, as I am concerned about how others, such as my family, friends and church members, will think of me. I am at my wit’s end, trying to figure out what to do.
My people are from Texas and I was raised as a southern Baptist in a very conservative African-American church. My dilemma is simple and yet complicated. I am engaged to a wonderful man, but we have not yet set a date for the wedding.
There are two men in my life who would want to call themselves my father and my stepfather. They have both kept tabs on me, pumping up their egos, bragging about my academic and professional successes (I have obtained a PhD degree and work in the corporate world), but neither of them have ever been involved in my life.
Neither of them have done a damn thing for me or spent any time with me. It is sickening to hear from people in the church how they are so proud of me. Church members are not aware that both have refused to assist me financially, and it leaves such a bad taste in my mouth that I could vomit.
The problem is that they are feuding over who is going to walk me down the aisle. Honestly, when I was a teenager, I swore to myself that if I ever got married, I would never have either one of them escort me down the aisle at my wedding.
I love my fiancée. I have waited long for this blessed day. Now, because of this, my mother and other female relatives are pressuring me to set a date for the wedding. People in the church are whispering and gossiping regarding the delay. I haven’t told my fiancée what’s going on; I avoid the subject whenever I can.
I am now questioning whether I really want to get married. Eloping is clearly out of the question, as it will bring shame on the family.
I am so confused! I don’t know what to do. I just want to run away and hide. Can you help?
Questioning At the Altar, Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest
Dear Altar Lady,
So now that you have arrived at the crossroads and you have to make a decision, your response is to dump the man you say you love? Who do you choose? Them, or ME?
- Understanding that others are not always acting in my best interests do I choose what they want?
- Understanding that it is my wedding, my life and my future, do I choose what I want?
- Or do I not deal with the stress and simply choose not to marry at all?
It is feasible that others in reading or listening to your words in seeking advice may state the following:
- Tell them to mind their own business. It’s your wedding!
- You are a woman and not a child. Tell them what you want!
- Stop letting them push you around!
It’s a trap…nothing more than a trap. To internalize these ideas would result in you having the same experiences as others—not your own. Your conflict may be derived from the fact that you are seeking to simultaneously address the wishes (and demands) of relatives, church members and yourself, and that’s impossible.
As you are seeking to follow the demands of the larger group (society, community and family), you are drowning out the voice coming from within the psychological self, pleading to listen to what I want. Furthermore, it is your wedding, but you clearly have prioritized their desires before your psychological self, the living being within you.
With some many opposing forces (society, community (in this case, your church) and family) pressuring you, how can one listen to the psychological self?
This is your time for empowerment. It is time for you to step into the Five R’s of Relief:
- Take a moment for a respite, a time out. Take a breath.
- Take ownership of your reactions. Stop running and hiding.
- Slow the process down. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings.
- Consider your options. Develop your response.
- Take action. Reevaluate the impact of your decisions.
Allow the dense fog of confusion to dissipate. In doing so, you will be able to see clearly.
Before you choose to slip away and make a decision that may impact you for the rest of your life, please consider the following questions:
- Are your relatives truly acting in your best interest as they exert the pressure to force you to do what they want you to do?
- Why are they ignoring your wants? After all it is your wedding, right?
- What is their agenda? Is it possible that they are planning the wedding of their dreams and not yours? Where are your dreams and wishes being highlighted in your wedding?
You may have been raised in the church community, but the vows of matrimony you are about to take will be a contract between you and your spouse, a pact made before God. The church community and your family may have played a powerful role in your life, but they now must step away and take the rightful role of spectator by sitting down, being quiet and enjoying your ceremony and the following festivities. However if this is to happen, the “voice of reason” must come from within you. It must be your words expressing your wants. Using the ABC model (i.e. advocacy, balance and calmness), consider the following steps:
- Advocacy– Allow the psychological self its voice. Let the larger group (society, community and family) know what you want and will insist upon in your wedding.
- Balance– Find stability in your mind and feelings. You are the captain of your ship and the master of your destiny.
- Calmness– Achieve the absence of agitation in feelings and steadiness of mind as you walk down the aisle.
In choosing to address the issue of the struggle between your father and stepfather as to who will walk have the honor of walking you down the aisle at your wedding, focus on what your psychological self is saying to you.
Throughout your life, these men have provided you with a gift, that being an accurate picture of themselves. They have given you nothing more than emotional pain and sorrow. They have little or nothing for you and yet, have enjoyed the bounty of your success and joys.
As you have spoken about the tradition of the father giving away the bride in matrimony, one must seriously question: what has either of them done to earn that honor? As the past fades, do not forget what you have achieved without their involvement.
The present is here. Do not allow the grinning smiles and hidden agendas to impact your event. The future is before you, so grasp it and leave the drama behind.
Hell, it’s your wedding. You have earned this day. Walk yourself down the aisle. Let the church community be like sheep, gnawing and gossiping. Walk with your head up and smile. Others will understand and return the smile as well.
You once stated
“when I was a teenager, I sworn to myself that if I ever got married, I would never have either one escort me down the aisle at my wedding.”
Let this be your day. Speak for the psychological self. Smile. Then “step off” into your future.
The Visible Man