What Happens After Marriage | Couples Counseling San Mateo

Couples Counseling San MateoCouples Counseling San Mateo

Many couples are married, but not all married couples feel like a couple. What makes the difference?

In his new film 112 Weddings, Doug Block goes back in time to meet some of the 112 couples whose big days he’s filmed. For many, there’s been happiness; for others divorce, illness and mental health problems. The film weaves clips from each couple’s wedding day with an interview five to nineteen years after that day. Doug focuses on two main questions: What did you expect your marriage to be? And, what did happen?

While Doug is not a couple’s therapist he explained in an interview after the film that he felt like one when he asked the couples his questions. He also realized that what was not said was as important as what was said during these interviews. He told of many “pregnant pauses” that he actually edited from the final film. Although the couples in the film signed a release and knew it was not confidential (and therefore silences were understandable), there was a dynamic that could still be perceived.

As a experienced couple’s therapist I agree that while sitting in my office with a couple I am able to scan and notice many nuances, body language, micro expressions and the energy between the couple over and above their narrative they tell about themselves.

When watching the film, it was poignant to notice some indicators for the strength of the couples’ connections. Some are: did they look at each other, describe each other’s differences, show vulnerabilities and compassionate support of each other, or laugh together?

Doug describes some of the lessons he learned about marriage and couples through his initial wedding films and having revisited the couples:

  • Weddings aren’t just about one couple getting married; they’re about two families merging, with each bringing their own complicated histories to the mix.
  • Weddings are a somewhat bittersweet experience for parents. On the one hand, they’re thrilled for their sons and daughters. On the other, it’s the ultimate letting go of their child. When I see buckets of tears being shed, I don’t presume that they’re always tears of joy.
  • There will never be a more acceptable place to fully express your emotions publicly than at a wedding. It amazes me that some brides and grooms seem so determined not to cry, as if it’s a point of pride. I wonder if that’s another aspect of their culture.
  • Most brides and grooms describe their wedding as dream-like or even surreal. I think that has to do largely with the wide-ranging mix of people who are invited. I mean, where else but in dreams do you see your childhood friends, college buddies, work colleagues and relatives all together in one place.
  • People tend to conflate weddings with marriage, so all this attention and energy goes into the wedding day with very little thought is given to what comes after. But the wedding is just Day One.
  • There’s a reason Hollywood love stories always seem to end at the wedding altar. Happily-ever-after is complicated.
  • I have a wise rabbi friend who has officiated at well over 100 weddings. He maintains that weddings are easy to make happy, you just throw a bunch of money and liquor at it. While marriages are hard to make happy, because if you throw a bunch of money and liquor at it, it can makes things much worse.
  • You can never tell how a marriage will work out from how ‘in love’ the couple appears on their wedding day. Its fun to guess but you’ll be wrong a lot.
  • The wedding day isn’t all about the bride; in the end, it’s about the couple.
  • I used to think ‘the money shot’ was the bride walking down the aisle, all radiant and glowing. I’ve come to understand the real money shot is the recessional, when the couple walks off bravely, hand-in-hand, into the unknown future.
  • There’s no such thing as a wedding toast that’s too brief.

I appreciate Doug’s wisdom and experience filming and observing these couples.

When I hear from couple’s seeking therapy it is usually after they come out of the dream-like phase of being in love, and realizing that things are not the same as before. The stressors and challenges of day to day life together throw them into panic. They ask: “Am I with the wrong partner?”

Often what I assess as the problem with the couple is very different than their own story of what is wrong with each of them. Usually the couple is relieved to see that there is a lot to learn about being a secure and strong couple and that it is possible to achieve this if both are willing to be coached and guided in that direction.

Couples counseling San Mateo provided by Edna Avraham, MFT.