The Bonding Instinct & The Wedding Path
When Camille and I got married in 1992, we had been together for nine years already, through good times and bad. This is almost the industry standard for many of our generation. Before the wedding, we took our time to write our vows. I think we spent several hours a week for a couple of months. We wanted the vows to touch on all the high points of the ritual, and also to truly sound like us. Camille is a dancer who writes her own performances and directs others, so it was natural for her. I am a writer and a meditation teacher, and in teaching, I help people speak from the heart.
When we had our wedding, we approached it with a sense of spontaneity and eloquence. We had gone over the kinds of things we wanted to say, and then when people gathered, we each looked at the audience and welcomed them, and spoke off the cuff to them.
Usually the writing of the vows is rushed through, or added as almost an afterthought – who actually listens to the vows? Let's just read from a Hallmark card. But it seemed like a calling to us, to give the meaning of the vows their due. I wanted the words we said to sound real and flow easily, and also to be exquisitely beautiful. I knew that our families had been patiently waiting for a decade for us to get married, and I wanted to welcome them and let them feel magic.
And I had a request of myself and of Camille: I wanted us to both be totally present and able to enjoy our own wedding. We had been to so many in which the bride was nervous and distracted, the groom anxious, and the photographers dominate the procedings and actually boss everyone around. There is a sense that everyone wants the ritual and the photos to get over with so they can get on to the party, then they want the party to be over because it is late. But this is creepy – why spend $20,000 on something you aren't enjoying? Why not just elope and let everyone figure it out on their own? As with most wedding, people were coming from all over. Many of them were meeting for the first time. There were children, and relatives in their 70's and 80's. I wanted the wedding ritual to be a time when we could all breathe, and feel at home, and really arrive there in the room. Also, it did not feel right to me to have my back to the audience throughout the entire ceremony. I wanted to turn and face everyone and welcome them.
And I had yet another sense. I have always known that Camille, like all women, has many parts, many different women within her: a wild, untamed part, a social entity that is deeply bonded with her girlfriends, a wise woman, a nature spirit, and more. I wanted all of them to feel welcomed in the ritual and embraced in just the way she craved, which might be to be merely acknowledged and honored, but not controlled or bound in any way.
So when you get married, it's not just the two of you – it's all your inner people working out some kind of closeness and distance to all the other's inner people.
The Inner People
Our moods are often so intricate a part of us that they need to be given their own names, almost the status of a subpersonality. This is because invited or uninvited, they will show up. And if a mood, emotion, or point of view is going to show up, you will be much better off if you welcome it and show some hospitality.
A good way to get a sense of your "parts" is to look at your dreams. You are all the characters in your dreams, as challenging as that may seem. Another way to map out your parts or subpersonalities is to think about the movies or novels you are attracted to, and consider that you are all of the characters, the goodguys and the bad guys. And fairy tales are always a useful source of personality maps: we each have within us our Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey, Sneezy, Bashsful, Happy, and Doc. There are good reasons why Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the most popular Hollywood movies ever made.
Besides the Seven Dwarfs listed above, if we are talking about a marriage, you want an erotic component, so Lusty would need to be added to the mix, and maybe Horny, Wanton, Loving, Romantic. And also Nurturing, Longing, Lonely, and Independent. As we move through a day, sometimes even a minute, we switch back and forth among the relevant moods or parts of our being. This is a challenge just within ourselves, like juggling three items. When we marry someone else, we have to juggle not only our own parts but we need to synchronize some of them with another person.
Let's say we all have ten parts, ten sub-personalities. When we get married, that is ten parts relating to the other person's ten parts – 10 squared, or a hundred. This is interesting! We all know this about ourselves and the people we love – we know at least three or four of our inner characters and as many in our spouses and friends. Much of the humor in life comes from appreciating the juxtaposition of opposites within a person, and between people. And many of the fights we will have with a person have to do with the interplay of our subpersonalities, the way they intentionally or unintentionally step on each other's lines.
On The Way To The Wedding
A year or two after our wedding, a couple came to us and said they wanted us to help them write their wedding vows. They had both taken classes with Camille, in which they wrote performances for themselves, and when planning their wedding, they realized that it was a huge party with a performance component. We said sure, and they started coming over and meeting with us. Camille would interview them on what their impulses were, what they really wanted to say and to hear, and I would write everything down and put it on cards on the floor.
In writing the vows, we found that we could sit down with the couple and give them the time and space to speak their heart's desire. When we are so moved that we want to marry someone, the heart has a lot to say. We have found it a good practice to take notes on what it says.