weddings, marriage, & divorce

Focus on the Marriage, not the Wedding

I had a moment this afternoon that justified my decision to spend one month writing about weddings on a blog that is dedicated to explorations of sex education. I was at a meeting of people who work as sexuality educators in various capacities around the state, reviewing Sex Ed curricula. The leader of the group, who has spent decades working as a sexuality educator and advocate, was talking about the need for education that is inclusive of students who come from a variety of backgrounds, including, in this case, conservative Christian backgrounds with abstinence-until-marriage values. As advocates of comprehensive sexuality education for all students, we need to learn to reach those students also, she explained, and in a way that respects and builds on the strengths of their cultural backgrounds. Then she commented about how even individuals who do pursue abstinence until marriage have the right to learn how to have a healthy romantic and sexual relationship during marriage.

Then she brought up weddings. With all the focus on weddings these days, she asked, who is focusing on the marriage? The young couple is caught up in a storm of wedding planning, and then after the wedding, are they prepared for the marriage? Are those people who helped them plan the wedding and enjoyed the colors and flowers still around to help them navigate the challenges of partnership and the pursuit of shared life?

I started nodding vigorously as this woman and another colleague sitting next to me both elaborated on this point. Eventually she noticed my nodding, and I felt the need to explain, “I am getting married in 31 days.” And I was relieved that my disclosure was not the conversation-stopper it sometimes can be. She picked right up on the theme—

“Have you and your partner thought about what life will be like after marriage, and how getting married will have an impact on your life?”

Have we? Will it? How am I supposed to know if we are prepared for marriage, and what that would even mean?

To be fair, we have had many conversations about life after the wedding, the meaning of marriage, and the specific and serious nature of the commitment we are making to each other. But this woman, herself married for possibly longer that I have been alive, was talking about something I can only now imagine.

I consider myself pretty well-versed in the language of relationships, but the more life experience I get, the more I realized how many vital topics are so often left out of high school sex ed.

Marriage. So much more than just a wedding.

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator

2 thoughts on “Focus on the Marriage, not the Wedding”

  1. Nina says:

    Such a true post! Glad we're all here for each other to help navigate the craziness (wedding planning AND [eventual] marrgiage). Yikes!

  2. Anonymous says:

    It's encouraging to hear that discussions are being had about how sex educators can support individuals who come from backgrounds valuing and/or are choosing for themselves abstinence until marriage. How can a sex educator in a public school setting, for example, best support an individual who is struggling discern what sexual experiences are "sinful," how to be with a partner who might not share the same religiously-based values about sex, or–if that individual ultimately decides that abstinence until marriage is no longer important–how to construct a new ethical framework for sexual experiences that still resonates with their religious values, even if they are no longer following religious guidelines to the letter anymore?

    While some of these questions may seem to be more appropriately explored in a faith community setting, what if that faith community is not open to honest questioning? How can public school sex ed best support individuals in their religious struggles, when they might have nowhere else to turn?

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