The last book I read, well listened to, compliments of Audible, was Jackie Bledsoe’, “The Seven Rings of Marriage”. The entire book was excellent and I’d recommend anyone married, engaged or hoping to someday be married, read it. The final chapter of the book, “Marriage Mentors”, got me thinking about my own marriage mentors and the value they’ve played on my understanding of how relationships work.
I’ve never seen my parents kiss. I’ve seen them hug at funerals or roll out of a hug when they heard me walking into a room, but I’ve never seen them kiss. Never! I should mention that they are happily married and have been for almost 40 years.
My father is a practical man by every sense of the word. He values privacy, modesty and humility. He’s the guy you want as your “in case of an emergency contact”. He’s practical, fiscally responsible and loyal. My mother on the other hand wasn’t so great with money and didn’t always have a plan B, C and D. She’s so charming, creative and magnetic however, that she can convince you every time that her plan A is the only plan you’d ever need. She’s the real life I Love Lucy. From my mother I learned to greatly appreciate a man like my father and to show this appreciation in part by not valuing trivial things. From my father I learned to value a man who always had a plan D, even though he’d never need it because his plan A was so meticulous. These were my first relationship mentors.
From my parents my major takeaway was that a good husband is a strong financial provider who is incredibly reliable and loyal. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, diamond jewelry and roses were pomp and circumstance that didn’t matter if the lights weren’t on and the kids didn’t have health insurance. Furthermore it was best to value a humble loyal husband guaranteed to never cheat over a whimsical one. My dad never surprised my mother with a trip to Milan but he is the man who consistently lowers his gaze.
By high school, almost all of my friends parents were divorced. Mine were still going strong. This reinforced my ideas about what it meant to have a lasting marriage and what qualities were important to value. This is also what made my second marriage mentor so important.
My second marriage mentor unknowingly influenced me over rubbery chicken and cake fondant. We were wedding videographers and he was my boss, 15 years my senior. Over the course of 5 years we’d filmed over 100 weddings which meant we’d also eaten over 100 wedding dinners, hence the bad chicken and cake fondant. These were unknowingly my mentoring sessions. Like my father, he was a loving father and husband who meticulously planned for all of life’s possible scenarios. He was the other guy you wanted as your “in case of emergency contact”. But unlike my dad he was also whimsically romantic. I remember the first time I met his wife as we were preparing for a studio exhibit. “Show her your ring,” he said smiling as he hugged her from behind. “Yes mommy, show her your ring!”, their six year old gleamed. I noted the physical affection in front of their happy child. My own happily married parents didn’t wear their wedding bands nor would they ever consider upgrading their rings as they barely knew when their anniversary was.
Over the next 5 years witnessing my mentors relationship with his wife gave me much to ponder. Most of my mothers friends were either divorced, remarried or never married. From them I learned that men could be only two ways: responsible with undying loyalty like my dad, or whimsically romantic but not necessarily trusting or reliable. I chose the first kind and as a result prided myself on my disinterest in trivial things like Valentine’s day, jewelry or romantic gestures. This new marriage mentor made me realize that maybe I could have both someday. Maybe I could find a spouse who was reliable and loyal while also being whimsically romantic.
The important premarital lesson for me was twofold. One, it’s okay to un-apologetically want what you want. It’s not dumb to want romance and reliability. And two, you can’t expect to find what you want if you don’t believe it exists. This is why mentors are so important. Our parents whether married or not are our first example of a relationship. And even if that example is great, it’s still only one limited perspective and it’s guaranteed to be imperfect as every relationship is. This is why it’s critical to continue to seek out more examples of healthy, happy relationships.
My current marriage mentors are my husband’s two best friends. Both couples had been married at least 5 years at the time of our marriage and both couples are parents. Over the course of our relationship I quickly became friends with their wives and leaned on them for advice as our circumstances evolved. Was it normal to have friction during wedding planning? Were the marital hiccups that first time pregnancy causes normal? Did all new dads piss off new moms by roughhousing with their newborns? Likewise the husbands provided mental sanity for my husband. They grounded him, normalized my ‘new mom hormonal insanity” and comforted him in ways that made him a better husband and a better dad. We needed them. We still do need them.
Lastly, from Jackie Bledsoe, author of the 7 Rings of Marriage, I learned that even though we are only two years into our marriage we can still be marriage mentors. “So what’s the biggest difference between dating and being married?”, our newly engaged friends asked us over dinner. “His secret stash of dirty laundry behind the bathroom door which is literally two feet away from the hamper.” I said joking but quite seriously. “No but really, communication is the most challenging part in the first two years. Adjusting to combining your lives, making joint decisions, managing money together, family planning, visiting in-laws and etc. It all goes back to communication. And even with the best partner it’s still challenging at times.”
We drove home that night feeling great. With all the help we’ve received this past year as our marriage adjusted to becoming new parents, it was awesome to be able to be someone else’s marriage mentor. Even we, in our novice marital state, had meaningful experiences and lessons to share.
A marriage mentor doesn’t have to be someone you know. Five minutes into my Audible purchase, Jackie Bledsoe and his wife Stefana became our most recent marriage mentors. They even made it to our dinner time conversation as I shared with my hubby the details of the lessons I was learning. A marriage mentor can be anyone with a healthy, happy relationship with lessons to share. You can find them via blogs, books, neighbors, friends or family.
To all my past and present marriage mentors, may your marriages continue to be blessed and blissful. And to all my newly engaged friends, or single and searching friends, I hope that our marriage can be of equal positive influence.
To my readers, what are your thoughts? In what ways have the marriages in your life influenced your relationships? In what ways are you or can you be a marriage mentors?
See below a link to Jackie Bledsoe’s 7 Rings of Marriage. Buy today as the perfect engagement present for a couple, or to rejuvenate your own marriage. It’s a must read twice book!