Episode 76: Sheryl Paul - How to Be a Conscious Bride: Do Your Work During the Engagement Process!
Sheryl Paul, M.A. is a pioneer in talking about what few in our society will even touch - the Death that comes with getting married. In her MUST READ book, The Conscious Bride, Sheryl takes our hand and takes us on a tour of all the frightening feelings, emotions and situations that mostly likely will surface as we prepare to shed our Single Woman shell and enter into the world of "wife."
We talk about the grieving process that needs to happen and what happens if it doesn't - a little discussed phenomenon called "post-bridal depression" that grips many women who do not "do their work" during the engagement period.
Sheryl helps us understand the normalcy and importance of feeling the anger, fear, doubt, loss and isolation - all NORMAL and healthy feelings - that naturally arise during the wedding planning process.
In this interview we learn about the 3 phases of transition: Separation, In Between Zone, and Rebirth/New Beginning. Sheryl shows us quite clearly what happens if we do not honor each phase fully and what to do if we find ourselves unhappily stuck in any part of the transition process.
We talk about what men are going through during the engagement process and the conditioning women have to deal with that men do not. We end with Sheryl recommending a powerful exercise that supports the bride-to-be in fully releasing her past in order to face her new future as a conscious, empowered wife.
This is a DO NOT MISS interview for any woman planning a wedding or anyone who knows a woman planning her wedding!
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Alissa Kriteman: Welcome to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships & Sex.” I’m your host, Alissa Kriteman. This show is dedicated to providing today’s modern women with useful information they need to make empowered, conscious choices.
This month, we’ve been talking about what might be on the minds of a lot of women out there – planning a wedding. So, whether your wedding is eight months from now or two months from now or two weeks from now, we’re going to get a lot of juicy information from an author and bridal counselor, Sheryl Paul.
And so, today, we’re going to talk to Sheryl about a lot of information that’s in her book, “The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings About Getting Hitched.”
So, Sheryl Paul, welcome, welcome to Just for Women.
Sheryl Paul: Thank you.
Alissa Kriteman: So, let me tell people a little bit about you. You’ve got a Master’s in counseling psychology and you’re a bridal counselor specializing in helping women understand the emotions that arise during the engagement, wedding and the first year of marriage. And I actually have your Conscious Bride book as well as the Conscious Bride Workbook and they’re fantastic.
So, any woman who’s out there planning a wedding, thinking about it or even who’s married, must, must read.
And, also, you’re married with a son and, congratulations, I just found out you’re pregnant.
Sheryl Paul: Yes, thank you.
Alissa Kriteman: That’s awesome. And listeners, you can find Sheryl Paul at ConsciousWeddings.com and ConsciousMotherhood.com.
So, Sheryl, I think my listeners really care about, you know, what’s involved with the engagement process that goes beyond all the happy faces, parties and celebration? That goes into the not so talked about, maybe even dark side of getting married, the emotions, the feelings that not everybody’s talking about. So, I’m really excited to explore this with you today.
Sheryl Paul: Great. That’s an important topic and, you’re right, very few people still talking about it.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. So, what I want to cover are the three phases of transition that women go through, rites of separation, the wedding date and the first year. And I know it’s a lot and, if it’s too much, I’m going to have you back. So, I want you to tell us what we really need to know about each topic and just let it rip because, like we said, there’s a lot here and I don’t want to miss anything.
So, let’s start in. You know, like we were saying, engagement is supposed to be this happy, exciting time. And, as I was telling you a little earlier, I’m engaged and I’m just going through it. So, let’s talk about that. What do we need to know about this shadow side of this really important time in our lives?
Sheryl Paul: Well, a lot of the shadow comes from the fact that we expect as women this time to be perfectly happy and blemish-free and joyous and on Cloud 9 and that’s just not the case for most women.
There are elements of that and sometimes you feel that right after the proposal and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you feel it as the wedding nears and sometimes you don’t. So, there’s a lot of fantasy and expectation and conditioning about how we think an engagement is supposed to feel, how we think we’re supposed to feel about the person we’re marrying. A lot of false beliefs and mythology around the idea of love and in love-ness and weddings, so all of that comes into play.
For many women, pretty soon after they start the planning and start getting serious about actually getting married, when the reality is there’s a lot of grief and loss about letting go of the single life, letting go of a certain lifestyle and identity and attachment to that identity, realizing that by saying yes to one person, you’re saying no to every other potential partner on the planet. So, people’s commitment issues come into play; people’s difficulty making decisions is often very high on the list of reasons why people call me because they have a hard time committing and to saying yes and trusting themselves enough to know that this is the right decision for them or the wrong decision.
A lot of doubt comes into play and people in our culture tend to equate doubt with don’t. So, if you have any doubt, you think what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with my relationship. I’m not supposed to be doubting. When, in many cases, the women that I counsel, the women that come to my website, my message board, doubt is a healthy part of any huge decision, whether you’re buying a house or picking a college or moving or starting a new job, it’s very natural to doubt the decision.
Alissa Kriteman: I really like what you’re saying. You know, you’re really sort of normalizing the emotions that are coming up and all of these things that are coming up, doubt, it’s like a refrain where we can actually go, “Oh, I’m not crazy, this doesn’t mean no. I can go ahead.”
Sheryl Paul: That’s right. And a lot of it, again, is because as women, we are conditioned to think that we’re not supposed to doubt. Men are allowed to doubt, men are expected to have cold feet. Right? But, for women, it’s equated with making a mistake immediately. So, if someone’s going through the whole gamut of emotions, grief, loss, fear, confusion, doubt, uncertainty, anger and they start to talk about it with people, they’re often met with, “Well, maybe you’re making a mistake, maybe you should rethink this.” When, in my work, those are all very natural, even necessary, emotions that come with the territory of transition.
You’re letting go of a way of life. You’re grieving. It is a death experience and that’s a hard word for people to digest, especially in connection to a wedding. But there is a dying process that happens and along with that a lot of grief, a lot of tears, a lot of loss, a lot of questioning. All of the normal emotions that would go along with any kind of loss. The problem only being that we don’t understand that, with a wedding, there is a loss.
Now, the plus side is that when you really go through that consciously during the engagement and you don’t focus all of your energy on simply the planning, which is a tendency for most women and it’s the pull in our culture is to create this “perfect” wedding, so you submerge all of those difficult feelings and just focus on the planning and then they come crashing down on you afterwards and then you have what I call post-bridal depression.
People’s – the affairs statistics are very high in the first year of marriage, people haven’t done the work. When they do the work, their emotional work, psychological work, during the engagement, the benefit is that they’re very present for their wedding day, they can actually feel into the experience, they can connect to their partner, which, if it’s not about that, what is it about? And then, they can use the first year of marriage to explore what it really means to be married, to adjust to the transition, but then to experience the boon of all of this work which is a sense of rebirth, of new beginnings, of exploring possibilities, of discovering new aspects of herself that she never realized were there.
And that’s, again, true for all transitions. There’s the letting go phase, there’s the in between phase and then there’s the new beginning.
Alissa Kriteman: I want to go back for a second and talk about getting to an authentic yes. You said some women come to you, they’re having doubts. How do you support women into getting to an authentic yes?
Sheryl Paul: It’s a tricky process for a lot of people. Some people, once they weed out all of the fears and I have very specific exercises for working with the fears, the fear often masks as truth. So, the fear is saying, “You’re making a mistake, he’s not the right guy, you can do better,” you know. And the trick is how do you discern between fear and truth?
So I give my clients very specific exercises and the more work they do, again, the better, the faster they’ll find their clarity for wading through that – those fear voices, getting to that truth, getting to where I call the North Star, where you have deep down inside of you, you have that sense of rightness. It may not always be there and may be buried behind layers and layers of fear, but it is there. Or a sense of wrongness, if it’s just not the right thing. But, it is a critically important process for women to go through and frustrating because they usually want somebody else to tell them you’re with the right guy or you’re not.
Where I can help is they can describe their relationship to me and I often come back with “are there any red flags?” You know, is there any – are you having very strong physical symptoms? Are you having nightmares? Is your partner an alcoholic? Has he been emotionally abusive? Have you had betrayal issues that haven’t been worked through?
Alissa Kriteman: Do you ask things of women that they probably would rather ignore? And so, is that what you mean by these layers of fear? Because it sounds like, you know, you were saying this before like fantasy, we’re so geared to have this sort of fantasy. And I think that’s why the divorce rate is so high because we’re not doing our work. And we do live in so much fantasy that when these fears come up, it’s like, I can’t look at that, I’m getting married. This is how it has to go.
You know, when you talk about getting to that deep core, I think a lot of women, and tell me what you think, they know somewhere deep inside but they’re not willing to admit that they – that when they were getting married, they knew the guy wasn’t right for them but they were too afraid to stop the whole, you know, momentum of the wedding planning.
Sheryl Paul: I would say that that’s true, but I will also say that about 95% of my women who come to me, my clients, are with really great guys and the fantasy is really more around thinking that it should feel different. You know, what if I’m bored sometimes, is that okay? What if I don’t feel in love all the time, is that okay?
So, the fantasy, I think, it’s actually converse from what you’re saying. It’s more around thinking that it should feel like fireworks, it should be Hollywood, it should be the magazines, you know and having a hard time accepting that real love doesn’t usually feel like that past the first three months. You know? You have an infatuation phase. But that’s not where you base a marriage on; you don’t base a marriage on those feelings.
You base a marriage on shared values, on a core connection, you know, do you have a foundation on which to plant a marriage. And, it’s not going to live on just the jittery, in love feelings that we think you’re supposed to have.
So, for most of my clients, it’s actually not about being scared of the truth, because most of my clients are coming to me with very good relationships, very solid relationships with very good men. It’s more like, “Oh, I’m with this great guy.” “Well, tell me about him.” “He’s honest, he’s reliable, he’s responsible. He loves me, he listens to me.” “Well, what’s the problem?” “I can’t stop thinking about that ex who just rocked my world.”
Alissa Kriteman: Hmm.
Sheryl Paul: You know, there’s often an ex that comes into play, even if it’s just mentally, usually not literally but sometimes it is. [laughter] You know, I’m dreaming about him. I’m thinking about him. I really felt so in love with him in a way that I never have with my fiancé, is that okay?
Alissa Kriteman: Um, hmm.
Sheryl Paul: So, that’s more where the fantasy exists, is around our idea in western culture, it’s not all cultures, it’s specifically western culture, heavily promoted by Hollywood, about what “love” should feel like.
Alissa Kriteman: Right, got it. That’s good to know. I’m glad to hear that women are coming to you with great relationships, but they just haven’t had the model of, or even the awareness that, no, what you’re thinking what’s happening is totally right, it’s totally fine and, you know, we can just come to terms with all of the emotions and all of the fears that are coming up, that they’re normal and that, yeah, you know, you can go forward knowing that.
So, you know, I’ve read that relationship brings up all the unfinished work or all the wounds and triggers from family, growing up, parents. How can we – do you agree with that? And, how can we learn to separate or watch that when it comes up in relationship and what can we do about it?
Sheryl Paul: Well, I’ll start by saying that my work is not specifically focused on relationships aside from what comes up during the engagement process. So, it’s a bit off topic as far as where my expertise is. Yes, I agree with that for the most part; I don’t think it’s true in every relationship and I think that what comes up during engagement is sometimes connected to that unfinished business. And sometimes, it’s just a woman’s own individual process around transition.
So, our fears about marriage may have to do with the fact that her parents got divorced when she was five. Yes, that’s unfinished business. And the more she addresses that consciously, the more she can realize, “Okay, that’s just my fear, that’s what happened in my childhood. My husband-to-be is not my father.” You know, he’s not a womanizer or he’s not an alcoholic or whatever the issue was growing up, so, to be able to come back to the present moment.
But I would also like to say that a lot of the focus on the partner is often a distraction from the other issues that arise during the transition. So, I often say to women you would be having these feelings no matter who you were marrying.
Alissa Kriteman: Hmm.
Sheryl Paul: You know, it’s about the transition much more than it is about the person you’re marrying unless there are real problems in your relationship.
But, like I said, most times there aren’t; most times a relationship is basically good. It doesn’t mean there aren’t problems, every relationship has problems, every relationship has conflict, but there’s a basic rightness, it works and the issues that are arising have to do with her own transition much more than they have to do with the partner.
Alissa Kriteman: That is such a great point. Thank you for saying that. I’m really getting where you’re focused on women and the transition. And I realized, just in this moment, like, I’m doing that. I’m focusing a lot on my partner in this phase and thank you for saying that because it really sort of puts the onus and the responsibility back on me to do my work.
Sheryl Paul: That’s right.
Alissa Kriteman: Right.
Sheryl Paul: And not having it – it’s really about the transition.
Alissa Kriteman: So let’s talk more about that. We’re going to take a short break to support our sponsors.
And, listeners, if you want to get some great discounts on things that would totally enhance your life, check out my sponsors. They bring me great experts like Sheryl Paul to you. So, if you can support them, I’d greatly appreciate it.
I’m Alissa Kriteman. I’m with Sheryl Paul, bridal counselor and author of “The Conscious Bride,” and we’ll be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: We’re back. I’m Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking to Sheryl Paul about how to deal with all of the changes, the fears, the doubts, all of the emotions that come up as we plan our wedding during the engagement process.
And we were talking about in the first segment, one big key that I really got was how to not focus on our partner so much and really focus on ourselves because we’re going through the transition. It would be happening with whatever man that we were with.
So, let’s talk a little bit more about – what more do you want to tell us about transition? Because I know you have a lot to say about there’s phases of these transitions, yeah?
Sheryl Paul: Um, hmm. There are, there are three phases of transition. The first being the separation phase when, and this applies, again, to all transitions becoming a mother, getting married, moving, job change, losing a loved one. There are countless transitions we go through during our lives, so it’s a really wonderful roadmap to help us understand the phases of transition. And they’re not always linear, it doesn’t always happen A, B, C, but they do happen.
So, the first phase is separating from the old life, recognizing fantasies, letting the parts that need to die, die. So, saying goodbye when you’re getting married is about saying goodbye to being a single person in the world. Saying goodbye to dating, saying goodbye to ever having a first date again is sometimes a hard one for women to swallow. You know, just, there’s not going to be that newness, the excitement.
For some women, it’s a huge relief to be out of the dating scene. But, even with that relief, there’s sometimes an element of grief, of recognizing that an entire phase of life is over. That’s often connected to changing one’s last name, you know, there’s that symbolic representation of an identity shift. So, moving from one phase of life to another. And the engagement is largely about their grief, the loss, the letting go.
For a lot of people, it comes up around family of origin issues and separating from one’s family. It doesn’t mean that you say goodbye to them forever, it means that there’s a shift that’s going to happen as the woman transfers allegiance from her family of origin onto her partner. It’s very necessary; it needs to happen for the marriage to be built on a healthy foundation. If she’s still going to her parents for everything and taking their advice over her husband’s, then she hasn’t done the work yet and problems will arise.
And, by the way, the same is true for men. We see a lot of men who haven’t quite cut the apron strings yet and are too attached to their mothers and that attachment needs to be severed or, at least, largely loosened before he gets married if he wants to avoid inevitable problems in the relationship.
So, separation is the first phase and there’s an in between phase. When women, usually closer to the wedding day, sometimes on the wedding day itself, usually after the wedding day a few weeks or a month, where she’s in an in-between zone, where she’s not quite single anymore, not quite married, not quite sure who she is in this new role and in this new life. And that is characterized by numbness, disorientation, there’s a real flipping on its head of her reality and her identity.
And then, the last phase is the rebirth, the new beginning, where, as I talked about, where she gets to explore new aspects of herself that are born. She feels a new stability in her life with the commitment of marriage, and she can use that as her launching pad to discover who she is in a whole new way and, perhaps, it makes her question her job. Is this really the job that she wants to be in? Does she want to explore a job shift? Does she want to explore more of her passions, her creativity? So, it’s often a very exciting time for women if they’ve done the first two stages.
Alissa Kriteman: Gotcha.
Sheryl Paul: So, you know, if she hasn’t done the really work, again, it doesn’t – she doesn’t get to experience the rebirth. And this is not something I’ve made up, it’s a pattern of transition that you can even see in nature. You know, you have the shedding of autumn leaves, you have the quiet time of winter, you have the rebirth of spring and summer.
Alissa Kriteman: Interesting. Is that where you mentioned at the beginning, there’s a post-wedding depression, if we haven’t done our work in the separation and the in between, well, really the separation, then what happens to us? Is that where this depression comes in?
Sheryl Paul: Um, hmm. There’s a crash after the wedding. There’s everything that she’s pushed aside, all of the fear, all of the grief, all of the loss, all the confusion, all the doubt, comes crashing down on her after the wedding, everything that she managed to avoid with the planning. Because, you know, Bridezilla has become a very big term in the last several years, but she’s become that person where all she can focus on is the planning, she’s been very controlled, very controlling and then there’s nothing left to do after the wedding.
So, in that blankness, in that empty state, all of the feelings come crashing down on her and it can be very scary to them. After it’s already done, the questioning and doubting and grieving and not understanding what’s happening to her.
Alissa Kriteman: How would a woman who’s experiencing that move through it?
Sheryl Paul: Well, she would have to go back and do the work that didn’t get done. So she would first of all have to understand that it’s an important stage for her. It doesn’t mean she’s made a mistake. It doesn’t mean that she’s in the wrong marriage, it means that she needs to grieve. She needs to acknowledge her fears and then work through them. She needs to do everything that she didn’t do while she was busily planning her wedding and staying, you know, on top of things 24/7.
Alissa Kriteman: Gotcha. Okay. So you talked about perfectionism, control, you know, definitely all these magazines we see there’s everything about the perfect wedding and you sort of mentioned that before. How can we avoid that?
Sheryl Paul: Well, the first step is to be aware, to be conscious that that’s the pull in the wedding industry. I usually recommend to my clients to not to look at bridal magazines, to turn off the TV as much as possible, to avoid romantic comedies because they’re completely based on fantasy for the most part, so to go very internal and to try to shut out the media world which is not going to help her in her process of being honest and being conscious.
So, most people that come to me do have a propensity towards perfectionism anyway. And, once you get the ball rolling with the wedding, that perfectionist can usually get pretty out of control. So, she needs to recognize that that’s the tendency and do what she can to rein that in. And that usually means taking time to stop, stop planning the wedding and go inside however she does it. Whether she sits in solitude and quiet; whether she journals, that’s the time to seek counsel, to, you know, set up some sessions with me and see what comes up for her so that she can slow down and start to feel her feelings.
She’s not going to be served at all by letting that perfectionist take over. She’ll fee disconnected, completely disconnected from her partner. She’ll approach her wedding day feeling like somebody else because she is someone else, she’s being taken over by this demon called the perfectionist. And, she’ll probably have a lot of regret after her wedding because she won’t be present for it at all.
Alissa Kriteman: It’s almost as though control and striving for perfection are almost signs of how to avoid this post-bridal depression because, if you can grab it right there – because it sounds like that’s a telltale sign. Hey, you’re not feeling it, all your time’s going that way. You’ve got to slow down and feel some things before this gets out of control.
Sheryl Paul: It is. It’s definitely a sign that something’s not right. And, if she’s honest, again, even just for a minute, she’ll say to herself, is this bringing me joy? Am I happy?
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah.
Sheryl Paul: You know? Do I feel connected to myself? Do I feel connected to my partner? Are we creating an authentic and meaningful wedding together?
Alissa Kriteman: Hmm.
Sheryl Paul: Am I including him in my decisions at all?
Alissa Kriteman: Right. Because I would think that would say something about how life would be. Right?
Sheryl Paul: Yes, for a marriage. Definitely everything that comes up during an engagement is a dress rehearsal for marriage.
Alissa Kriteman: [Laughs] Whether we want to look at it or not.
Sheryl Paul: Yes.
Alissa Kriteman: Okay. Great. So, let’s talk about what if an engagement is super short and what if it’s really long? What do we need to know?
Sheryl Paul: If it’s super short, the feelings will be condensed. She’ll have to do a lot of work very quickly and that’s usually more challenging. When people say it takes a year to plan a wedding, they’re usually talking about the practical aspects of planning a wedding, the site, the location, the flowers, the dress.
When I say it takes a year to plan a wedding, I’d say it takes about a year to process what comes up emotionally and not feel rushed by it.
If it’s a very, very long engagement, that’s fine. I don’t have any problem with a long engagement that just gives her more time to allow the feelings to work themselves through at their own timetable.
So, I often encourage women to postpone their weddings if they haven’t worked through enough of these feelings and the wedding is approaching too quickly. There’s nothing wrong with postponing.
Alissa Kriteman: I like that. [laughs] So, say someone postpones their wedding and they do the work, how would somebody go about handling that? I mean, there’s probably a lot of, especially in our day and age when just going for the wedding is like the big focus. Do you have any support for women who are thinking about postponing?
Sheryl Paul: I do. I think it’s a very courageous thing to do and it’s not an easy thing to do. But the women that I’ve worked with who have done it, have been, on the whole, very happy that they’ve done it. And people around them have been usually, to their surprise, very supportive. So, I think it’s more in their anticipation of postponing than the actual postponement that is challenging.
Alissa Kriteman: Hmm.
Sheryl Paul: And I think women have to believe that if I postpone, it means I’m never going to get married. But, I haven’t found that to be true.
Alissa Kriteman: So most of the postponements ended up where the bride and groom, the engaged couple, actually did the work and then continued on that pathway?
Sheryl Paul: I don’t know if I could say most, I haven’t done the statistics. I don’t keep statistics like that. [laughter] But, I would say a lot if they do the work. And for some people, postponement is just a gentler way of ending the relationship. You know?
Alissa Kriteman: Right.
Sheryl Paul: It’s just taking it in stages.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah.
Sheryl Paul: And they probably know that. Instead of just saying, we’re cancelling and we’re breaking it off, they go through a postponement period. That’s fine too.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. Yeah, you know what I appreciate about this conversation is that it’s so not talked about and you are such an advocate for people doing their work. It’s amazing to me that it’s not more supported.
Sheryl Paul: It is and it’s been amazing to me in the ten years since my book came out and I’ve been doing this work for much longer than that, that it’s still – people still get scared of thinking that there’s an underside to an engagement. We’re very committed in this culture to believing that an engagement is supposed to be only joyous and, I hate to say it, but I think a lot of it has to do with their multimillion or billion dollar wedding industry. I can’t remember which one it is, but there’s a lot of money that goes into this industry.
Alissa Kriteman: Right.
Sheryl Paul: There’s a lot of people that have a lot invested in making brides, women feel like they have to measure up to a certain image and create that image on their wedding day and that that means something. That that means that they have found their Prince Charming, that means that they will have a fantasy wedding or a fantasy marriage.
Alissa Kriteman: Right.
Sheryl Paul: When it means nothing. You know, you can get married with two people on a beach or in a forest and have the greatest marriage in the world. It doesn’t mean a thing if you have the right flowers and the right dress and all of that.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, it’s interesting. I went to a reception recently where the couple just took off into the mountains for a week and they did their own ceremony together. They went off on their own, they got back together. And we received them when they came back from the mountains and had their reception. And I thought, “Wow! that is just so cool and so different.” Standing in the face of what their parents wanted, that takes courage too.
Sheryl Paul: It definitely does. And there’s no right way to have a wedding these days just like there’s no right way to have a marriage. So, it’s really about the two people being very honest and authentic with each other about, you know, how do we want to make our commitment?
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah.
Sheryl Paul: Who do we want present? Do we want to be in the presence of all of our friends and family and have those witnesses? That’s a very beautiful thing to do. Do we want to elope and just be the two of us in the mountains? That’s beautiful as well. You know, there’s no right way, there’s only the way that works for the couple, just like having a marriage.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. Good stuff. We’re going to take another short break to support our sponsors.
And listeners, feel free to send me an email at Alissa – that’s A-L-I-S-S-A – @personallifemedia.com Or you can call me and leave me a message at (206) 350-5333. I’d love to hear your feedback, any questions you have, suggestions for people you’d love me to interview on the show.
I’m Alissa Kriteman. I’m with Sheryl Paul talking about some really important keys about being engaged, feeling your feelings and how to actually have a marriage that works. And we’ll be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: We’re back. I’m Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking today to bridal counselor Sheryl Paul. And, you know, I always love to include the men on my show. Can you tell us a little bit about what is going on for men during the engagement.
Sheryl Paul: Um, hmm. I think some men experience exactly every thing that we’ve been talking about. I think most men have some similar version of it, the difference being, as I mentioned earlier that men are completely allowed, they have full permission to go through whatever they need to go through around the wedding. They’re not expected to maintain this image of perfect bliss. They’re actually expected to have cold feet. They’re expected to question. They’re expected to doubt. There’s recognition that they are leaving a phase of life.
Men have a word to describe the identity that they are leaving behind, a bachelor. There’s no equivalent for women. So, even in our language, we understand that men are leaving behind their singlehood, their bachelorhood and there’s an understanding that they might get scared. They might have moments of questioning or of doubt and they’re totally allowed to do that.
So, it’s very different for men in that there is that permission. But, that said, men are typically much less emotional than women or emotionally connected I should say. I don’t actually think they’re less emotional. And whatever they’re feeling they might not even be aware of. For men around a wedding the big push is usually the proposal. That’s when they have to muster up their courage, make their commitment, get the ring, figure out what they’re doing, to plan, to get creative. So once they propose a lot of men in their minds think, okay, my work is done, you know. Now I just have to show up for the wedding.
Less and less I think that the case, a lot of men want to be involved in the planning, but emotionally, they’ve gotten themselves to the place they’re ready to commit or else they wouldn’t have proposed.
Alissa Kriteman: Right, right [laughter]. That’s a good point.
What do you have to say to women who have a particular idea about how she wants to be proposed to, the kind of ring that she wants, things like that?
Sheryl Paul: I think that’s fine to have that idea, but I think what’s important is that she’s able to let go of those ideas and go with the flow of what comes. And it can be a very interesting topic for her to explore is what came up for her during – around the proposal and was it, you know, good enough and did it meet her expectations. And, you know, if she’s a very controlling person, it’s going to be hard for her to accept what comes even if it’s a great proposal because it didn’t fit the fantasy she had in her head.
Alissa Kriteman: Hmm.
Sheryl Paul: So, again, everything is important for her to look at. Everything is usually symbolic, whether it’s the proposal or the wedding dress or, you know, whatever it is that she can’t let go of. It usually has a lot more energy around it than just the thing itself. So the proposal may bring up her issues around control and her inability to surrender and just, you know, allow her partner to take the lead sometimes.
Her issues about her wedding dress may be symbolic about, you know, her fantasy around weddings. A wedding dress is a very big topic and lots of feelings come up around the dress usually. And, again, you know, it’s not about the dress, it’s about what the dress is holding for her.
Alissa Kriteman: That’s interesting. It’s interesting what you’re saying, like each piece of putting a wedding together actually has a sort of symbology around it and can be keys and clues to where we need to let go of something or grow in a particular way. I didn’t realize that.
Sheryl Paul: Yup, absolutely.
Alissa Kriteman: Wow! Okay, cool. Well, we are almost out of time, but I want to ask you one final question. Your book has really amazing exercises at the end of each chapter. And, like you said about doing the work, it’s built into your book and it’s also built into your workbook, which I also highly recommend. But what’s one practice you really enjoy that you want to recommend to women that they do as they’re going through the engagement?
Sheryl Paul: I think a great exercise is to write a goodbye letter to her single self. I think that it brings her into connection with the core of what this process is about and allows her to let go and put words to, what it is that she’s actually letting go of.
Alissa Kriteman: Hmm. Right and, again, being more conscious about it, you can actually face it, emote, whatever, and let it go and experience that death and not be afraid of it. Yeah.
Sheryl Paul: Um, hmm. That’s right.
Alissa Paul: I like what you said about that our culture is so death adverse, but really if you think about it, we don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s like, we can have all these fantasies like you were saying but, in reality, like we don’t know. All we can do is just chew ourselves up and hold to that truth. Yeah?
Sheryl Paul: That’s right and that’s a very big issue that comes up for a lot of people during transition is that sense of feeling out of control and tumbling towards the unknown. Because marriage is a great big unknown. You know? Nobody knows what the marriage is going to be like and how it will evolve over the years. And, you know, every transition is a big unknown, you’ve about to have a baby or when you are about to start a new job or when you’re moving, you’re moving towards an unknown. And we tend to like what’s know and what’s familiar.
We have a hard time with change. We have a hard time with, you know, letting ourselves feel out of control and that’s why the wedding is such a perfect venue for that controlling part of us because there’s so many places to grasp on and try to have control around the planning instead of just letting go and recognizing that we don’t know. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing or where we’re going or how we’re feeling and that’s okay.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, that’s such a good point. The planning becomes the thing that holds on to when you feel out of control. Nice point.
All right, so, tell us again how we can find you.
Sheryl Paul: Through my website, ConsciousWeddings.com which has a great message board full of incredibly insightful, wise, wonderful women on there. Or, if you’re going through transition of becoming a mother, it’s ConsciousMotherhood.com.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, we’ll have to have you back for Conscious Motherhood. I like that.
Sheryl Paul: Great.
Alissa Kriteman: That is awesome.
Sheryl Paul, thank you so much for the work you’re doing in the world and how your really uniquely helping women be their most empowered especially during such a scary and transitional time. I really appreciate it.
All listeners, you know, get these books. They’re truly amazing and we can see now why it’s so important to do this kind of work, to have the conscious families that we want to have, you know, and raise our children to be conscious adults. And, if we don’t do the work, it’s really going to end up in our families, I would think. Yeah?
Sheryl Paul: Um, hmm, definitely.
Alissa Kriteman: Who wants that. [laughter]
So thank you so much for being on Just for Women today.
Sheryl Paul: You’re so welcome, thanks for having me.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, that brings us to the end of the show. Thank you everybody for listening. For text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, just go to PersonalLifeMedia.com.
I’m your host, Alissa Kriteman always expanding your choices here on “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships & Sex.” Tune in next week for more juicy news you can use.
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