New group focuses on the foundations of a successful marriage
By Cindy Mindell
WESTPORT – If one can get a glimpse of a society’s groupthink by watching popular reality-TV shows, it is clear that the U.S. is mad about weddings. From “The Bachelorette,” “Bridezilla,” and “Say Yes to the Dress,” to shows dedicated to wedding-cake design — not to mention frenzied media coverage of celebrity weddings – the colors, fashion, setting, and accessories of The Big Day loom large in our modern-day collective cultural psyche.
But after the couple has gotten through the vows and the celebration, how do they create a successful marriage? How do they navigate day-to-day life together? The TV is mostly silent on the issue.
“In today’s society, the wedding industry has become so large and extravagant that many couples get wrapped up in the party and not concentrate on the marriage itself,” says Melanie Rago, a psychotherapist at Jewish Family Service of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien (JFS).
Rago is also coordinator of the agency’s Westport office (Jewish Family Service of Westport-Weston-Wilton-Norwalk). She is co-facilitating a new weekly premarital discussion group, “Before the I Do’s,” with JFS clinical intern Danielle Attard.
JFS staff conceived the idea for the group during a clinical meeting over the summer. “We were discussing weddings and people’s expectations of marriage and realized that, during the stressful time of wedding planning, it is easy to overlook the key foundations for a strong marriage,” says Rago. “We felt that it would be helpful for couples to have a forum where they can discuss topics that surpass the wedding day; such as children, finances, in-laws, etc.”
JFS discovered that the only pre-wedding discussion groups offered in the community were under the auspices of religious organizations, and decided to create a secular counterpart.
“We hope to give the participants a place to step back from discussing the flowers or the band, but really focus on details of the marriage,” Rago says. “This group will be a place where the participants can learn from each other and bring things to light that they may have overlooked. Our main goal is to give them peace of mind that they have a strong foundation for a solid marriage.”
While some potential participants might see the group as an admission that their relationship is not perfect, “this couldn’t be further from the truth,” Rago says. “The wedding is one day. It is a day to celebrate the new life as husband and wife, and the many happy years that will follow. The point is that, on this wedding day, the couple is entering the marriage with full confidence that they will forever be a team, working together to build many years of happiness. Topics such as money, family or bad habits sometimes get pushed aside because they are uncomfortable to talk about, but these are the important topics that should be addressed before walking down the aisle to secure a long and happy marriage. This group is a safe and comfortable place to do that, or to just learn how to communicate about these things at home.”
Rago says that the group will provide a laid-back setting where couples will be able to discuss concerns they might have about getting married, and gain tips on optimal communication. “We hope that the couples will enjoy coming and will leave with new skills that they will carry with them for years to come,” she says.
Before the “I Do’s:” Thursdays, 7:30- 8:30 p.m., Jewish Family Service of Westport-Weston-Wilton-Norwalk, 431 Post Road East, Suite 11. For information or to register contact Melanie Rago at firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 454-4992.
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