The Conscious Groom: What Men Really Feel
While I was researching and writing The Conscious Bride thirteen years ago, I simultaneously took notes and interviewed for the obvious sequel, The Conscious Groom. But when I presented the idea to my publisher they said that there simply wasn’t a male market for that kind of book. Perhaps they were right, but since that time I’ve received thousands of emails and posts on my message board from men who are seeking consciousness. I send them to the Groom’s Room section of my site; I encourage them to read The Conscious Bride, explaining that, while it’s written for women, the principles of transition cross all lines of gender, geography, religion, and culture and so it does apply to them; and I counsel them. But I always wish I could refer them to a book that directly speaks to them in a serious way, a book that doesn’t make a mockery of their feelings and recognizes that the marriage transition is not less significant – and scary – for them than it is for their partners.
I’m always touched by the emails from men. While there is more tolerance for grooms experiencing less-than-blissful feelings during the engagement (they’re almost expected to drag their feet a bit), it still takes courage for them to contact me or post on my message board saying things like, I’m having doubts and I don’t know who to talk to about them or I don’t want the traditional stripper bachelor party and I’m wondering if you have other ideas for meaningful bachelor party rituals. These are men that are seeking consciousness and want to make sure that they’re getting married with as much awareness as possible. So this article is for you, conscious men, scared grooms, guys who are in touch with their emotional life enough to know that this transition is enormous and that guidance is not only helpful, but necessary.
Men struggle with a variety of issues, all of which I’ll cover in future articles. But for this article I’ll discuss the two most common areas where men are challenged: Letting go of bachelorhood and separating from their family of origin/transferring allegiance to their wife-to-be. The surface issue when men call me is usually the same as it is for women: I’m having doubts about my fiancé. I’m wondering if I love her enough. I’m having a hard time connecting to my love for her. We may spend some time talking about the myths and erroneous beliefs about love and marriage that permeate our culture, but eventually the surface issue simmers down to reveal the topics that are at the root of the doubt.
Just as it is for many women, letting go of being single requires focused attention and active emotional work if this aspect of the transition is to be done to completion. For some men, they’re just relieved not to be single anymore and thrilled to put the dating scene behind them. But for many others, while they’re ready to get married, they find themselves in the months leading up to the wedding wondering if this is really the right choice. The burning question is: Can I really give up flirting, dating, and having sex with other women? By saying yes to this one woman, he’s saying no to the other 7 billion, and that’s a lot of nos! Men, like women, experience this as a real grief.
The confusion arrives when he thinks that, because he’s thinking about other women and wondering if he can give them up, he must not be ready to get married. Rarely is this true. It’s much more likely that he simply needs to allow himself time to grieve the loss: there will be no more flirting in the same way, no more first dates and the butterflies of a new relationship, no more one night stands or three month flings. One of the most helpful and powerful exercises I know is for men to write a goodbye letter to their bachelor self. Sometimes this letter needs to be written two or three times, but with enough attention and compassionate guidance, the loss lessens and ultimately opens up to excitement.
The second area of struggle is often more difficult to identify and resolve. Even when a man has separated geographically from his parents many years earlier, on the eve of marriage the ties that bind him to them rear up with a force. Suddenly he feels caught between his fiancé and his parents and, if the allegiance isn’t transferred from family of origin to future wife and the feelings not consciously identified, owned, and expressed, he begins to harbor anger and resentment toward his fiancé for putting him in this position. And with wedding planning on the table, there are endless situations where the allegiance is put to the test. His parents want to invite eighty of their best friends and his fiancé wants a small affair. His parents want the wedding in his hometown and his fiancé wants it in hers.
Transferring allegiance to his fiancé doesn’t always mean choosing in her favor. Rather, it means making conscious choices with a thorough understanding of the underlying dynamics at play in mind. It means taking the time to have meaningful conversations with his parents and fiancé so that everyone understand that’s it’s not actually about how many people attend the wedding or where it takes place. The wedding is a ritual through which everyone involved grieves losses, adjusts to major changes and, in the end, welcomes with open arms the birth of a new family.