The Circle of Marriageby Beverly Sullivant--NJ Wedding Minister on 01/07/12
One of the things I have a couples do when they come to me for pre-marital counseling is the Circle Exercise. With this exercise, each partner is given a sheet of paper and a pen and told to draw three rings in relationship with one another. Each ring has a significant role: one is the marriage itself; one is the wife; and one is the husband. It is important in this exercise to draw the rings in such a way that they reflect how the husband, wife and marriage all correspond to one another.
Sometimes, one or two members of the couple will draw three equal-sized rings and place two next to each other at the bottom and one at the top creating a triangle, or hierarchy of rings. This arrangement leaves both the wife and the husband outside of the marriage itself--as if they are still single and not committed to marriage yet.
Sometimes, a member of the couple will draw a big ring in the middle and smaller rings on each side of the big ring, with parts of these outer rings overlapping the sides of the big ring. In this arrangement the marriage has more prominance than it did in the arrangement described above, but it still reflects an unhealthy view of marriage in that the partners are still on the outside of the marriage.
With some couples, they have an instinct that the marriage itself needs to be more important than the individuals in it. These couples draw a large marriage ring and then draw two individual rings, representing the wife and husband, inside the larger ring. This is a much healthier perspective on the relationship of a couple and their marriage. The marriage needs to be larger than either one of the partners and it needs to be larger than both partners together. The marriage contains the couple and healthy marriages live according to a respect for the union first and for one another second.
When each person commits to the bounds of the union, in the exchange of vows, they agree that they will honor the union--the marriage--regardless of the regular, everyday annoyances brought into the relationship by either partner.
The ideal husband and wife relationship is one in which the husband and the wife both recognize that they are ameniable to the marriage more than they are to one another. There are so many times in a marriage, especially in times of conflict, when it feels nearly impossible to change or compromise according to the wishes of one's spouse. In these times, a realization that the change or compromise can be done for the benefit of the marriage, rather than for the spouse, can move a couple forward and keep them from remaining stuck in this-is-how-I-want-it-to-be limbo.
Having a healthy regard for the importance of the union over the individuals also provides each person with a sense of safety and protection. If they both are saying, "I will stay in this marriage according to our vows," then each one has the room to fail or be inadvertanly hurtful or develop new interests or investigate new professions with the implied support of the other person.
And in marriages where individuals are given room for all expression of their individuality (in the context of the vows), each person has the best chance to live a rich a fulfilled existence.
Be merry; be married.