Everyone's Right to the Rite

Susan Artup is a straight woman with a 45-year connection to the gay community and is delighted with the recent change in marriage law.

She has been a civil celebrant since 1995 with “ A Ceremony by Design … true to your relationship…”, defining her approach to commitment. Susan has done it all – complex traditional rituals, “ short and sweet” legalities, alternative ceremonies… all reflecting the personal style of her couples and capturing the tone they wish for.

Why marriage?

While a Commitment ceremony is fine, and just as personal and just as moving and just as meaningful in sentiment and intention as a legal ceremony - a rose by any other name is not as sweet, unless it is your conviction to eschew the institution of marriage in the first place (as many straight and gay couples do).

Commitment Ceremony

Will this be the year?

A marriage starts in the heart, and straight or gay, Susan will honour the celebration of your commitment and the expression of your vows. For a personal conversation, call Susan on 0408 826 743 or send me a message.

When Did Valentine's Day Start?

Before it was ever associated with love, February 14th was a feast day held in Roman times to honour various martyred saints called Valentinus, in particular St Valentinus of Rome.

This Valentine was imprisoned for his faith in 269 and executed because he wouldn’t refute it. Despite pressure applied, he in fact managed to convert his gaoler’s daughter to Christianity.

Prohibited Weddings

One of the things that landed Valentine in gaol was his practice of performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry. Although in these times the couplings were more about sacrifice, and in a very modern sense, equality, Valentine provided some lasting symbols for the contemporary notion of Valentine’s Day. He would cut hearts out of parchment to give to soldiers to remind them of their vows and of God’s love. He wore an amethyst ring with an image of cupid, a recognised symbol of love, embedded in it. Soldiers would see it and ask him to conduct their wedding. Amethysts have become the birthstone of people born in February and are thought to attract love.

Love Letter

Your First Valentine

So before his execution, Valentine wrote a letter to his gaoler’s daughter, and signed it “ Your Valentine.” The original.

Valentine and Romantic Love

It wasn’t until Chaucer made a reference in the 14th century that Valentine became involved in romantic love – or for that time, courtly love. The earliest Valentine’s poem came in the 15th century in which Charles Duc d’Orléans wrote of being smitten by love for his sweet Valentine: “ Je suis desja tanné, ma très doulce Valentinée”.
After that Shakespeare and John Donne wrote of Valentine’s Day in the way that we know it today.

Random Love

In 1784 this poem was not the cliché it is today but an original entreaty:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine.
I drew thee to my Valentine,
the lot was caste, then drawn,
and fortune said it should be you.

The original notion that your Valentine is someone new or fated is evident in this. Originally your Valentine was someone you had to court ( courtly love). The love you have to run after, just like on a tennis court!


Valentine's Gifts

Even then in the eighteenth century lovers exchanged flowers and confectionery. They gave each other keys as a symbol for unlocking their hearts. They made each other cards, and then in the early nineteenth century they gave each other printed cards. When the postage stamp was invented in 1840 the prevalence of Valentine’s Day cards soared and made it possible for Valentine’s messages to be anonymous.


Sexy Messages

And anonymity made it possible for greetings to be racy and shameless and extremely personal. “Sexting” is a very old habit indeed! Some messaging could be flattering, some harassment … and context was everything.

When Valentine's Day is Not Commercial

Everyone who values true love knows that there is more to your feelings on Valentine’s Day… the Anglican church holds a Saint Valentine’s service, which includes the option of renewing your marriage vows. In England and Wales, the Catholic church holds a novena “ to support single people seeking a spouse ahead of St Valentine’s Day.”

Valentines Proposal

Today's Valentine's

Are rarely anonymous. The 14th February is now a date for acknowledging love, proposing love, celebrating love. All kinds of gifts are given, although traditionally roses, chocolates and jewellery. It is a day you might decide to ask your partner to marry you, or a day you might plan to reaffirm your marriage vows, or hold a commitment ceremony, or indeed your wedding.

You think you know what love is?

" I take you to be my lawful wife, my lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, in good times and adversity, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish till death do us part... "

In the nursing home where my mother lives there is a married couple, Ron and Marion. Marion is in slightly better shape than Ron, but both live to varying degrees in that private, disconnected, isolating world of dementia. Physically, though, they are together - they share a room and their beds have been pushed together. I'm sure that their minds and spirits are still connected too and am absolutely certain their hearts are. They spend the day moving from one lounge area to another, sitting side by side to take their meals.
Another bed-ridden lady resident is visited every day by her husband. Sometimes he sits beside her while she wails incessantly, sometimes she is calm and they hold hands, sometimes she nods off and he keeps vigil with his head resting on the bed-head.
When I was leaving the other day an anxious AIN was urgently calling for assistance from the RN - another devoted husband was trying to wheel his wife's care chair out the front door. It was physical, the struggle : the chair spinning in circles as he pulled it this way, the nurse the other.
" Let me through, I'm taking her home!" he cried in that thin, fragile aged voice, "she's coming home with me!!!" And all the time his frail, bewildered beloved weeping and trembling and pleading with him, " Oh let me stay, darling, please let me stay. Be a good boy and let me stay."

As long as we both shall live.

15 Ways to a Healthy Relationship

I wonder if it’s possible to offer a prescription for a sound relationship?

And on whose evidence and experience? Anyway here is something I read lately – 15 pointers to a healthy relationship. Should there be fewer? Why stop at 15? Anyway :

  1. Look after your own physical and emotional health
  2. Accept that conflict is normal and feel free to speak up
  3. However, don’t be defensive : take responsibility
  4. Accept your differences but be fair and compromise
  5. Respect each other’s viewpoint
  6. Be open about your thoughts and feelings and offer empathy in return
  7. If you are feeling uncomfortable, use words like “ I feel..,”, “When you do this, I want…” which are less confrontational
  8. Spend time apart; maintain your own identity
  9. Influence each other in a fair and respectful way
  10. Be assertive, but not aggressive; keep the power balance
  11. Don’t assume how your partner is feeling or vice-versa
  12. Communication relies on repetition , but avoid criticism
  13. Constantly show appreciation
  14. Expect that your partner’s perspective may change over time and respect that
  15. Be honest if you are at fault and be quick to apologise – always be aware of the effect your behaviour has on your partner.


The Mythical Origin of Our Longing for Love

What is it about us that makes us go after love even if our experience of it has brought anguish and destruction? In her poem Laura Hendricks says: “ If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.” I read an article in the Sunday paper years ago which gives us a mythical explanation. In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes talks about the origin of our longing for union.

Once upon a time we humans were actually two people joined together seamlessly as one : two heads, four legs and four arms. We came in three different meldings : male/female, male/male, female/female. We had the perfect partner in our very fabric, and we were content. We lacked nothing, we wanted no-one. And we were whole. We were proud, and got too big for our boots: the gods punished us by cutting us all in half. We were cruelly cut down and miserable. We were left with the constant sense that something was missing, another half that was out there somewhere. We were inflicted with the yearning to find our other soul, condemned to a relentless search. We wanted that union again, to feel complete again. What a strange fantasy – that one plus one would equal ONE! An impossible dream – our other halves were shattered and scattered too far to ever be found. We may think we have found that half, but eventually we will find ourselves wanting again. This wanting makes us mate over and over again, seeking the perfect union. Sometimes we think we have found it, but what we have found is someone else, hoping, just enough, to have found that completion in us.

Love and Friendship: A Growing Bond

Sometimes I read that the basis for love in marriage is friendship. That friends turn into lovers and surely their relationship will grow and thrive. Laura Hendricks poem,
Love is Friendship caught Fire” suggests this:

“Love is friendship caught fire; it is quiet, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

Love is content with the present, hopes for the future, and does not brood over the past. It is the day-in and day-out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.”

I think that the love we hold as the essential ingredient to modern marriage surely doesn’t begin with friendship. It doesn’t ring true to me that you can be friends and not notice that you are attracted on quite a different level! What I do think though is that when the novelty and the excitement have died down and you find friendship – when your partner is the first person you turn to – then you have the essence of marriage. But your spouse will always be much more than a friend, and if you can keep the spark of lust and mutual interests that attracted you to one another in the first place alive, then you have a partnership that will stand up to time. You will maintain the passion, and it will be more than enough.

“ The Perfect Love, The Perfect Friend” by Reneé Duvall speaks first of passion, then of friendship:

“Because you are my love
I know the joy that comes from feeling closer to someone than I’ve ever felt before.

Because you are my love
I know the passion of wanting to share everything I have, everything I am with you and only you.

Because you are my friend
I know that I can count on you to hold my hand through the rough times and to be there to share the good times too.

Because you are my friend
I’ll always have someone to make me smile just when I need it most, and to encourage me when I’m feeling confused or doubtful.

And I know that I must be one of the luckiest people in the world
To have someone like you… the perfect love, the perfect friend.”

The Path to Enduring Love in Marriage

10 Ways to be a Good Partner

One of the letters to the editor I read lately discusses the disposability of marriage.

Enduring love, it says, happens at the Deep Love Phase, after the initial Romantic Phase and the negotiating of the Conflict Phase. Communicating and connecting are learned skills which counter the option of disposing; they lead through to the final satisfying stage.

One of my clients has just sent me some similar research on Relationship Science by Samantha Joel which describes these learned skills. It talks about the import of a wedding ( or a commitment) ceremony which has two functions : to bring a private commitment into the public domain of recognition, and, significantly, to orient the relationship into the future. Hence, promises for an enduring partnership are fundamental to the ceremony.

To make this partnership happy and fulfilling as well, psychologists talk of 10 specific habits or behaviours:

  1. Always try to make your partner feel good about himself or herself. Focus on the positives and support their personal (and independent) goals.
  2. Respect your partner’s right to make their individual choices ( without your influence).
  3. Understand your partner’s needs and strive to meet them.
  4. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices to do this – not because you feel you ‘should’  but because you want to make your partner happy.
  5. Be the person in your partner’s life they can most confidently rely on for support.
  6. Always encourage your partner in their endeavours and praise them fulsomely on the achievement of goals.
  7. Do happy, interesting things together – keep your relationship out of a rut.
  8. Face challenges together – act as a team, always keeping your partner’s welfare and your relationship uppermost.
  9. Give to your relationship willingly without thinking about what you will get in return.
  10. Never take each other for granted. Always tell each other how much you love and appreciated each other.

The final point takes us full circle back to the first. And that is it, a good partnership is a circle of attraction, understanding, giving and growth. A wedding ring!

Medieval Monk's Take on Love and Commitment

thomas a kempis

Thomas à Kempis was a prolific medieval Christian monk. He wrote this about love, and the commitment of love. Of course the love he speaks about is not just romantic love but a code for living. How could an old guy in the middle ages write so fittingly of modern love?

This is not an original blog, but on his behalf , I share:

Love is a great thing, a great good in every way; it alone lightens that which is
heavy, and leads smoothly over all roughness. For it carries a burden without being burdened, and makes every bitter thing sweet and tasty. Love wants to be lifted up, not held back by anything low. Love wants to be free, and far from all worldly desires, so that its inner vision may not be dimmed nor good fortune bind it nor misfortune cast it down. Nothing is sweeter than love; nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing wider; nothing happier, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven and earth.
Love keeps watch and is never unaware, even when it sleeps; tired, it is never
exhausted; hindered, it is never defeated; alarmed, it is never afraid; but like a living flame and a burning torch it bursts upward and blazes forth…
..... Love is quick, sincere, dutiful, joyous and pleasant; brave, patient,faithful, prudent, serene and vigorous; and it never seeks itself. For
whenever we seek ourselves, we fall away from love. Love is watchful, humble and upright; not weak or frivolous, or directed toward vain things; temperate, pure, steady, calm, and alert in all the senses. Love is devoted and thankful, always trusting and hopeful, even when it doesn't taste the sweetness, for without pain, no-one can live in love.”