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I'm not getting married, I'm entering the 'love pyramid'

Joe Hildebrand, The Punch.Com
Sunday, February 03, 2013

THERE comes a time in a man's life when he has to hold a steady job, settle down with a nice girl, buy a house and do other things that will finally make his mother back the hell off.

And so I am getting married next week.

Before anyone starts jumping off buildings, I want to reassure my female fans and strong gay following that one in three marriages ends in divorce.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there is every chance I will be single again in 14 years' time — and given my blessed genetic heritage I think it's fair to say that I'll still be looking pretty good.

Having said that, I am getting married in a Catholic Church which makes the whole divorce thing a little more tricky. Even if the government stamps your paperwork when you finally make it to the job interview with St Peter you get sent straight to "the other place" — and I'm not talking about the Senate.

It is perhaps for this reason that prior to getting married the relationship counsellors put you through a series of sessions and workshops that are specifically designed to destroy your relationship before you get to the altar. And if they don't finish you off you can guarantee the caterers will.

And so my beloved and I found ourselves in a 10-hour course designed to promote stronger and more resilient relationships, a remarkably effective initiative because if you can make it through the 10 hours without resorting to domestic violence your relationship can survive anything.

Of course my beloved and I were a tad nervous before the first session but as it turned out this was totally unfounded. Within five minutes it was clear that the correct emotion was palpable blood-chilling terror.

The first class was a three-hour evening session early in the week in order to make it convenient for working people. Clearly they were not thinking of working journalists, whose only notion of a three-hour session was lunch at the Aurora.

Our instructor/mediator/intimacy facilitator was a lovely lady called Jane, who explained to us the key to a successful life partnership.

The key, apparently, is to master a lexicon of pseudo-psychological jargon based upon putting random words together that had absolutely no relation to each other.

Thus we learned about "love pyramids", "listening foundations" and "emotion maps".

Even things that you thought you might have actually experienced in what normal people call "the real world" were so heavily disguised that you couldn't actually recognise them.

For example, there was no such thing as fighting, only "non-integrated conversation".

Having received this information we were dismissed and told to reconvene for an all-day workshop early that Sunday morning. How many drinking sessions could one church destroy?

That morning I had carefully calculated our arrival time to be late enough to shave precious minutes off the time we would actually have to spend in the course but early enough so that we wouldn't have to stay back. It was a technique I had perfected over years of professional life.

But as it turned out we left the house even later than anticipated, a situation which caused my beloved to "make a withdrawal from the blame bank" and attribute to my refusal to get out of bed.

Once we were on the road, however, we were making good time thanks to my consistently unappreciated driving skills. I was just making my way to Parramatta Road when my beloved said her friend had shown her a short cut that could get us there in half the time.

As anyone who has ever watched any movie ever will know, this is a scientifically proven pathway to certain death and possibly prolonged torture at the hands of Kathy Bates. And so I uttered those three small words that are the lifeblood of any loving relationship: Are you sure?

Fortunately my beloved was completely sure, right up until the point where we sailed past the turn-off and were confronted with the usual un-navigable labyrinth of one way streets that has made Sydney such a popular tourist destination for so many years.

By the time we arrived we were heavily engaged in a non-integrated conversation but there was no time for that, as we were immediately split up and sent to segregated groups - the Catholics are, after all, rather fond of that - to explore ways in which we might resolve conflict in a relationship.

As it turned out one of those ways is to tell a class full of incarcerated couples that the priest wasn't showing up for the afternoon session on family planning and so we could all leave at lunchtime.

My future bride and I looked at each other as though for the very first time and all of a sudden I realised that the counselling had actually worked: When we walked out of that classroom we had never been happier.

Disclaimer: The names of both the people and the jargon involved have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me. I still don't want to go to Hell.

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