Linda: A do-over is putting a correction in when you realize that you have made a mistake. It’s an opportunity to try or perform something a second time. Consider this couple who had a huge do-over. Martin was in the midst of a mid-life transition, doing a deep examination of how he had been living. His therapist was promoting a thorough evaluation of all the domains of his life. Martin was looking at the choices he had made over the years to see how he had arrived at the well-being, or lack thereof, that he was living in presently. He knew that he had learned a lot over the years and that recently, his values had shifted significantly. Going forward, he wanted to make different choices that reflected those changes in his priorities.
During his exploration, Martin discovered a deep sadness about how focused, disciplined, responsible, and hard-working he had been to a fault. He had started working in his teens, and his compulsivity around work had lasted throughout his adult life. He was a partner in a law firm, spending long hours at the office, and rarely using all his vacation time. He felt that he had lucked out that his three adult children still showed fondness and affection for him despite his absence for their growing up years. He had missed many of their little league games, dance and piano recitals, helping with homework and participating in play when they were kids. But the most painful sadness of all was that he hadn’t taken his wife Beatrice on more romantic dates and trips.
Martin: “There is one regret that haunts me more than any of the others. When we got engaged, Beatrice told me that she had always dreamed of a big wedding with a gorgeous gown, an abundance of family and friends, a lavish feast, imagining dancing the first dance with me to a live band, and going on an exotic honeymoon.”
Beatrice: “I was still in my early twenties at the time of our engagement. Back then, when I shared my vision of the romantic wedding with all those trimmings, Martin was tender with me, telling me how sorry he was that we couldn’t have that fairy tale wedding. Neither set of our parents was in a financial position to help us pay a bill of that size. His values were that it was a terribly bad idea to start a marriage with a big debt. I was so young and unsure of myself that I didn’t stand up to him. I went along with his plan for a simple wedding by the justice of the peace at the courthouse.”
Martin: “Beatrice has never thrown it up to me, but the sadness around the missed opportunity has lingered in both of our imaginations for years. With our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary approaching, together we planned a do-over. We’ve been having successful do-overs for years. When either of us is impatient or disrespectful, we have a policy of being able to say, ‘I’d like to have another take on that one.’ It’s worked well for us when there are hurt feelings, to put corrections in to repair any damage right away.”
Beatrice: “Since we’ve had so much success with the smaller do-overs for years, we decided to have a huge do-over by planning a spectacular wedding. We wrote our own vows; family and friends came from all over the country, and we had a dreamy honeymoon in Sicily.”
Martin: “We have an affluent life-style now, largely due to how hard I’ve worked for many years. I just want to enjoy our life together. Planning our wedding ceremony was as joy-filled as the actual celebration of our joining. For years I had the mistaken notion that it was too late to correct that particular mistake. I’m happy to say that I was wrong about that belief.”
Beatrice: “I wasn’t angry at Martin for the simple ceremony we had the first time. If I blamed anyone, it was myself for not taking a stand for having a larger celebration. I realized much later that I should have let him know in no uncertain terms how much a big wedding meant to me. That dream of the glorious wedding did fade some over the years, but only slightly. So, to finally manifest the vison I held was a triumph. Working out all the details, the ceremony, menu, flowers, guest list, and honeymoon destination was all pure joy. The whole production went off smoothly. Now we’re stopping to think if there are other corrections we want to put in from unskillful choices of our past. We’ve both become even more enthusiastic champions of the whole idea of do-overs. They really work for us!”