Our society puts a lot of focus on the wedding day. Many couples spend hours upon hours in wedding preparation considering where they will marry, who will come, what color the flowers will be, tasting food, contemplating wedding favors…the list can go on and on. Many couples spend big dollars planning the perfect day, the beginning of the rest of their lives together.
As a couples therapist who works with couples at all ends of the continuum, from premarital to contemplating divorce, I often wonder why there isn’t more thought put into marriage investment. Many people simply don’t have the education and tools needed to keep a relationship thriving for the long haul. In the honeymoon phase of the relationship, it’s very easy to your warm feelings of new love (your brain chemistry playing a significant role in this, with the biological drive to ensure connection) to allow you to miss a couple of realities:
- Life can be hard.
- Relationships can be hard.
I completely understand how could you could be blinded so I’d like to help remind you of some things to be mindful for for the future and ways you can invest in your relationship, even though you may not be clear of it’s necessity right now.
What does it mean to “invest in the marriage?” Get out a “marriage toolbox” and plan to pack it with the following:
- Communication tools. Learn to speak to your partner in a kind and compassionate way. Acquire the skill of presence rather than withdrawing, calmness rather than damaging emotional reactivity. Learn how to navigate through conflict – because it will come up.
- An understanding of emotional safety. Think of what it will take for you and your partner to feel confident in knowing you are the “port in the other’s storm.” A securely attached couple feels prioritized, validated, respected and generally “safe” with each other. There are many things that can derail emotional safety in a relationship. Learn what it is – and how to assess it’s presence between you.
- Relationship balance. The “you, me and we” of your relationship are like two overlapping circles. Many people find satisfaction with attention paid to all three aspects. Problems can arise for couples when one seeks mostly “we” and the same goes for couples where one seeks mostly “me.” Seek to thrive individually and in your relationship – and support your partner in the same.
- Tools to handle family of origin wounds. Old emotional injuries stemming from parents/primary caregivers often show themselves later in intimate relationships. Issues of trust, self worth and other unhelpful belief systems stemming from negative experiences can impact how you operate with your partner. Work through your stuff and be aware of your vulnerabilities. Share them with your partner so they can be discussed in a loving way if triggered.
These are just some of the helpful tools that can only help you to create the strongest relationship foundation possible before marriage. These and others can be found in The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples, a cost-effective, do-it-yourself, therapist guided (by me!) alternative to counseling. I wrote this workbook based on the premarital work I do with couples in my therapy practice.
No matter what way you decide to get your premarital education, find a way to get it. It’s an investment that can have a long-term payoff in a secure, loving and satisfying marriage – that will also pay dividends to your children who get to experience happy and healthy parents.