Our society puts a lot of focus on the wedding day. Many couples spend countless hours on wedding preparation considering where they will marry, who will come, what color the flowers will be, tasting food, contemplating wedding favors and other touches that they believe will make this day special. It’s common to spend large sums of money to make it happen.
As a couples therapist who works with couples at all ends of the continuum, from premarital to contemplating divorce, I sometimes wonder why there isn’t more thought put into marriage investment as well. Seeing couples in distress in my office, I’m struck by the lack of education and tools needed to keep a relationship thriving for the long haul. Many just never learned how to have the best relationship possible and I can understand how this happens, especially when the beginning of a relationship can feel so intoxicating.
In the honeymoon phase, it’s easy to allow warm and fuzzy 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.
What does it mean to “invest in the marriage?” It means to as early as possible, start to gather the tools needed for your “marriage toolbox.” Some of the items that will be useful:
- 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 whether it’s fully there 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 there are different expectation around what this balance looks like. Understand where you’re both coming from and be ready to possibly compromise.
- 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 born from negative experiences can impact how you operate with your partner. Unpack your baggage and take a look at it. Be aware of any vulnerabilities you or your partner come with. Have compassion for your wounds.
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, my cost-effective, do-it-yourself, therapist guided alternative to counseling. This workbook was written based on the premarital work I do with couples in my therapy practice. Additionally, it’s currently offered for 50% off in my Toolbox Store Summer Sale.
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.