“Marriage is not a static state between two unchanging people. Marriage is a psychological and spiritual journey that begins in the ecstasy of attraction, meanders through a rocky stretch of self-discovery, and culminates in the creation of an intimate, joyful, lifelong union.”
It can be quite helpful to seek therapy before getting married.
A healthy, committed relationship will be one in which each partner says “I want to do the best that I can. I actually want to know where potential pitfalls may lie.” After all when we buy a house we get a house inspection. When we buy a car, we can get a car inspection. So for our most significant, love relationship it makes sense to get a relationship inspection, too!
When a couple is first establishing their commitment to one another, that is an excellent time for counselling. Don’t wait for a crisis well into your relationship to begin learning key relationship skills. Start developing your toolbox of relationship skills at the outset to give strength to your union, create common relationship goals and envision the future together that you most want.
Marriage takes some skill
Once a couple is engaged, there’s great excitement and tremendous focus on the details of their wedding day and honeymoon. However, for many there can be relatively little thought to the reality of day-to-day married life. Assumptions and expectations are there, but there might not be consideration for the skills that it will take to strengthen their bond and deepen their intimate connection. Intimacy is more than just physical; it involves being open and vulnerable with one another, and feeling safe enough to do so. When being vulnerable is uncomfortable or new to one or both of the people, it will take some knowledge, skill and practice. Ultimately, with skills and tools, being vulnerable with our partner gives us the safe, intimate love relationship we desire.
In addition to intimacy skills, it helps to understand the science of our brain; specifically, the way our brains react when we feel threatened. Unconscious fight/flight/freeze responses can hijack even the best intentions.
It comes back to the ‘hardwired to belong’ part of our biology. In relationships, our biggest threat, what we’re most afraid of, is being rejected or abandoned. To avoid being left or told to leave, we may leave the relationship ourselves. This means that even though we have a drive for closeness and connection there is an imperative drive within us to protect ourselves from threats. As a result, if we’re not aware of our brain’s function to protect us, we may act in ways that work against our best interest, against our relationship.
Knowing your love languages can explain a lot
Before getting married or moving in together, it can be extremely helpful to know your and your partner’s love languages. Everyone has preferred ways of giving and receiving love. Couples may have the same love languages or they may be different. There is no right or wrong combination. Simply knowing what they are for each other can have a tremendously positive impact on a relationship. Because when we don’t know the way our partner prefers to receive love, then we can tend to demonstrate our love in our own preferred love language
In The 5 Love Languages — The Secret to Love that Lasts, Gary Chapman identified five ways that people give and receive love:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality of Time, and
- Physical Touch.
For example, if our partner’s primary love language is Acts of Service and we’re putting effort and expense into giving them gifts we think are awesome, such as a rare, first edition book, we’re likely to be disappointed when they don’t respond in the way we expect. Once we know that they value and appreciate Acts of Service above everything else, we can turn our efforts to actions they will appreciate, such as washing their car or getting it detailed.
Take the free, 5 Love Languages(R) official assessment. Then discuss with your partner the expressions of love that mean the most to both of you.