Premarital Advice: Three Valuable Strategies to Ensure That Your Relationship Lasts
I remember the rush of getting married – the excitement, the stress, and the sentimental moments: picking the perfect dress, writing vows, and sampling cake flavors. Did I want trendy red velvet or classic chocolate? Ooh, this Rumi quote about love is absolutely perfect for my vows! Though a lot of work, it all felt so romantic and important – even the busy-ness and overwhelm was underscored by a feeling of happiness, connection, and being loved by the person I loved most.
However, with all the flutter of wedding preparations, I spent more time planning and considering bridesmaid dress colors than I spent planning my marriage. Premarital counseling wasn’t a thought. Fess up – are you guilty of this as well?
Since then I’ve become a marriage counselor and a Prepare-Enrich Certified premarital counselor. I practice premarital counseling in Broomfield, CO, I do online premarital counseling, and I teach our Lifetime of Love premarital class in Denver. If there was one takeaway I could impart to all of my couples counseling, marriage counseling or premarital counseling clients and have them remember, it would be this: No matter whether you are married or cohabitating, gay or straight, together twenty years or two, you will strengthen your relationship by spending intentional time working on it!
There are three important practices you can put in place to ensure you are putting as much work into your marriage as you put into your career, home, and children: Premarital Counseling, Regular Check In’s, and Relationship Maintenance
Premarital Counseling or a Premarital Class
In private premarital counseling, your therapist will typically offer an online couples’ assessment so that you may begin to consider each partner’s stance on different topics: finances, parenting, sex, intimacy, in-laws, communication, and shared hopes, dreams, and goals. You will discuss and set expectations for your marriage; For example, how do you feel about your husband spending time with female friends? How much time do you anticipate spending together versus solo? What agreements do you need to make around spending money versus saving? If you are going into a blended family / step-parenting situation with this marriage, these questions (and others) are even more vital.
In my couples counseling practice, the most common reason people seek couples counseling or marriage counseling is to learn how to communicate better – and often couples therapy is only sought once couples are already arguing frequently, frustrated, and/or disconnected. Premarital counseling or a good premarital class can help stave off these problems from the start – you will learn practical tools for communicating in a loving, healthy manner so that you can develop these habits from the very beginning!
Schedule Relationship Check-Ins
Second, put a monthly relationship check-in on the calendar.
When my couples counseling or premarital counseling clients “graduate” from working with me, I encourage them to schedule – on paper, or on the Google calendar – a monthly relationship check-in with one another. This is different from a date night (although they can occur together), in that instead of just hanging out together, you will sit down over a meal, glass of wine, or cup of coffee, and ask one another one question: “How are we doing?”
Just by asking one another this simple question, you can prevent years of resentment, avoidance, and heartache, addressing any issues in a timely manner. A good framework for these monthly check-ins might look like this:
- Start by sharing all the qualities you appreciate about the other person, and sharing the things that are going well in your relationship
- Each person offers his/her thoughts about any relationship issues that may have arisen since the last check-in, using “I statements” and including a clear “ask” for your partner (what do you want to see happen moving forward?)
- Spend some time getting to know one another (even if you’ve been together for years!), by using a tool such as the Gottman Card Deck free smartphone app. Most of your check-ins will take less than an hour, but will pay dividends!
Plan Regular “Relationship Maintenance”
Third, consider a relationship check-up with a couples counselor — or take a relationship class — once a year.
Hopefully, your relationship will continue to thrive, but whether you are madly in love or on each other’s nerves, a yearly check-up or relationship class will help you remember why you fell in love in the first place. You will freshen up communication skills so that you continue to treat your partner with the respect and love he/she deserves, and show love to your partner in the way he/she needs. You will also create the opportunity to discuss goals and dreams for your life together, renewing your excitement about love and life!
Remember, it’s never too late to implement these practices into your relationship, even if you’ve been together twenty years or more. Think about all the hours you spend shuffling kids back and forth, watching your favorite reality TV show, climbing the corporate ladder, or working on your health and fitness. Isn’t your primary relationship worth some intentional time? You have the power to create a connection second to none, but don’t wait for these important conversations to arise naturally with your partner. Schedule them, and watch your relationship thrive!
All the best to you, and to your relationship!
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