Regardless of whether you have known one another for years or have met later in life and knew quickly that this was the one for you, the premarital stage in your relationship is a significant one. Now is the time to examine a few practical aspects of relating to one another.
At this time some knotted balls of your respective histories are put before you. In the newness of love you probably overlooked or disregarded more than you realized. Your optimism that “together we can overcome it all,” while true in many ways, can create a filter that leads to wishful thinking and real life distortions. The skills necessary to implement your dreams are not always known by you or your fiancé nor are emotionally accessible. Thus, it is imperative that you establish as a priority the groundwork for a strong, respectful relationship.
A great place to begin is to communicate with one another in a truthful, but sensitive way. When you start your conversation with a critique of your partner you are planting the seeds of resentment toward you. Is this your goal? Criticism is an attack on the ego of another. So, if you really want to be heard, why go that route? How do you feel when criticized? Does that draw you toward the critic or repel you?
What are the hot-button topics that you and your partner find difficult to talk about? Do one or both of you seem to get uncomfortable when they are lurking in the corners of your minds? Are you fearful that your entire relationship will disintegrate if you bring them up? Know that by not discussing them you virtually guarantee that they will have a negative influence in your marriage.
Are you aware of the topics that are problematic for you? Which ones seem to generate arguments between you? You might differ over work demands, time together, time alone or tone of voice and attitude. How are your finances discussed? Do you have the same relationships with money and responsibilities?
Very often the topics of disagreements are insignificant in themselves, but the accumulation of them can become the trigger itself. Over time and with help each of you can learn to identify the subtle precursors of disagreements and move toward resolutions. Short-circuiting the arguments sounds good, doesn’t it?
While certain topics may have been off-limits during your dating, no topic should be off-limits when you are in premarital counseling. Do you both want a family? Is infertility a concern of yours? Are you open to adoption? How have the relationships within your family of origin impacted upon your expectations for your own marriage? How has this influenced them positively or negatively? Addressing these topics in a respectful, sensitive manner can alleviate much of the anxiety, tension and fear that surround the topic. In this way it becomes easier to address those thorny topics.
Remember, being a spouse is so much more than being a “husband” or a “wife” with specific roles and responsibilities regardless of whether they are gender specific or gender neutral. Do you know what lifts your spouse up when they are down? Are you aware of their thoughts on how they would define a fulfilling life? Have you considered that while you may want to be a part of that fulfillment, you may not be the ultimate fulfillment and this can be OK? Have you done what you can to foster other aspects that can bring them that fulfillment? What are those qualities that describe fulfillment for you? How can you nurture one another’s needs in this regard?
Before you marry decide as a unit what you will do to keep your love alive and thriving. It doesn’t just happen. Each of you is the product of your parents’ marriages. Regardless of what you consciously say, you will repeat the emotional patterns of interaction which you were exposed to. Everyone does this. However, you can break the pattern by stopping the repetition. It did not begin with you, but it can end with you!