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Premarital Counseling: Building a Sound Relationship House
Premarital Counseling: How to Start a Strong “Relationship House”
As an engaged couple in premarital counseling, you will learn how to build and maintain a strong marriage relationship. And that sounds great! But what does that mean? How can you anticipate what you will need from each other over the years? And how can you be prepared for the inevitable struggles and challenges that will happen over the course of your shared life?
Luckily, these are all questions that premarital counseling can answer. Relationship researchers have found some simple ways that you can work on your relationship now that will give your future marriage the stability it needs.
Today, you will start to learn some small, simple ways to reinforce your relationship before marriage, and where premarital counseling can help.
The Marriage House
Your engagement is an exciting step in your relationship. You have picked out a ring, started wedding planning, and are making exciting plans for your future life together! It’s important to take the time to soak it in and enjoy the fun of being engaged and planning for your future marriage. Additionally, this period is a great time for you and your future spouse to work on your emotional foundation as a couple that will keep your relationship strong over the years. (Related Article: Couples Counseling- Why Waiting Can Hurt).
But how do you do this? Relationship researcher John Gottman has spent years learning from couples trying to understand what “makes” or “breaks” a marriage. Surprisingly, he came back with a fairly simple set of ideas that most happy, successful married couples have incorporated into their relationships. (Source)
Gottman calls this idea the “Sound Relationship House”. A “relationship house” that is built correctly and carefully can withstand nearly any challenge that comes it’s way. And you can do the same for your marriage! Today, you will learn about the starting point for your own relationship house with your fiance.
The Foundation: Love Maps
As you picture a solid, supported structure, you can probably picture a firm foundation and solid walls. These structures are the basics of your relationship that hold up the “weight” of your struggles and stress throughout your life.
To start, Gottman calls the base or foundation of your marriage your “love maps”. (Source) You can think of your “love maps” like this. When you decided to become a couple with your partner, you handed them your map to your world. This map contains many personal details for how you picture yourself and your life. It has details of your past experiences, and how those impact your present self and future goals. (Related article: Couples Counseling).
Allowing your partner to see the map is brave; that map also includes your hopes, dreams, and goals. But, this map is not set in stone. In fact, when you choose to start a committed relationship, your map is written in pencil. There are edits that need to be made, because your partner has also brought their own map, too! You will work together to create a new and improved map that is shared. That map will contain your shared plans, hopes, and dreams that you want to accomplish together.
Building Something Together
So, that sounds great, but what will this look like day-to-day for you and your future spouse? When it comes to forming a good love map, the main goal should be to understand each other’s world. Creating a good roadmap or building plan requires lots of details and careful planning. And the best architects and engineers study the land and location long before construction begins. You can do the same careful planning for your lives together as you get to truly know one another and understand each other’s own unique world. (Related article: How to Communicate Effectively in Marriage)
Building Your Knowledge of Each Other
Let’s talk about some ways you can work to truly understand each other. The best, most direct way to do this is to take the time to have challenging conversations. (Related Article: Common Marriage Problems). And these conversations will work to understand who you are as individuals, and also how you work with others. Let’s start with some individual questions that can help you better understand your partner:
Who was your best friend growing up?
What were your favorite family traditions growing up?
What do you do when you have free time to yourself?
These are obviously just a start to the questions you can ask your partner during these conversations. But, they can help you get a “lay of the land” when it comes to your partner’s life and background. These details will help you prepare for questions about your relationship.
Building Knowledge of Your Relationship
Now, let’s talk about some relationship questions. Again, these might be hard to answer, at first. And that’s okay! (Related article: How to Fix Your Marriage Problems). It’s important to keep some of these ideas in mind as you work to plan your life together:
What are our strengths as a couple? Where do you see areas of concern or ways we can improve?
How do you cope with stress? How do you handle financial stress? (Related article: Marriage Problems- Money). What do you expect from me as your partner during challenging times?
How do you picture our future home life? How will we split household responsibilities? What do you picture our lives looking like when we are parents?
How is our relationship different from the ones you have had that have not worked out?
Phew, these questions are definitely a little more tough to answer! And that’s okay. Part of creating a good love map is not shying away from working together to see your strengths and weaknesses, and to understand where you may still need to improve. This is part of the planning. You are carefully laying a foundation for your future together. The more prepared you can be, the more solid your relationship foundation will be as you navigate the struggles of your life together. (Related Article: Resilience In Marriage).
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Premarital Counseling
Premarital Counseling might seem intimidating. Especially among the million other wedding planning tasks you are trying to tackle during this period of your lives! But, an investment in your relationship will pay off in the long term.
Putting the effort into building your relationship foundation is like starting a savings account for a rainy day. Every couple experiences “rainy days” and the effort you put into your shared life together will help you withstand the struggles later down the road.
That’s where premarital counseling can be an invaluable tool for you and your partner. A premarital therapist can act as a guide to help you draft a love map that will stand the test of time. Are you ready to plan your happy life together? Start couples therapy today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written by Lauren Adkins