Pre-Marital Therapy: Lessons from your flight attendant
There is a bit of a debate in the therapy world around the utility of pre-marital or pre-marriage therapy. Here is my perspective: set yourself up for success and invest in what matters to you.
Why bother with pre-marital therapy if everything is fine right now?
You know when you board an airplane and the flight attendant calming explains the safety “procedures in the unlikely event of an emergency landing”. I can tell you right now that when you are married, it is very likely that you are going to encounter situations when you will need some emergency procedures. Emergency landings happen when you are married…you lose your job, a parent dies, you have a miscarriage, you are diagnosed with a chronic condition, you have an emotional breakdown, your teenager stays out all night without calling…the list goes on and on.
Pre-marital therapy will not prevent these life situations from happening but it will help to create a plan for how to be present to these life situations in ways that will help grow your marriage rather than suck the life out of it.
How would pre-marital therapy help down the road?
There is a reason why the flight attendants go through the safety song and dance on the airplane while we are securely tucked in our seats firmly planted on the ground rather than when we are barreling through the skies at 35,000 feet.
When you feel safe, you are more likely to listen, to open, and to pay attention. Think about it…most of us do not sit with rapt attention while the flight attendants redundantly recite how to secure the oxygen mask (to yourself before helping a child)…but we all know this because most of us have heard it again, and again, and again. We have been trained in how to respond…in the unlikely event of an emergency.
In our marriages, when emergencies arise, we go into crisis response…you might get really busy over-functioning to numb your feelings or you might pull away and isolate unsure how to be with all of the feelings. In this state, it can be very difficult to connect with the one person who you have pledged your life to “for better or worse” because you do not have an emergency plan.
When you have laid down a foundation through pre-marital therapy, you will have a better sense of yourself and your partner. You will understand how you tend to respond and how your partner tends to respond in a variety of situations. You will have practiced communicating your thoughts and feelings with your partner in a way that feels safe and validating; and therefore, you will be more likely to open up during a time of crisis. If you need help during these crisis times, you have built a relationship with a therapist who you can call upon for some laser-focused therapy to swiftly get you back on track in your marriage.
What kinds of objectives do you have in pre-marital therapy?
- Know Yourself: If you know that you have a high need to control then in pre-marital therapy we can look at how you tend to respond in situations when you are feeling out of control. You might criticize others, you might criticize yourself, you might energetically begin to clamp down on everything else around you so that you feel like you are now in control. Once you identify your typical patterns related to control, you can examine how you respond and how you feel during these times. You might feel hurt, afraid, and incompetent. This information is a goldmine for your partner! Now, your partner has a better idea of who you are, how you feel, how you respond and can better relate to you.
- Know Your Partner: Once you have identified some key characteristics about yourself, now you get to receive more information about your partner…what her needs are, how she feels when her needs are not being met, and how she responds in a crisis. If you know that your partner tends to shut down in crisis, this is valuable information for you. What does it bring up for you? Do you get angry because you think your partner should jump into action and shutting down seems weak to you? Learning to relate to your partner during the good times and the strained times is paramount to long term happiness and connection.
- Set an Intention: It is vital that we bring consciousness to our relationships so that we can create the relationships that we want. Without consciousness in our marriage, we will default and create the family that we grew up in. This is not my theory…this is relationship science. It is easy to assume that you have the same intention that your partner has…you want a loving, equitable relationship where you are both invited to pursue your own dreams while crafting a strong and fulfilling family life. This might be true, but there are likely places where this intention rubs up against beliefs and concepts that have not been uncovered. For example, yes, I want my wife to pursue her dreams but not if it interferes with my soccer practice or my ability to work late at night in order to get that promotion at work.
- Learn to Feed Your Relationship: Your relationships are vital systems that need to be nurtured and nourished if you expect them to support and hold you for the decades to come. How are you presently feeding your relationship? What is working and what is lacking? How do you feel loved and seen by your partner? How does your partner feel loved and seen? All too often, I hear this from couples: “My husband says that I don’t love him! I totally love him…I take care of the kids, I make breakfast every day, I buy his favorite coffee at the store.” And the husband responds, “Yah, those things are nice but I want you to hold my hand, give me a kiss when I come home, or have sex with me like we used to before the kids.” You can see how the different ways that we show love and feel love can create some strain in our relationships.
Once you have done this work, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight!
Interested in learning about pre-marital therapy packages or how this type of work might benefit you and your partner? Book a free consultation 20-minute session online or call me today at 720.457.3342 and let’s see how I might be able to help you achieve your relationship goals!