Tag Archives: premarital counseling

Finding Your Marital North Star

premarital counseling charleston scOften times when I work with premarital couples I ask them what characteristics they would like to see in their marriage. I encourage these couples to take time to think about what is important to them in a relationship, write it down and look back on in frequently.  I then talked to couples about using this list as their North Star that will guide their behavior in their marriage.

 

During the good times we don’t need this list as a guide. We can easily see the good in our partner and are open and loving. But when things become difficult we quickly lose sight of what is important to us and we get pulled off course.

 

In difficult times many people will begin to use their partner’s behavior as a guide for their own behavior (i.e. you hurt me so I will hurt you back, you are disrespectful to me so I will be disrespectful back, you withhold from me so I will withhold from you). One can see how this would become a vicious cycle for disaster.

 

We get pulled away from what we really want in our relationship if we base our behavior on someone else’s behavior.  This is because behavior is not a constant in any relationship. Additionally, our perception of behavior is not constant so all it would take is our perception being off for us to be pulled off course.

 

 

I was having brunch with an unmarried pregnant friend recently. During the course of brunch she was telling me that she was in a difficult position about what last name to give her baby who was soon to be born. She was no longer with the baby’s father in the romantic sense and she was not happy with all of his life choices.

 

On the one hand she was not particularly attached to her last name and she did not feel compelled to give the baby her name for any personal reason.  But, on the other hand she was not sure if she wanted to give her baby the father’s last name because she felt as if she was rewarding him with that honor.

 

We talked about it a little and I asked her if she wanted a friend answer or a therapist answer. She said she would like to hear both. As her friend I told her, “F- him” we laughed and than I told her about what I talked about above.

 

I asked her to think about what kind of relationship she would ideally like to have. What characteristics would it have? I encouraged her to use these as a guide during these difficult times so she did not get pulled away from what she really wanted in her relationship.

 

There is one mistake that people commonly make with this exercise. They make their list and then expect their partner to do it. Or, they give these things only if they feel their partner is doing the same thing.

 

What ever you want in your relationship give it to your partner, but give it freely with no expectation of getting it back or needing it back. When we need to get the behavior back in order to give it we fall into the trap of using our partner’s behavior as our guide. This will lead us off course.

 

 

There is one phrase that helps me when making difficult decisions in my life and I use this as my guide in all my relationships, whether personal or professional. My go-to phrase that helps me is “Is it loving?”

 

This phrase helps me when I get off course and even though I am not behaviorally perfect and forget this phrase, it is always there to help when I am ready and open to accept its strength and wisdom.

 

The phrase, “Is it loving?” does not mean I become a doormat in every situation. It might be more loving to leave a situation then it would be to stay. If I am married to someone who hits me and my children the most loving thing might be to leave. This person hitting me cannot see that there is a better way to live. As long as I stay I may be holding them back from seeing another way to manage their anger.

 

It might be more loving to stop giving financial support to my child so they can learn how strong they really are. It might be more loving to let my child struggle with the consequences of poor decisions. Being expelled from school and grounded for drinking at school helps the child learn appropriate behavior. It may also keep them from progressing their behavior of drinking that later develops into driving under the influence and killing someone else.

 

 

“Is it loving” can also be applied to the thoughts I think about other people. Thinking unloving thoughts about any one has a direct effect on me. I don’t like the way I feel when I think of someone else being the “bad guy”. When we can see the innocence in another it has a different effect. When I can see the person as doing the best they can in that circumstance the emotional pressure is released.

 

 

Examples of Characteristics People Report Using as Their North Star in Their Marriage:

 

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  • Respect
  • Listen to understand not to dispute
  • Kindness
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding
  • Not nitpicking faults
  • Open to suggestions
  • Giving partner space to be exactly the way they are
  • Taking responsibility for behavior
  • Willing to admit when they make a mistake

Look For Loving In All The Wrong Places: Rekindling love in your marriage

Your task is not to seek for love, but to seek and find all the barriers that you have built against it. Love is your natural state. Your only problem lies in covering it up with cheap substitutes. Our need to be right, expectations of how we think something should be, judgments we project upon others all block our loving nature.

 

During the first stage of falling in love we get a glimpse of our loving nature. Take a minute to think of a time when you first fell in love. If one sits and puts themselves back at this time they will begin to experience a taste of love welling up.

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When you first fall in love you experience this unspeakable feeling of joy, peace, life all tumbled together into one unit. This feeling permeates us and we begin to feel it in all aspects of our life. We aren’t just in love with the person we found but we are in love with squirrels, and plants and spoons, and coffee and anything else we come in contact with. We are in love with life itself.

 

Falling in love is wonderful and it feels so natural to us that we want to hang on to it desperately. What we fail to realize is that it is not coming from the other person. You will discover this when you take a good look at the situation.

 

When you are in love and have this amazing feeling do you only feel it when that person is present in the same room with you? Of course not. You could still feel it if they were in Timbuktu. The feeling is present when they are there and still present when they are not. This is the case for one simple reason. The feeling of love you feel is coming directly from you.

 

When you are open you shine and experience your own natural light. We experience this light in the form of what we call love. But when we think that what we are feeling is coming from the other person we become frightened and want to hang on to this feeling of love. We try to hang on to it by trying to control the other person in various ways.

 

We set up expectations in an attempt to get in touch with this feeling once again. You listen to me so I feel love. You desire me so that I feel this love. You notice me so I feel this love. You show me respect so I feel this love. Listening, desire, attention and respect are all great elements to have in a relationship but you do not need them to experience that love you are looking for.

 

No one can take their love away from you.  When you close off, hold resentments, judge others, have expectations of how a someone or a situation should be you end up cutting yourself off from your natural light.

 

When you look outside yourself for love it will fail and end up hurting you.  It will end up hurting you not because it has the power to hurt you but because you have given it the power to hurt you. You have made the proclamation to yourself that you need ____________(fill in the blank with your perceived need or desire) and that is what follows. “I need your attention to be happy”. “I need you to desire me to feel love”. “I need you to be calm for me to be at peace”.

 

What you are looking for in your partner you already have.  You have just, for a brief moment in time, forgotten. Welcome what is and your light will shine on all you see.

 

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

– Rumi

 

Question to Ask Before You Get Married

I have included just a few questions that come up in premarital counseling. This is not a substitute for premarital counseling, however, it may be a good addition to seeing a counselor.

COUPLE DISCUSSION:

 

1. Why did you decide to cohabit?

 

2. How long have you been living together?

 

3. Do you have children living with you? _____ How many? _____ Ages?  _____ Whose children? _____

 

4.  Have you previously cohabited? _____ With how many partners? _____ For how long?_____

 

5.  What was your family’s reaction to your decision to live together?

 

6.  Describe how your relationship has changed since you started cohabiting?

 

7.  Why do you feel you are ready for marriage now?

 

8.  Describe what the following terms mean to you?

 

a.  Unconditional love:

 

b.  Commitment:

 

c.  Fidelity:

 

d.  Forgiveness:

 

9.  What changes in intimacy do you expect after marriage?

 

10.  How does your partner handle conflict?

 

11.  Is your partner controlling?              Abusive?

 

12.  Do you expect your relationship to be different after marriage?

COUPLE DISCUSSION:

 

1. Why did you decide to cohabit?

 

2. How long have you been living together?

 

3. Do you have children living with you? _____ How many? _____ Ages?  _____ Whose children? _____

 

4.  Have you previously cohabited? _____ With how many partners? _____ For how long?_____

 

5.  What was your family’s reaction to your decision to live together?

 

6.  Describe how your relationship has changed since you started cohabiting?

 

7.  Why do you feel you are ready for marriage now?

 

8.  Describe what the following terms mean to you?

 

a.  Unconditional love:

 

b.  Commitment:

 

c.  Fidelity:

 

d.  Forgiveness:

 

9.  What changes in intimacy do you expect after marriage?

 

10.  How does your partner handle conflict?

 

11.  Is your partner controlling?              Abusive?

 

12.  Do you expect your relationship to be different after marriage?

Explain:

 

13.  Will you handle money differently after marriage?  Should all money be shared? Will there be separate accounts? What money will be shared, if any?

 

Explain:

 

14.  Why do you (not) want to be married in a church?

 

 

15.  Do you want to live apart (together) until the wedding?

 

Explain:

16.  Do you want children? When? How many? Who will take care of them?

 

17. What if you can’t get pregnant- would you try to adopt?  To what extent would you try to have a baby?

 

18.  Will you spank your children? How will they be disciplined?

 

19. How do you plan on spending the holidays?

 

20. How do you expect your birthday to be celebrated with your spouse?

 

21.  Have you ever committed a felony?  DUI?

 

22.  Do you plan on going to church or any participating in any other religious ritual?

 

23.  How do you think you should address problems that come up in the relationship?  What will you if one person wants to go to marriage counseling and the other is against counseling?

 

24. What is your partner’s biggest fear? How does it effect your relationship?