Discuss, print, enjoy, and share the love.
This post was originally published by Holly L. Harrison on 12/8/2014. The picture has been changed and updates/edits have been made for clarity (1).
The time in between getting engaged and getting married is often a very exciting—but also an incredibly busy and stressful—time for couples. Oftentimes there is a to-do list a mile long! When knocking out each of those items on your seemingly endless list of tasks to get done, what is really most important? Is it trying cake samples? Finding the perfect wedding dress? Planning the perfect bachelor/bachelorette party? Making arrangements for the honeymoon?
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I am trained to think about what couples can do to protect their relationship and what factors put the couple at risk for divorce in the future. The best (and easiest) time to work on your relationship is when couples are first together—before getting married—because they are setting up the habits and patterns that define the rest of their lives together. Once harmful patterns are already in place, they can sometimes be hard to break after three, five, or ten years of marriage. If left unchecked, these negative habits can have a devastating impact on a couple, and they can sometimes even lead to the demise of a marriage. Even if couples, who come in to see me for counseling, quickly make changes to the most harmful of patterns, they still have to work on repairing all the damage that has been done in the past (which takes time).
So, what is the most important thing you can do to nurture and protect your relationship when you are engaged? I believe that the best thing you can do is to develop a healthy relationship outlook. A healthy relationship outlook rests on six pillars:
1. Understanding and acceptance: Cultivate understanding and acceptance that the person who you love is often going to be the one who hurts you the most in life—and also that you will hurt the one you love (sometimes tremendously). Your partner sees you at your best, your worst, and everything in between. You will go through great times together—but also incredibly difficult ones.
2. How we work through our problems is more important than the problems themselves: Couples who understand that they will be each other’s greatest source of joy, but also pain, realize that it is not the problems that define them—it is how they work through their problems that defines their relationship. People with amazing marriages have just as many problems as other people. I think it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that people who are happy, or have happy marriages, just had it easy in life or are just lucky. In reality, everyone has problems—not necessarily the same ones—but everyone has struggles that are painful. It is how struggles are handled that makes all the difference.
3. Fess up when we mess up—every time: Wise couples know that in order to prevent issues from piling up with each and every unresolved problem, it is important that they take full responsibility for their choices. Why is this important? Well, why do couples wind up in my counseling office? Just about every single one tells me it is because their problems piled up, one after the other, over a period of years, and they just could not take it anymore. In contrast, couples who have healthier marriages take full and unabashed responsibility for their mistakes (every single time) and completely avoid justifying poor decisions or blaming others for their actions. Furthermore, once responsibility has been taken, the offender takes steps to fix the problem and keeps his or her partner posted of the progress made.
4. An unwavering view that hurting our partner is NEVER justified, even when they hurt us first: When a relationship is new and fresh, oftentimes couples could never imagine doing something to hurt the other. As the newness wears off in a relationship, couples become more at risk for becoming complacent in a relationship. Slowly couples can get caught in the trap of doing things to hurt each other—just because they were hurt first. For example, Katie feels justified and "right" for yelling back and putting down her spouse because her spouse made a joke at her expense. Healthier couples take the hard line that hurting each other is NEVER okay, but this does not mean they think being hurt is all right. They just find a better way to communicate their hurts instead of lashing out at their partner to show how much pain they are in. Couples who get caught in this trap think that they are justified in what they did, because of what the other did first, when what is really happening is that they are becoming exactly what they did not like in the first place.
5. Genuine apologies are the best apologies: Couples whose relationship problems do not become center stage in their life are experts at great apologies. When apologies are done in a sincere, loving, specific, and genuine way that demonstrates a clear understanding of the damage done—couples can move beyond their problems and focus on enjoying their lives! Genuine apologies are the remedy for old issues coming up over and over again like a broken record.
6. Intense empathy: Healthier couples have intensity about understanding and appreciating their loved one. They have an insatiable curiosity and respect in regards to the other person’s perspective, even though they may not always see eye to eye.
If you are currently in the early stages of your relationship or engaged, please consider making a firm commitment to working on these six pillars of a healthy relationship outlook in order to develop habits that make the good times even more wonderful, and protect your relationship during the rocky ones. Even if you are married and have been in a relationship for a while, these pillars can help you too! Working on these areas is a gift that will last well beyond your wedding date, and if practiced daily, can be benefited from for the rest of your lives together!
Thanks for being here with me today. If this post was helpful, please hit the Facebook Like button below or share the blog on Twitter or Facebook. Talk to you next week!
All the best,
PS Can I send you an email about once a week? The email will have a link to my latest blog post in case there is a topic you are interested in. As the business grows and I add more products and services, I will mention in the email what has been added.
References and Links
Found this blog helpful? Other posts you might enjoy:
Your use of the website, blog, newsletter, and social media accounts does not establish a professional therapeutic relationship between yourself and Holly L. Harrison. By using the website and related accounts, you agree to these terms.
The information on this website and the blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. I am not guaranteeing any results.
Please note that the information on this website is not intended to replace or be a substitute for any professional financial, medical, mental health, legal, or other advice.
If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional or medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. If you follow or use the information on the blog, website, newsletter, and social media accounts, you agree that it is at your own risk and you will not hold Holly L. Harrison or MoxiePsychology, LLC liable or responsible for the outcome.
MoxiePsychology Legacy is an outpatient mental health clinic and not equipped for emergency services. If you are in need of emergency mental or medical services, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Holly L. Harrison, MA, LMFT