It doesn’t matter which adventures you choose first – the real adventure, after all, is who you go with.
Since I last wrote, I got engaged to a stud at Christmas and have planned a big wedding shindig for April 19! Less than four months, thank you very much. It’s been a blast. (See & enjoy a slice @ teamcherin.com!)
One of the things Chad and I did was two half-day pre-marital counseling sessions. This came with renting the church we are getting married at, and was put on by Grant and Emma Wood of Resonate Relationship Clinic in Overland Park, KS.
I’ve always viewed relationship as the ultimate adventure, whether it be romantic, family, friendship or other. Opening yourself up to real relationship and being vulnerable, is scary.
I am grateful that Chad isn’t shy when it comes to counseling, and we both think it takes courage and bravery to go (so *high fives* if you’ve ever been!). We think there is no shame in it either – both of us have gone individually over the past few years, around topics from anxiety, friendships, guilt, big life changes, depression, wanting to talk through things with someone but not sure what, family crap and more.
Grant and Emma, who facilitated our pre-marital counseling sessions, said how much healthier would relationships (marriages specifically) be if everyone looked at it like a bi-annual dentist appointment, or annual doc checkup. Instead of waiting for crisis, why not go when as a preventative measure? We are all evolving, learning, growing humans, and I agree that it would could just water to the soul, to your love!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve been asked by friends and family what I learned in our sessions. This is my way of compiling and sharing! Read & proceed at your own risk…
- Intimacy = ‘Into me, see.’
- Emotional awareness & emotional engagement will keep your marriage together.
- Think, what’s my partner dreaming for, longing for?
- Protect your relationship, what you tell other people (especially family).
- Nothing is gossip between couples, nothing is off limits.
- If your spouse has been hurt or is in a conflict, seek to understand first. Dress the wound for your spouse, listen, soothe.
- Empathy, validation, support, affection, responsiveness.
- We are wired to connect — all of us long for it.
- How to stay attached – always be thinking/asking yourself about your partner “Where are you?” to be tuned in…gauge what is going on between you two, emotional closeness.
- Attachment is knowing we exist in our partners mind and heart (a wonderful thing!)
- SAFETY & SECURITY needs to exist in order to communicate clearly & openly, honest, connected – then you can be sure of your love.
- Distance (emotional) is alarming – this is always a problem for marriage.
- 4 Horsemen that threaten marriage: 1) Criticism, 2) Defensiveness, 3) Contempt, and 4) Stonewalling (dead, icy pattern)
- Men have just as many emotions as women.
- A sense of meaning & dreams: talk about your dreams for
- The way we treat each other
- How we spend leisure time
- Children & parenting
- Where we live
- Our spirituality
- What we do with our resources
- Rituals & rhythms
- Healthy couples fight.
- Solve the solvable problems.
- Bend, don’t break.
- Lower your expectations of your partner.
- Yield to each other!
- Create the posture of how you do conflict, interact.
- Work on acceptance.
- What are the ‘DANCES’ you and your partner get into?
- Make the pattern of your conflict the enemy, NOT the person.
- You & your partner are on the SAME TEAM.
- Negative typs of dances:
- Pursue –> –> Withdraw
- Withdraw <– –> Withdraw
- Attack –> <– Attack
- Recognize your dances, name them so you can call them out in conflict.
- Raw nerves that can draw up hurt/conflict (these need to be communicated to one another):
- Fear of rejection
- Feeling not good enough
- Feeling like a failure, or fear of failure
- Feeling unloved
- Feeling controlled
- Not being accepted or valued
- Approval wound
- *These are all “file cabinets” of related past hurts that come up every time a negative thing happens or hurts in your relationship
- THE GOOD NEWS: Every moment, every fight, every tension is an opportunity for intimacy, for getting to know your partner more…
- Look up terms like “Flooding,” “Stonewalling,” “Fight or flight”…how people can react.
- Learn to self-soothe (or calm the eff down, haha).
- Be non-reactive.
- Focus on your own life/goals, not changing the other.
- TOXIC: blaming the other person.
- Learn to think: what are the issues under what we’re talking about?
- Our thoughts & emotions are there to guide us & show us things – they are great teachers but horrible masters.
FAMILY OF ORIGIN
- Plan a date night to talk about your families, how you grew up, memories good and bad.
- Talk together – what patterns do you want to repeat, or what do you want to stop and leave behind?
- What new patterns do you want to create together for your new family?
- Topic ideas, such as how each of your families handled conflict, spontaneity, criticisms, expectation, struggle, siblings, the good, unwritten rules, geography, ancestry, boundaries, etc.
- Ask one another: What’s our dream of how this looks in our lives?
- Sex should be a regular part of what you talk about.
- It can sometimes be an appetizer, sometimes be a five-course meal.
- Sex is HEALING for the relationship.
- Sex should be a priority & a habit.
- Hinderances to sexual intimacy:
- Habit of criticism
- Anger & resentment,
- Failure to communicate
- Lack of trust
- Anxiety about appearance or body image
- De-emphasizing the value of sex
- Predictable/mechanical sex
- Lack of sensitivity
- Absence of non-sexual physical touching (affection)
- Too much television
- Lack of exercise
- Poor nutrition
- Everyone is different – do what works for you! You & your partners’ needs.
- Foreplay is an endangered species.
- Focus on the senses.
- Take TIME.
- Communicate fantasies, dreams.
- Plan at least FOUR GETAWAYS together a year. Studies show sexual satisfaction skyrockets on getaways.
- Talk about things like:
- How often do you prefer/expect sex?
- What do you need in order to be in the mood for sex?
- Do you feel comfortable initiating sex? Why or why not?
- Your views on masturbation.
- What sexual activities do you enjoy the most?
- Your individual pursuit of God is so very important (a secret communion always going on inside of you).
- “Constantly practice the habit of inwardly gazing upon God.” – A.W. Tozer
- Spiritual exercises:
- Fixed hour of prayer – sacredspace.org, gateway.org
- Fasting – it is really feasting when you seek God! To increase our appetite for what God has for us
- Seeking mindfulness
- Service – scheme together, how do you want to serve – the community, God; both physically giving of time & energy, and financially)
- Talk about what traditions you want to start together? With your family?
A HAPPY, LASTING MARRIAGE
- “When you marry someone you marry a set of problems.”
- Their (and your) personality/instincts/temperaments won’t change – don’t try to change one another. Think, ‘At their core, what makes them tick?’
- You don’t really ever know each other. Become a student of your partner.
- Create a culture of appreciate & fondness.
- The 20-Minute Stress-Reducing conversation: A common factor for all couples who stay together, asking ‘How’s your day?’ & listening to one another.
- Pick your ritual (for the stress-reducing convo)! Whether pillow talk, a tea/coffee/glass of wine after dinner, etc, just make time to download each other’s days. Crucial to the health of your relationship.
- Rituals you share together are important. Create & cultivate (examples: taking a bath together every Friday night, drinking coffee on the porch every morning, etc…whatever you both like and want to enjoy together).
- Be self-responsible. No blame of other(s).
- Go to battle for each other.
- Always side with each other. Use phrases like “What you’re feeling makes perfect sense,” “I would feel the same way,” and ”I can see why you feel this way…”
- The real masters of marriage DO NOT do marriage based on feelings.
- Sometimes you have to fake it til you make it – play the “I choose to like you” game when things are tense (as a ‘repair attempt’).
- Treat your spouse like your best friend to develop positive sentiment if things are hard or distant between you.
- ALWAYS BE REACHING FOR EACH OTHER.
- Know that your ways of loving change over time.
- Emotional responsiveness & attunement will keep your marriage together.
- Practice and cultivate good SELF-CARE – that means for you individually in community, spiritually, emotionally, physically, self-responsibility, choices…take a HOLISTIC approach to your own life. (We all need togetherness and separateness).
- Go on a DREAM HUNT: share your dreams with each other at every level, regularly talk about and ask one another (vocation, finances, dates, kids, community, family, leisure time, friendships, hobbies, future, etc)
- It is up to each one of you to BE ALIVE! “I have come so that you may have life to the full!” – Jesus
- Know neither of you are the sum of your thoughts & emotions – we are MORE than that.
- Reflection: carve off time (put it in the calendar, or do on a date night!) -
- Structure fun time each week without problem talk.
- Structure 30 minutes each week to reflect about self, others, your marital relationship, children, life & purpose.
- Occasionally look at the rhythms of your week & take turns to plan an ideal weekly structure.
- Look at the rhythms of your year & select times for the ‘feeding of the family soul’
- Ask “what’s working & not working right now?”
- Anchor an annual trip together that STAYS.
- BE PROACTIVE! Invest in one another, invest in your relationship. If your spouse is your priority, does your time, money/bank account, effort, thoughts, conversations, etc, reflect that?
- Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No & Take Control of Your Life (almost done reading it now and it really has been changing my life – so liberating! Definitely recommend it to everyone!)
- The Gifts of Imperfection
- 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married
- Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment
- A Celebration of Sex
- Intended for Pleasure
- Passionate Marriage
All of this was just SOME of what they taught us in the sessions. I took mad notes, and then we got a huge packet of tools, worksheets, and conversation starters. We also took a relationship test called “Prepare & Enrich” which compared our answers to one another and gave us a lot to talk about. It was all extremely valuable for Chad & I both, and we’ve continued to talk about many of the things above.
We are SO THANKFUL we can begin this exciting new adventure together, which such incredible encouragement, examples, hope, and guidance! I pray the same for you…