How Premarital Counseling Leads to Successful Marriages

How Premarital Counseling Leads to Successful Marriages

Many couples are advised to explore premarital counseling before they get married – and many more could likely benefit from this work. Doing couples work with a therapist to prepare for marriage frequently provides valuable insights, allowing the focus to be on your specific needs as partners. Premarital counseling can also be a great way to discover areas within your relationship that need support, as well as prevent problems in the future and grow closer as a couple.

Learning to Communicate as a Couple

One common focus for pre-marital work with couples is focused on helping both partners discover new, more effective ways of communicating with each other. Sometimes, one partner doesn’t feel comfortable being completely honest with how they feel about specific situations, goals for the future, or other topics. Nearly always, this leads to resentment and disappointment down the road if the disagreement doesn’t come to light until after the couple is married.

In sessions, we focus on learning new tools for how to share tough topics or feelings in a way that does not make your partner feel threatened or upset. For example: taking a timeout when one partner is overwhelmed and setting a timeframe of when to return to the conversation is important. This allows for both to feel their needs are respected.

Planning for the Future Together

We also explore what each person in the couple would like for their future life. Many couples have not talked about their future in a business-like way before getting married. When you get married, having a plan for what you would like for your future is very important. Decision making can become more challenging now that you have another person’s opinion to consider. 

We also focus on providing space for couples to discuss their expectations for the marriage with one another. Marital expectations mean things like who does the household chores, who manages the money and pays the bills, whether or not you will share a faith system, how many children and how will they be raised, and so on. By exploring scenarios in advance, both individuals can learn more about their partner and how to engage in dialogue to prevent future stress on the relationship.

Understanding Your Partner

I encourage couples to listen to the audiobook, Your Brain on Love: the Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin. The author does an excellent job of explaining different kinds of attachment behaviors and how to interact with them. Attachment style impacts our ability to love and interact with others in both romantic and non-romantic relationships.

If we have had poor relationships in the past, it can often impact our relationship with our partner as this person is now our primary “attachment figure.” Our brains are designed for connection and understanding more about how your partner’s brain works can improve your ability to respond to challenging situations. The book is a short listen (~5 hours) and gives couples tools to better comprehend how their partner processes events or disagreements, and why they might react differently depending upon their attachment style. 

Marriage is about more than the ceremony and the party afterward. If the proper care is taken in the beginning to explore the partnership, the result can be a rewarding lifetime experience. I have met couples who have been married for over 70 years that still love and value each other. It is not easy and requires patience and sacrifice, but it can be achieved with the right effort in the beginning of the marriage.

Ready to get started? Reach out today if you’re in the state of Iowa or contact a couples therapist in your area to invest in your relationship for the future. 

About the Author

Headshot photo of Ann Gavin, T-LMFT CounselingAnn Gavin, T-LMFT works with adults and couples from all backgrounds, faiths and orientations in Cedar Rapids, IA and online.





How to Move Forward After Infidelity In a Relationship

How to Move Forward After Infidelity In a Relationship

Hi, I’m Melany and I’m a therapist at the Cedar Rapids Counseling Center and I want to discuss infidelity. So, often when clients come in and infidelity has occurred, whether I’m meeting with a couple or an individual, I’m often going to have the same conversation where we’re going to hold loosely your marriage. Because I feel like if we focus on divorce, we’re just moving towards how do we cope and what do we do to end this relationship? And if we focus on the relationship, and yes, I’m staying, then we end up focused on what do I change so that my partner and I get along better. What I’m going to do is I’m going to hold your marriage loosely. We’re going to say, I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re going to stay married, I don’t know if we’re going to get divorced, but I do know that I am going to work on me, or we are going to work on us.

When two people get married, or they have a committed relationship, they create something together. This creation, they both contribute to it. So, whether it’s good or bad, it’s both. It’s both of them, they both did it. They both made this thing and then the things that happen while you’re in this relationship, they hurt each other. Sometimes, relationships are bound to hurt each other, or this is yucky, and we each find ways to cope with it. And so, Partner A copes with it this way and Partner B copes with it this way but the way each person copes, the individual is responsible for that coping. We’re both responsible for this marriage that we created but the ways we cope that’s on the individual.

Having someone to talk to you can be really helpful in these times, whether you had the affair or you found out about the affair. It’s a really difficult time. You don’t know how to navigate it. You don’t know what to do. There tends to be a lot of fighting, a lot of arguing, a lot of just back and forth at each other. And you really need somebody to help you mediate that. There’s a lot of suspicion, you lose a lot of trust, and it tends to bring up every time you’ve been hurt in the past and all the old stuff and how could you do this and what about that. It just gets so muddy to navigate. So, finding someone that you can open up with, be honest with, and share with is really helpful.

Is Love All You Need For A Happy Marriage?

Is Love All You Need For A Happy Marriage?

John Lennon said all you need is love, and love is all you need. He was wrong.

Within intimate relationships, it is also essential to focus on boundaries and borders that will only foster and heighten your relationship when in use. Marriage is a vulnerable commitment, which means there is potential for incredible pain that often happens when boundaries are crossed or not valued.

Things will get tricky at times within any relationship.

There is no threatening to leave when times get tough and no false notions within these difficult times regarding the belief of someone better for you being “out there.” This can be indicative of having one foot out the door and can easily lead to turning to someone outside of the relationship to complain about a partner rather than simply voicing your concerns to your partner.

It’s okay to ask your partner to change things that hurt you. It only becomes problematic when insisting they violate their values for you. There will sometimes be that difference regarding individual values and worldviews. Conflicts that arise from these differences can be maneuvered more efficiently by increasing knowledge and respect for these differences.

Consider engaging with your partner in ways you haven’t before.

Simply because you’ve been with your partner for many years is no indication that you know that person on a deep level. For instance, implement dates and new interactions to explore how well you do know your person.

Do you have daily, weekly, even monthly rituals for connection?

Focusing on these small moments can quickly increase security within your relationship.

Notice and respond to your partner’s bids for connection; foster it by focusing first on how you tend to react to your partner in these moments.

Perhaps you are turning away when you could just as quickly turn towards your spouse.

What Happens If Your Spouse Doesn’t Turn Towards You?

If your partner refuses to validate your feelings, maybe consider the amount of criticism or blame leveled at your partner within your feelings. Eliminating criticism both alleviates opposing defensiveness while at the same time boosting your partner’s ability to empathize with your feelings.

Most importantly, ignore the slogans within pop culture. Genuine relationships require work and intentionality not to harm your partner regarding his or her attachment needs.

The Vicious Cycle Of Spying On Your Spouse & How To Stop

The Vicious Cycle Of Spying On Your Spouse & How To Stop

Perhaps it only happened that one time. You promised yourself it would never happen again. It’s not a big deal. But just like Jim Morrison’s spy, you suddenly know everything your partner is doing, everywhere they go, everyone they know.

This knowledge can help to quiet that part of you wishing to dig through your partner’s emails, texts, or social media accounts . . . for a time.

However, you’ll most likely find this habit is tricky to let go of, made even more difficult if something suspicious is uncovered.

How does one relinquish a habit that allows for peace to wash over you for at least a brief moment? A moment you feel vindicated in your relationship unease, validated amidst the distress that has snuck into your home, into your marriage.

This lucidity vanishes quickly as the need to spy, the need to know, is constantly at war with the part of you that wants to move towards something better with your partner.

It can become difficult to see that this digging only increases the vicious cycle of secretive habits. And become even worse if you decide to keep the spying from your partner, ignoring the power-packed by the lie of omission.

Numerous things boost this need to find knowledge.

Many times, it is spurred by the infidelity of a past partner.

The part of you that remembers the effects of this betrayal attempting to help you, to ensure you aren’t subjected to such pain a second time or that, at the very least, you’re prepared.
It might be stemming from a lack of trust, only creating more issues in the long run as this behavior is utilized to feed the mistrust.

The need to check your partner’s phone may have grown out of a lack of communication resulting from a distance in the relationship. This distance can increase suspicion. Who are they connecting with, if not you? Suddenly, you’ve become the spy in the relationship, which only increases the chasm between you and your partner.

It can be tough to turn that focus back on oneself.

If you find that you can’t stop checking, it can help to question what might fuel this behavior.

Ask yourself what is prohibiting you from merely having a conversation with your partner in an open manner.

This conversation can heighten vulnerability, but it will inevitably increase trust rather than create a cycle of dishonesty, which will inevitably keep you and your partner stuck.
If you need support in this venture, I recommend reaching out to a mental health professional who can provide you additional insight and advocate for your relationship’s health and success.

7 Ways to Build And Maintain Relational Trust

7 Ways to Build And Maintain Relational Trust

One of the essential qualities a thriving couple must have is trust. Only relational commitment trumps trust in the hierarchy.

 Thriving Couples Model

An uncommitted person is challenging to trust. We tend to hold ourselves back and are suspicious of the indecisive person. 

Other essential qualities, like communication, problem-solving, friendship, and intimate sexuality all presuppose trust as a given.  

If I do not trust you, it does not matter what communication method we use. 

As one woman yelled during a session after learning a communication technique, “I do not believe a word he says!” 

Likewise, why would I want to spend time with you or be intimate with you if I cannot trust you? 

For these reasons, I advise couples to spend a considerable amount of time investing in developing and maintaining trust between each other. 

Relational trust is the wire around the electrical current that fuels the couple’s synergy. 

Unfortunately, an exposed live wire is dangerous and can cause tremendous damage. 

Furthermore, without trust, relationships tend to explode into panic mode and burn down everything in sight. 

So, before discussing 7 ways to develop and maintain trust with your spouse, let’s understand what trust means. 

Trust means you are dependable. 

Our anxiety skyrockets when uncertain looms. As children, we depend upon our parents to create a safe environment for us to explore. Too much adventure leads to trauma. 

Our spouses also depend on us to show up at the right time and in the right way. 

This creates ease of mind. 

Trust means you are responsible. 

When we get into a committed relationship, we take upon ourselves a considerable obligation. 

Part of this obligation is the ability to adult. 

Adulting means you can control yourself and have the wisdom to know how to care for yourself, your spouse, and your children. 

Trust means you are reliable. 

One of the leading causes of mistrust is inconsistency.  

If we are unpredictable in our choices and reactions, it creates tension in our spouse, making them feel like they are walking on eggshells. 

When our spouses can rely upon us, the opposite happens. They develop confidence that they can come to us with their emotions, needs, and desires. 

Trust means you are protective. 

When I hire a babysitter, my number one expectation is that my child will be alive when I get home. 

This is so basic that it is assumed on an unspoken level. 

Part of relational trust is that we are protecting each other. 

Of course, this means physical and emotional safety, but it also means that we are protecting each others’ hearts.  

For example, I do not joke about infidelity or threaten separation when I am upset. 

Both of these tend to undermine our shared commitment. 

How, then, does a spouse build and maintain trust. Below you will find a visual guild that will work you through seven ways to do this.