Dr. Kristin Schaefer-Schiumo| Manhasset NY

The Time Has Passed to Think “Me Me Me” and the Time Has Come to Think “We”.

The Time Has Passed to Think “Me Me Me” and the Time Has Come to Think “We”.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it seems a good time to examine or re-examine your relationship. I’d like to speak to those of you who are in the pre-marital or pre-life-commitment phase of your relationships. Maybe you have known each other for years, or maybe you met later in life and seemed immediately to know you found the one. Either way, now is an important time to truly examine practical aspects of your relationship together.

In the newness of love, or the “honeymoon phase,” you likely overlooked more than you realized. Like most, you probably believed that together love can conquer all. While this is true in many cases, this belief can lead to wishful thinking and real life distortions that can be problematic. Now, some pieces of your history are probably being placed before you. You will need the emotional awareness, the ability to identify and healthfully express your needs and values, and the ability to think realistically and positively in order to successfully address your history and achieve your dreams together.

To start, communicate with each other in an honest, yet compassionate fashion. If you criticize your partner you succeed only in fanning the flames of resentment toward you. I am sure that is not your goal. Think about how you feel when critiqued by your love. Do you feel drawn to and connected to that person, or do you wish to run from that person emotionally (or perhaps literally)?

What are the topics that you or your partner find difficult to discuss? Perhaps you fear that if you do bring them up, they will surely ruin your relationship. So, instead, you push them away or decide not to discuss them. But know that ignoring difficult issues or topics virtually guarantees a negative impact on your relationship.

Are you aware of the areas that are problematic for you? What topics seem to generate the most arguments? For example, you and your partner may disagree on the level of acceptable work demands, time needed to connect with each other, time needed alone, or your relationship with money. The topics on which you disagree are almost irrelevant. What matters is how you learn, with help, to identify the triggers of potential disagreements and move toward meaningful resolution. Short-circuiting arguments before they begin sounds far better than letting disagreements build up, yes?

Though couples have certain topics that are off limits while dating, no topics should be off limits during pre-marital counseling. Important topics to discuss include: 1. Do you both want a family? 2. How have your relationships with your family of origin impacted your expectations of marriage and your relationships with your future in laws, both for better and for worse? 3. Do you have concerns around infertility? 4. Are you open to adoption? 5. What are your values around saving and spending money? Addressing these topics in a direct, respectful and sensitive way can reduce the anxiety, stress and fear around these issues. By being open, you are taking control of your relationship, instead of allowing the fear of disagreements to run away with it.

Remember, being a spouse is so much more than being a “husband” or “wife” with specific roles or responsibilities. This is true whether those responsibilities are gender specific or gender neutral. Being a spouse is far more than just your “job” within the marriage. Do you know how your spouse would define a fulfilling life? Do you know what lifts your spouse up when s/he is down? Have you done what you can to encourage your spouse and to foster fulfillment outside of your relationship alone? How can you best nurture each other’s needs as you move forward in life together?

Before you marry, decide what you will do as a unit to keep your love thriving. Love, like all living things, needs nurturance, care and consistency. Each of you brings the experiences of your parents relationship into your marriage, both for the good and the bad. Everyone does. However, by being proactive you can end any negative patterns of repetition. While it is true they did not begin with you, they can absolutely end with you!

Kristin Schaefer Schiumo, Ph.D

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