Taking that plunge and tying the knot can be exciting and euphoric for couples. But the planning, prepping, and budgeting for the wedding becomes the focal point for most couples getting married, and they overlook the important puzzle pieces to marriage. Marriage is no light topic; it is a lifelong commitment and requires a strong bond. Successful and healthy marriages are built on a strong foundation, similar to building a home. Love is one of the key essentials in the foundation, yet a lifelong marriage can’t survive on love alone. Communication is the other key element of a strong foundation.
Here are a few simple steps to build a foundation before you tie the knot:
Out of all communication tools, creating emotional safety is key to successful communication. The main message to send to one another is that you are the safe zone, the sanctuary. Show that it’s safe for each other to open up, express your point of view and stick around to resolve conflict. Safe zones teach one another that you are dependable, consistent and supportive.
It can be easy to interrupt when feeling overly excited or passionate about a topic. The interruptions may have great intentions, but the quick response often sends a message that your partner’s point of view does not matter. Instead, bite your tongue, pinch your arm, make a mental note, and slow down your response. Show your partner that they are important and they have your full attention. Remember your partner’s value in the relationship and give them the attention they deserve.
Getting caught in the daily grind of work and life can be draining and automatically put the relationship on the back burner. Keep your relationship and your partner in your sight by daily check-ins. Set aside 20 minutes a day for uninterrupted discussions about both of your days, your concerns and anything else of interest. Take turns and enjoy the conversation. The check-ins will help keep the bond intact and prevent any future surprises.
Pointing language can be hurtful (even though it may have good intentions) and points out what your partner should or shouldn’t have done. For example, "You should have…" or "You always…" The pointing language most often uses the word "you" and comes across as telling one another how each other acts or behaviors. Instead, try to communicate without using the word "you." Try starting statements with "I" and explain your emotional experience.
Silence Isn’t Always Golden
You might be familiar with the phrase, "Silence is golden." For situations like watching a movie in a theater, this concept is absolutely ideal and needed. However, silence in relationships can often leave issues unresolved, and your partner may feel alone in managing the issues. Instead of going silent when rough times arise, teach your partner you’re there and brainstorm alternatives.
Assuming is very easy to do and we often have no clue that we’re in the middle of doing it. Get clarity from your partner, listen for the big picture, and get clarity if you need it.
Jennine E. Estes is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC#47653) with a private practice in Mission Valley.