Studies show that couples who struggle early in their marriage, often have conflict over unmet assumptions. I hear struggles when young couples come to counseling, that suggest there were conversations that should have taken place, prior to the walk down the aisle, if the merger was to be without some tension:
I thought he would be the one to take out the trash.
I don’t think we should have separate bank accounts and my spouse thinks we should.
We used to do lots of fun things together and now we just stay home.
I thought we would have more sex.
Couple culture is like a marriage mission statement
I went to pre-marital counseling back in the day, with a church pastor…not a therapist. Let’s just say that it was not an amazing experience. In retrospect, the counseling was very focused on whether or not we were compatible and less about helping us to create a couple culture that would help us navigate through our early years.
Let’s be honest, if you are going to pre-marital counseling, you are going to get married regardless of being found compatible or not! What you really need is a discussion about techniques that can be used to create a dynamic within your marriage that allows each individual to have their own needs met, while they develop tools to meet the needs of their partner.
One simple tool that can be used to help create a couple culture is for each person to identify personal values that they want to be respected within the new couple dynamic. These values can be altruistic goals, career aspirations, personal hobbies, religious and political ideals, and any other idea…just generalities that define a life vision. The collaboration of these ideas should result in goal statements that look something like this:
We are a couple who ______________________.
Our home is a place where __________________ is important.
We want to become a couple that ___________________.
We do not want to be a couple that _______________________.
There are obviously a variety of statements that could be made here, but do you get the idea?
The second step is to take each statement and come up with a couple ways that each person can assist in making that statement come true.
I can help us become a couple who _________________ by _____________________. (Example: “I can help us become a couple that continues to date by planning an outing once a month.”)
A good thing to put in your back pocket is the idea that whatever your “couple culture” is, prior to expansion of the family with little ones, will be the start of your “family culture”. If you want to be a family that goes hiking, volunteers at the homeless shelter and shows respect to one another, that dynamic is best started when there are just two of you!
As always, let me know if I can help.