Of course, each of you will bring issues and concerns to couples counseling, and you will have a place to address them.
The goal in committed relationships is to create what Stan Tatkin calls a “Couple Bubble” in which your relationship comes first, you care for one another in loving ways, as perceived by your partner; and everyone and everything else comes second.
For example, if you have a misunderstanding and try to make a repair that doesn’t work for your partner, it doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, or he’s being a jerk, or she’s a bitch. It just means a different repair attempt can be tried. And your partner can make the effort to see your repair attempt, and respond in a loving way even if it’s not quite “right.”
Couples will have disagreements; you came from different families, and whatever you grew up with is “normal” whether or not it’s healthy. So you can be shocked or disgusted by your partner’s reactions to situations.
The goal is to be in your relationship for each other – to feel safe, loved, respected, and appreciated.
Whenever we join into a committed relationship, we have to expect that we are agreeing to the other person’s baggage coming along. It’s just a fact of life.
If that particular baggage is not what you’re willing to have in your life, it’s okay to let the relationship go. You likely won’t notice the baggage at first. As the chemicals are coursing through your brain and body in the beginning of your relationship, they often over-ride your ability to notice red flags. Your trusted friends might notice, though, so if you want their opinion, it may be useful.
This is one of the reasons it’s important to not get married in a hurry. Know each other through all the seasons, or even two cycles of seasons, so the chemicals have time to settle down and you know who and what you have.
After that process and length of time, you will at least know what there will be to deal with throughout your relationship. And you can choose whether it is for you.
Once you’ve made the commitment, be prepared to make your couple bubble your top priority (and yes, this is true for busy people, too).
People’s style in a relationship truly shows when under stress (as I wrote about last week: fight, flight, or freeze). What will happen with kids and parenting styles, in-laws, money, sex, health crises, vacations, and so on.
As Stan Tatkin writes about in Wired for Love, your goal is to be “anchors” for one another, and to learn to deal with your own tendency to either be a “wave” or an “island” that takes a toll on your marriage.
Do the terms anchor, wave, and island make sense to you? Which are you?
As your relationship is the couple bubble, so your relationship is the client in couple counseling.