About Mind/Body Consultant Services & Protocols
Protocols: Premarital Exploration
- Communication About Relationships
- Why am I getting married? How will marriage affect our relationship?
- Historically, these questions might be asked more often than the others might. Another way to explore these thoughts could be to ask,
- "How will my life be if I never get married? How do I think I would feel?"
- A way to investigate the source of the expectations to be married: "What would my family and friends say?" "How important are their opinions in this regard?"
- What are your expectations of me as your spouse?
- In asking numerous couples if they ever discussed this question, very few said yes. Most people assumed that their own expectations were shared by their spouse to be. Often people don't know what some of their expectations are until they are not met. The shock or surprise of an unmet expectation often feels like betrayal, even if it was never discussed. This may be one of the most critical issues of any marriage.
- What do we need for each of us to feel safe in the relationship?
- Another way to ask this question is, "What makes us feel unsafe in a relationship?" The list could involve feelings of abandonment, jealousy, lack of acknowledgment, lack of trust, being yelled at, being judged, being lied to, not being treated with respect, etc. Add whatever actions or feelings feel threatening or unsafe to you. To feel safe, you would need to not experience those things from your mate. Then consider what you need to experience: trust, confidence, the freedom to make a mistake without being judged, the freedom to be yourself, which means not having to live up to someone else's expectations.
- The following questions will assist you in more deeply exploring this issue:
- When someone tells you they love you, what is your first reaction?
- Do you feel an obligation to them? Explain.
- When someone tells you they love you, what do you think they want from you?
- When you feel love for someone, what do you want from them in return?
- What do we need to feel safe in communicating honestly?
- How can we discuss potentially uncomfortable subjects?
- If I disagree with your point of view, do you judge me?
- How do you feel judged by me when I do not agree with you?
- If my behavior disappoints you or does not live up to your expectations, how will you let me know?
- Is there such a thing as being too honest?
Exercise in Revelation: Attraction/Reservation
This exercise provides valuable insight. It is a good exercise to use prior to making a serious commitment. It is important for both of you t o be clear that you are using this exercise not to judge each other but to exchange information to help you better understand each other.
Prior to getting together, we suggest that each of you write a list of things that attract you to the other. Then make a list of things about which you have some reservations. Pick a quiet, private time to sit down together. Share the things that attract you to each other. If possible, explain why they are attractive. Then, share the things about which you have some reservations. Explain why they concern you. You may want to discuss ways to handle these issues when they come up.
For example, one of Matt's personal issues is that he doesn't like to be interrupted. In using the Attraction/Reservation exercise, he has revealed to women with whom he was involved that he had a reservation because he felt uncomfortable when he was interrupted by them. In one relationship, he was told, "Oh, I didn't know that bothered you, I'll try to be more conscious about not interrupting you." In another relationship, the response was, "I know I interrupt and that it bothers people. I'm trying to be more conscious about not interrupting. Just let me know when I'm doing it and I'll stop." In both cases, the discussion provided an opportunity to raise consciousness and provide solutions for dealing with the issue.
When you have revealed your concerns and reservations, and your partner has acknowledged and respected them, you will find that these issues will not weigh on you as heavily as they do when they are suppressed or avoided.
- How do we handle issues that have different priorities for each of us?
Exercise in Problem Solving:
She: "How can you think about going to a football game when my sister is in the hospital about to deliver her first child?"
He: "Why is it so important for me to be there? Your sister has plenty of family around and I'm not a doctor. It may be hard for you to understand this but my boss expects me to be at this game, our clients gave us box seats, they'll be there and how I participate can affect my future with the company."
Imagine that you are the couple having this conversation. Try your hand at role-playing. Choose your roles (for an interesting and often enlightening switch, consider changing genders) and work on getting to resolution. If you find that you are not making much progress, consider changing the way you're approaching the discussion. More than likely, you're arguing your point of view. Instead of both of you defending and arguing, try to understand why the needs of the other are valid in their point of view. Instead of focusing on the problems, see how many solutions you can offer. If a proposal doesn't work, whenever possible, respond by first identifying what parts of the proposed solution does work.
Taking cues and circumstances from your own life, project a future conflict and see how the two of you would approach a solution. And don't tell us we're crazy to tell you to do this, the best way to get good at any skill is to practice. Constructive conflict resolution takes skill and discipline, when you get good at it, you'll have the ability to enjoy conflict as opportunity instead of obstacle.
- Which decisions need to be made jointly and which can be made unilaterally?
- To really research this question, you first might have to list expectations, activities and obligations. If you're going out to dinner, does one always decide where to go? If the bills outweigh the income, how will it be decided which bills don't get paid?
- What kind of behavior makes you feel disrespected? Do I ever make you feel this way?
- How do you feel when you're interrupted, when your questions are not answered, when it seems as though you are talking without being heard or acknowledged; when your partner is late and you don't get a phone call; when someone lies to you, gossips about you or doesn't look you in the eye? When someone yells at you, hits you, says things that make you feel embarrassed in front of others? When someone, without consulting with you, acts upon their assumptions about what you like or don't like? When you're given advice when you just want someone to listen to you?
- If I could do one thing to improve out relationship, what would it be?
- If I were to ask you to consider one idea of mine to improve our relationship, would you consider...?
Question 7 lays the foundation to answer Questions 8 and 9.
- How do I handle manipulative or leading questions: "Honey, don't you agree that... ?" or "Isn't our baby the cutest baby you've ever seen?"
This can be a subtle situation when one party presents an opinion as though there's no other acceptable choice. Find out as soon as possible if you can create choice for yourself:
Party A: "I think she's disgraceful, don't you agree?"
Party B: "Do I have the option to disagree?"
Or try responding with an open ended question:
Party B: "Would you tell me what you mean by disgraceful?"
- How do you know I love you?
- What signs did we each pick up early in the relationship that led us to believe that we were being considered in a loving way?
- What is Love?
- Don't peek before giving your answer.
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