In part 1, I talked about how important self-awareness and self honesty are to building a long, lasting relationship. In part 2, I covered how to go deeper in knowing someone gradually over time. Now, we’re going to talk about how important it is to have your relationship in the context of community, and to be courageous in discussing sensitive topics like sex, family, faith, and money.
Find some good examples of couples you respect, then take them to lunch (or during COVID-19, do a Zoom call) to learn why they are thriving. If that’s not possible, watch videos or read about relationships you respect, and write some thoughts down. Find someone who is winning in the area you want for yourself, then glean from their wisdom. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and sharing how they succeeded in something.
Let others speak to you
Let a select few individuals speak into your relationship as you move further towards discussing a future together. This could include pre-marital counseling, but is not limited to it. Think about the people in your life whose opinions you hold in high esteem. Consider introducing them to the one you’re seeing, and allow yourself to receive honest and constructive feedback about your relationship.
Family boundaries and expectations
Having some familial boundaries and expectations set will be an ongoing area to navigate in your relationship. Families can vary greatly in terms of expectations for involvement and support. Family boundaries fall along a spectrum from enmeshed (excessively involved, no individuation) to disengaged (detached; share little to nothing). As you move towards marriage, you are starting a new family unit, so previous boundaries with each of your families may need to be explored and adjusted.
Be transparent about money
How we use our money says a lot about us. You need to know how you each handle money, and the honest truth of your financial situations. Don’t assume it’ll just work itself out – it takes intentionality and maybe a little skill-building. Money fights are a leading cause of divorce, so getting on the same page financially will bring strength to your relationship. Consider reading a book, listening to a podcast, or taking a course together on money management. Think about doing joint checking; it promotes intimacy and connection because it allows nothing to remain hidden.
Talk about your values
This includes discussions about sex, contraception, abortion, kids, and moving in together. Don’t assume you’re on the same page. These values-laden topics can become sources of serious conflict if not proactively discussed. If possible, have conversations about these topics before engaging in them. If you’ve already stepped into one or some of these areas, it’s not too late! There’s no time like the present to engage in greater openness about your values with your partner. Remember, pretending now only leads to pain later.
For faith practicing couples, talk in specifics about what growing together spiritually actually looks like. You may find you have differing ideas, or discover they complement beautifully! It might include serving and attending a particular kind of church or parish together. You might value worship, prayer, reading Scripture, adoration, the Eucharist, or fasting together. Maybe you envision opening up your home and leading a small group, or traveling abroad on mission. If you come from different theological backgrounds, identify where this might bring up disagreements or issues, and keep the lines of communication open.
If you’d like to work through any of these areas with support, give us a call! Our individual and couples therapists would be more than happy to journey with you.
Written by therapist Jessica Olson
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