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Maybe you are dating someone and trying to figure out if there’s marriage potential. Maybe you’re single and hoping to be married one day. Maybe you’re divorced, but hope to remarry with greater wisdom and healthier tools the next time. This post is for anyone looking to the future with a desire to build a lasting, healthy intimate marriage relationship.

Part 1: Know Yourself.

Ask yourself, ‘How do others experience me?’

Self-awareness is vital to engaging in healthy relationships – especially marriage. If you’re not sure, ask people that love and care about you for their honest, constructive feedback. “Do you feel safe around me? Do I listen well or interrupt? Do I allow room for you to shine in our conversations? Am I stubborn or flexible? Do I come across confident / nervous / arrogant / kind, etc.? What would you say are my most important values?” Some of the answers might be hard to receive, but will help in the long run. With this feedback, commit to taking baby steps to become more self-aware and improve how you communicate and relate to others. One of our therapists would be happy to journey with you!

Be yourself.

One of the keys to moving towards marriage is to be true to who you are from day 1. To have intimacy with another person, you have to be okay with you. (Keeping in mind that we are always continuing to discover more of who we are and who we want to become). Being authentic doesn’t mean you reveal everything all up front. Be honest, but let the onion slowly peel. Enjoy the journey of gradually allowing each other to be more fully seen. Don’t pretend to be something you are not, or suppress something you really are. Why do we do this? Fear of rejection or fear of being alone. Think of this – if you pretend or suppress your real self now, it’ll come out eventually. The same is true of the one you’re dating. Do you want them to pretend or suppress who they truly are? Probably not! Pretending now only leads to pain later. If they are not going to get excited about and love the real you, it’s going to be a lonely, difficult marriage and life together.

Envision the big picture: your hopes, goals, beliefs, and core values.

The biggest sources of marital conflict are often around clashing values over money, sex, family / parenting, religion / faith, and where time gets prioritized. If you talk to married people, you will find that some of the hardest marital conflicts to resolve are the ones where each person firmly holds very different values and goals for life and strong conviction not to budge. Clarify your values now, before getting into this situation! To explore your core values more, see my previous post, “Core Values and Secure Identity.”

Zoom in to the small picture: be aware of your personality and lifestyle nuances.

Relational disconnect or conflict usually doesn’t start with something big, but develops from little things building up over time. Ever had a roommate? Think about what stirred up tension and conflict. Know your little annoyances. What’s your daily routine? How do you like to keep your home? What are your needs and preferences for food, hobbies, socialization, and entertainment?

Describe your lifestyle.

Are you active? Do you love to travel? Are you a homebody that needs quiet alone time? Think about your ingrained habits that are hard to change. Take the Love Languages quiz. How do you give and receive love? Can you describe your personality? The Big Five personality test and the Enneagram test are two great resources if you want to dig deeper.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will share tools for how to take your relationship from the surface-level attraction to deeper and deeper levels of substance and true understanding of one another.

If having an intimate, committed relationship is something you’re longing for but struggling to experience, one of our therapists can explore this together with you. Don’t settle for a life less than what your heart is truly longing for. There’s hope, and we will walk towards it with you. Call us today!

Written by therapist Jessica Olson

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