Whether you and your partner knew the first moment you met that this was “it,” or decided to “finally” get married after living together for 10 years, premarital counseling serves the same purpose: It allows you and your partner to look at how your relationship may change once you marry, how your marriage may change over time, what your specific love is actually and honestly based upon, and what you can do to keep your bond strong no matter what life brings and how you change.
I base premarital counseling on Dr. John Gottman’s proven, ground-breaking research on predictors of success in marriage. In particular, a cornerstone of our exploration will be recognizing and avoiding what Dr. Gottman refers to as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Dr. Gottman’s research on marriages is remarkable with respect to the length of time he and his research team followed couples. Their research points to four key markers of a relationship in trouble. Gottman calls them ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ although I encourage you to see them as gifts—if you are able to recognize that you are experiencing one of these, congratulations, you have the chance to change it and the course of your relationship.
Remember, a critical first step is to recognize these markers in yourself—the antidote for each is immediately productive and reinforces itself. We will cover all four in session. They are listed below, as well as the antidote for each:
- Criticism: Complain without blame
- Defensiveness: Take responsibility
- Contempt: Build culture of appreciation
- Stonewalling: Do physiological self-soothing
I recommend 2-4 premarital counseling sessions (depending on your ability to do the pre-reading) in an effort for you and your partner to gain a true understanding of the specific tools you will need to make your marriage the one YOU (not your parents, your friends, your relatives) want and will stand the test of time.