How premarital counseling could save your marriage.
My story, and how it could save your marriage
SKIP TO THE END IF YOU WANT THE TIPS NOW. Premarital counseling would have saved my marriage.
I was sitting in a room with dim light and about to sign the divorce papers.
What had gone wrong?
I recall my friend suggesting premarital counseling, but I said, “no, who needs that. We are in love”.
We met 12 years ago, and the first year had been bliss.
She lived in a little shared flat on top of a religious center, so I had to sneak in and out every time I came.
It was like being a teenager again sneaking through the window to my girlfriend’s bedroom.
There was no lack of passion, and we would often not leave our room for the entire weekend.
And as we all know, if there are passion and chemistry, then it’s meant to be right?
That’s what Hollywood movies told us.
I remember the excited feeling as I ran down Kensington High Street in London every Friday after work to see her.
I would stop to have a chat with Barry, a homeless man, and I would buy him some food and water in the supermarket.
I was getting ready to launch my business, and together we would build a family.
Life was looking good.
But, it’s never that easy, is it?
Growing up seeing split families, people hating going to work, and I did not want to end up that way.
The first setback came when it was her 30’ties birthday, and I wanted to make it memorable.
Her friends came from around the globe to celebrate her, and I had it all organized. Or, so I thought.
It all went wrong, and I remember walking into her flat with all her friends waiting for the big surprise.
I walked up the stairs to the room where everyone was waiting.
I got her outside and told her, and she started crying. I wanted the earth to swallow me up right there.
But that only happens in the movies.
I think they call it the walk of death.
We had good times but also much worse to come.
The business was finally booming, and we decided to have our first child.
The day he was born was a long dark day that seemed never to end.
If you have ever seen Groundhog Day, then you know what I am talking about.
The surgeon sat us down and told us our son would only live for a week.
He had lost all his bowel, and no child had ever survived that.
I felt her head on my shoulder, crying. I did not hear much else the surgeon said.
That was the beginning of 12 months in intensive care.
It felt like a war zone knowing that 20% of the children would not make it out alive.
I saw the most unimaginable things that I will not share to spare you the trauma, but there was blood, tears and we sang Amazing Grace to beautiful little Grace that did not make it out of there.
Every day I pushed the doctors to allow my son a little more time of his machine so we could one day go home and have a better life.
They said I was unrealistic. I said, let’s try.
Slowly he could be without his feeding machine most of the day, and we went home. But a long battle was ahead.
In and out of the hospital, surgery after surgery.
We try to create certainty in an uncertain world. We try to control the uncontrollable.
At some point, we have to surrender and trust.
For me, that trust was in myself and my son.
I fought the health service to give us the treatment he needed, and after more than two years, I won.
I raised money and put together a team of researchers to innovate medical science.
One day, we might be able to help my son and others that need organs.
In the process, I lost my business and also my wife.
I wish I had taken my friends’ advice and had premarital counseling.
Because I realize now that prevention is better than trying to fix what is broken.
Put the wase in a safe place rather than gluing the 100 pieces together.
At the breaking point, I was up night and day to care for my son and support our family.
The last sense of joy had been squeezed out of me, like a dry lemon left in the sun for too long.
I was getting sick.
I went to the hospital twice for a suspected heart attack, and I realize I had to leave my marriage.
But I felt like a failure.
My business gone, my family split, and my marriage over.
As one dream died, another started.
The collapse of my business and marriage taught me something unexpected.
It taught me how to love.
At first, Mother Nature gives us a helping hand with a chemical cocktail that causes obsession and addiction with our partner.
It’s doing the job of making us invest long enough to have kids.
But after six months to 2 years, the honeymoon stage is over, and we are on our own.
It will now take skill and dedication to keep love and affection.
You have found a beautiful piece of land, but you will not get your castle unless you both have the skills and dedication to build it.
I wish I had known what I teach people now in my premarital counseling.
The glue to lasting and mature love is:
Shared goals that you want to accomplish together
Put a date in your calendar and every six months, sit down and agree on your shared goal for the next six months.
What do you want to achieve together as a couple?
At the next meeting, evaluate how far you got and if the goal was completed, set a new one.
Make the goal meaningful to both of you.
There has to be an emotional investment and buy-in for this to work.
Like a plant needs soil, water, and sun, intimacy requires safety, vulnerability & responsiveness.
Safety is the foundation for a flourishing relationship.
If you build your house on a piece of land known to have big earthquakes or mudslides, then the house will eventually come crumbling down.
Most relationship conflicts might seem like practical disagreement, but underneath it’s almost always a lack of safety causing the conflict.
To navigate this, we have to learn a few skills.
Learn how I as a relationship coach help my clients create safety.
Attachment styles are how we learn to feel safe and valued as children.
These patterns form the foundation for how we form relationships and relate to others.
If we are unaware of our attachment style, then we will keep recreating the same issues again and again.
By knowing your own and your partner’s attachment style, you will learn how to make each other feel safe.
If you want to learn more about the attachment styles, then read my other article on that here
Find out your attachment style here.
If you drive to a destination, you need a map.
You might use google maps or Waze like me.
Without the map, you will take wrong turns and eventually get lost.
Relationships are the same.
We all come with past and emotional wounds.
These wounds we call triggers, and when you experience an excessive emotional response to an event, then you stepped on a trigger.
If you get a map of your partner’s triggers, then you can navigate around then, and if you do get lost in the minefield, then you can get rerouted and find your way back.
This requires self-reflection and self-awareness to look back at your past and map out why you get so upset when your partner does something specific.
You can learn much more about triggers and how we work with these in my online marriage counseling here
As a couple, you impact each other.
You can easily trigger each other but also help calm each other down and feel safe again.
To find solutions that are win/win, you have to be calm.
Successful couples are masters at regulating their nervous system and their partners.
When your fight or flight is in play, you are outside your window of tolerance, and you must self-regulate before speaking to your partner.
Nothing production will happen when you are in fight or flight.
Your brain has been hijacked and is in survival mode and see your partner as the threat.
We are biologically designed to release this response by moving away or physically fighting.
So, move our bodies.
That’s why movement should be the first part of your self-regulation.
Run, dance, punch a pillow.
To get more strategies, check out the one-hour free webinar.
Key moments are when we need our partner to be there for us.
We feel vulnerable and exposed.
Perhaps it’s childbirth, loss of a job, or a sick family member.
These moments are black and white, and if you are not there, the trust will be broken.
This will continue to impact the relationship until you have had a repair conversation.
To learn more about key moments and how I turn these into powerful moments of connection as a relationship coach, check out my article here.
Our love language is how we learn to feel loved and valued.
If we don’t know our own and our partners love language, we are likely to show them love, without them feeling loved.
It’s like an emotional bank account. You make deposits, and if you once in a while need to draw out, you are ok.
If you never deposit anything, you will go into overdraft, and eventually, you will go bankrupt.
You will need that goodwill when times get tough.
If you want to know your love language and how we use it in relationship counseling to deepen connection, then check out this article and quiz.
We all walk around with walls to protect ourselves from people seeing our vulnerable parts, or those parts we are unsure will be accepted.
As we grow up, we learn what is acceptable and expected of us.
We try to fit within these boundaries and hide away the sides of ourselves that we believe are not valued or accepted by others.
Knowing how significant feeling connected and intimate is to our well-being, it seems we are out of balance and need to restore our ability to connect on an intimate level.
Many of us have lost the ability to put our guard down, even with the people we know and trust, leaving us living very numb, cold, and disconnected lives.
We all want to be seen and accepted, and there is nothing more intimate that exposing our vulnerabilities to an accepting partner.
To learn more about intimacy and vulnerability, check out this article I wrote.