Tasks: Making Your Marriage Your Primary Family

A number of years ago there was a book by the name of The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts. The authors identified nine tasks that couples need to achieve in order to have a happy, fulfilling marriage. While all of those tasks are important, some are more important at different stages of the marriage. I’m going to talk about several of these in my articles over the next few months  and will likely at least mention all of them. We will put a lot of emphasis on those that are important to get started on early in the relationship.

Let’s jump on a big one right out of the bag. Fancy therapist speak for this task is that both members of the couple/marriage need to separate from their family of origin. What that means in more practical words is that couples need to shift their primary emotional connection from their parents and the family they came from to their partner.

That may seem obvious, but it is amazing how the failure to achieve this task can cause lots of problems for couples, and later, their families. Many people also don’t think of how extensive this shift needs to be. Basically the default for whose side you are on in a conflict, who you seek comfort and support from, who you choose to spend time with, and who you make decisions with and seek information from needs to be your partner. That doesn’t mean that you don’t seek comfort and support from your family or choose to spend time with them, but if it starts to happen to the exclusion of your partner there is some work to do.

Wedding planning can be a place where difficulties come up around this issue. Parents may have ideas about what needs to happen in the wedding that one or the other of the couple don’t agree with. This can be exacerbated by parents paying for a big portion of the wedding. What can a couple do? One thing is to make sure you are communicating a lot with each other about what is happening in the wedding and make decisions together rather that with other people. It is your wedding after all.

Are there exceptions to this? Absolutely. Tradition suggests that brides should pick out their dresses with their mother and/or friends and the groom shouldn’t even see it. Nice tradition.

But sometimes parents, or friends for that matter, start trying to take things in a directions the couple, or one of the couple, is unhappy with. This is a good opportunity to work on coming together, make each other’s needs and wants the priority, and make a decision on what to do and how to handle the situation together.

When you have decided to live your lives together, it is never too early to start making that relationship the primary one in your lives. You will be happy you did.

Talk to you soon.

Dr. Mark

Dr. Mark Sharp

Dr. Mark Sharp is a psychologist who specializes in working with relationship issues. He has been working with couples, families and individuals for more than twenty years. In 2006 he founded the Aiki Relationship Institute in Oak Brook, IL, whose mission is to help people create the best possible relationships in all aspects of their lives. In addition to his commitment to helping people with their relationships, Dr. Mark is dedicated to the training of new professionals. He has supervised students from several local universities over the years and teaches a class on family and couples therapy every year at Rosalind Franklin University.

Dr. Mark is happily married to Debbi, an elementary school teacher. They like to travel and try out new foods and restaurants. Dr. Mark regularly practices the martial art of aikido, in which he holds a first degree black belt. Interestingly enough, the aiki in aikido is the same one as in the Aiki Relationship Institute. But that is another story.

You can contact Dr. Mark at drmark@aiki-relationships.com or through the Aiki Relationship Relatioship web site www.aiki-relationships.com.

Dr. Mark’s articles are available for redistrtribution with his permission. Please contact him directly to redistribute any of his material.