Q: My girlfriend and I have decided to get married next spring.
This is scary. Neither of us come from homes where marital bliss ruled the household.
Both of my parents have been married and divorced a number of times and my girlfriend’s mom and dad sought refuge behind violence to end their marriage.
All we have learned from our parents is how to say and do things that hurt another person. This is not a lesson we want to continue.
However, we need some help if we are to build a marriage that can be rewarding for us. What do you suggest we do?
A: Thank you for recognizing that both you and your girlfriend are going to need help of some kind to make your proposed marriage work.
Unfortunately, we do not have magic answers to help you with your problem. The relationship that the two of you develop will be uniquely yours. The parameters and guidelines the two of you set work only if both of you believe in them and sense that you have been a part of the decision-making process developing them.
All households have moments of stress. The danger that you and your girlfriend have is that both of you could fall victim to your parents’ pathologies when your house tumbles into difficult times.
Your parents taught you to run and hide from stress, while your girlfriend’s parents taught her to fight back. Neither is a particularly useful way for resolving difficulties.
My suggestion is that at least a couple of times a week ,you and your girlfriend turn off the television, the computer, tablets, cellphones, stereo and anything else that distracts you from each other.
Sit on your couch, hold hands and say nothing until both of you have settled into some kind of peace within yourselves.
When both of you are reasonably relaxed, you can share with each other your fears and concerns, your hopes and dreams and who knows whatever disappointments have challenged you along the way.
This is the foundation of your relationship with each other, and it is one from which both of you may find opportunities to learn new and better ways for dealing with your normal and natural stresses than your parents did.