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Premarital couples

How to maintain healthy, intimate relationships? For couples that just start a partnership trip on the roads of life.

By Natalia Tkachenko

There are 12 ways to maintain healthy, intimate relationships:

  1. Work at it. One needs to work constantly to apply managing abilities to get through periods that require extra work. Think “team”. Try to make the decision that will have the least negative impact on your marriage and your family.
  2. Be protective. Separate your marriage and your family from the rest of the world. Accept that good enough is as perfect as it gets. Sacrifices and compromises have to be made. Share your thoughts and feelings. Create communication-generating rituals. No matter how busy you may be, make time for each other.
  3. Manage anger better. Try to break the cycle in which hostile, cynical attitudes, unpleasant emotions, leading to aggressive behaviors that create more tension. Recognize that anger signals frustration of some underlying need, and try to figure out what that need might be. Don’t confuse assertion with aggression. Watch your non-verbal signals, such as the tone of your voice, your hand and arm gestures, facial expressions and body movements. Deal with one issue at a time. If different topics surface during your conflict, flag them to address later. Try to notice subtle signs that anger or irritation is building. If you are harboring these feelings, express them before they build too much and lead to an angry outburst. Don’t blame your partner or turn a fairly manageable problem into a catastrophe. Emphasize where you agree. Declare your devotion again and again. True long-range intimacy requires repeated affirmations of commitment to your partner. And don’t forget that love is not only in what you say but also in how you act. Committed couples protect the boundaries around their relationship. They make decisions while keeping in mind the impact that those choices will have on their partnership. They also resolve to keep up with and encourage each other’s growth.
  4. Give each other permission to change. It is fascinating to note how much more couples know about each other early in their relationship than they do once they have been together for years. If you aren’t learning something new about each other every week or two, you simply aren’t observing closely enough. Bored couples fail to update how they view each other. Worse yet, struggling couples act as though a partner’s changing is a betrayal. That resentment arises because one partner’s development always requires the other to change too, and this can lead to anxiety. Instead, accept that the stress of growing is an inevitable part of being married, and be careful not to sabotage each other.
  5. Remember to remain constantly abreast of each other’s dreams, fears, goals disappointments, hopes, regrets, wishes and fantasies. People continue to trust the people who know them best and who accept them without passing judgment. Have fun together. Human beings fall in love with the ones who make them laugh. They stay in love with those who make them feel safe enough to come out to play.
  6. Keep delight as a priority. Put your creative energy into making yourselves joyful and producing a relationship that regularly feels like recess.
  7. Make yourself trustworthy. People come to trust the ones who validate them. They learn to distrust those who act as if a relationship were a continual competition. Realize your partner’s perceptions will always contain at least a few truths, and validate those truths before adding your perspectives to the discussion.
  8. Forgive and forget. Don’t be too hard on each other. If your passion and love are to survive, you must learn how to forgive. You and your partner regularly need to wipe the slate clean so that anger doesn’t build. Holding on to hurts and hostility is a way of blocking real intimacy.
  9. Do what you can to heal the wounds in a relationship, even if you did not cause them. Be compassionate about the fact that neither of you intended to hurt the other as you set out on this journey. Cherish and applaud. The most fundamental ingredient in the intimacy formula is cherishing each other.
  10. You need to celebrate each other’s presence. If you don’t give your partner admiration, applause, appreciation, acknowledgement, the benefit of the doubt, encouragement and the message that you are happy to be there with them now, where will they receive those gifts?
  11. Be gracious. One of the most painful mistakes couple make is the failure to notice their own partner’s heroics. These small acts endure hundreds routine labors. So make a concerted effort to notice daily acts of heroism by your loved ones.
  12. Finally, try to keep in mind that there really are no perfect relationships. Do what you can to help each other manage the daily juggling act you both perform.

It is important to understand, that relationship goes together with the conflicts, where the conflicts are natural product of building relationships. Basic principles in relationship enhancement are appropriate self-disclosure, reflecting feelings, creative problem solving, negotiation and compromise, self-monitoring and setting personal goals, supporting the other’s person goals.

Some risk factors for the marital problems are those:

  • having personality tendency to react strongly or defensively to problems and disappointments in life;
  • having divorced parents;
  • living together prior to marriage;
  • being previously divorced;
  • having children from a previous marriage;
  • having different religious background;
  • marrying at very young age;
  • knowing each other for a short period of time before marriage;
  • experiencing financial hardship.

Other dynamic risk factors are:

  • the negative styles of talking and fighting with each other;
  • difficulties communicating well especially in disagreements;
  • trouble handling as a team;
  • unrealistic beliefs about marriage;
  • different attitudes about important things;
  • a low level of commitment to one another,
  • reflecting in such behavior as failing to protect your relationship from others;
  • not practicing faith together.

The way to enhance the relationships serves the “Speaker- Listener technique”. This Speaker- Listener technique (SLT) can be used to communicate when having disagreement or a conflict about money, chores, child raring, in-laws, or talking about something sensitive that is difficult to talk about: feeling lonely in relationship, about sex and sensuality. The mechanism of SLT, which is alternative way of communication, is the following: when issues are sensitive the speaker has the floor, both shares the floor, no problem solving.

And here are the rules for the speaker:

  • speak for yourself, don’t go on and on,
  • stop and get the listener paraphrase,
  • and don’t rebut focus of speaker’s message.

Rules for the listener are:

  • paraphrase what you hear,
  • don’t rebut, focus on speaker’s message.

It is important to separate issues from events and identify the hidden issues underneath the event.

Four key ways to do that are:

  • the wheel spinning,
  • trivial triggers,
  • avoidance,
  • and scorekeeping.

Talking about the new perspectives on problems and problem solving Stanley Markman's state: “Many partners believe there us something wrong with their marriage if they have problems that are not readily solvable.” “…most couples try to solve problems prematurely – before they have thoroughly discussed the issue at hand and understood – not necessary agreed with – each other’s perspective. Understanding one another is more important for maintaining respect and connection than is solving every problem that life throws your way”.

Three key assumptions along the way are those:

  • all couples have problems;
  • couples who are most effective at problem solving work together as a team;
  • most couples rush to find quick solutions,
  • in their haste they do not take into account the real concerns of each partner and thus fail to produce lasting solutions.

The Steps to handle problems well:

  • willing to work together and experiment with change,
  • be creative and flexible,
  • lying the foundation for a solution to come,
  • 70% of issues need not so much to be solved as “aired out”.

Problem solution, agenda setting, brainstorming and agreement and compromise, plus follow-ups are the other steps of handling the problems well. Full discussion clarifies the issues, removes conflict, and increases feeling of teamwork. XYZ statements (behavior, context and how one feel in that) can be extremely handy too in such talks. All about that the newly wedding couples should be aware first hand. So, this way the key is how they handle the problems better is trying to talk about them. Under negative there may be hidden some positive, thus the problems and disagreements offer opportunities to enhance couples sense of identity as a team, founded on honor, respect and acceptance.

Ground rules while in conflict:

  • When conflict is escalating, call a time out or a pause.
  • When having troubles communicating, engage SLT, separate problem discussion from problem solving.
  • Bring up the issues at any other time.
  • Make time for great things, like fun, friendship and sensuality.

All relationships need ground rules; they are not one size-fits – all. Among talks couples need to navigate casual, conflict, or friendship one’s and avoid destructive talks.

Friendship.

Discussing how to preserving and protect friendship, which is “feeling of deep intimacy and connection with the others” our authors found out that people feel the greatest intimacy when they are able to share the hopes and dreams as well as fears and burdens, also able to self disclose to another, who is responsive to them.

Barriers to friendship are:

  • “there is no time,
  • we are not friends,
  • we are married;
  • we don’t talk like friends anymore,
  • walls, moats and towers: the ravages of conflict;
  • we are victims of reckless words.”

“Protecting friendship in marriage means to make the time, protect marriage from conflicts and issues, remember how to talk like friends, because friendship is a core of healthy marriage, and it need to be nurtured all the time, in sharing intimate talks”.

Playing together.

Vital for enhancement of relationship is playing together, extending barriers to fun and their limitations, such as:

  • “we are too busy,
  • play is for kids (it is important to play in marriage relationships),
  • and conflicts get on the way”.

Working at play means to make a time, to protect fun from conflict, brainstorm about fun activities, and borrow activities from other couples. “Couples can choose to protect their relationships by setting aside time to enjoy each other, renew their sense of closeness and togetherness, have fun, coming naturally to everyone in childhood, it need to be practiced as a skill in the context of busy, conflict –laden lifestyle”.

Sex life.

Fundamental is to work with senses and sensuality: enhancing and protecting the couple’s sex life. Authors advice us that sex without sensuality leads to no other way of intimate connections then sex, and it put roadblocks and pressure on the sexual relationships itself, create the problem with performance anxiety, such as tension from conflict in a marriage, detachment, sexual boredom, premature ejaculation, problems, keeping erection of difficulties lubrication for women, lost interest in arousal.

“Make it happen”-

  • make the time for intimacy,
  • protect it from conflicts,
  • pay attention to sensuality,
  • communicate your desire,
  • break out of ruts,
  • and be creative.

Religion.

The core believes and spiritual intimacy means that the couples who are religious tend to be belonging to denominations, going to services; reading certain writings, praying and they have lower level of divorce and higher level of commitment. Religious couples are more likely to report being satisfied sacrificing for one another and having a stronger sense of couple’s identity. Shared vision is a mutual understanding of the meaning of life, mutual core values and relationship expectations, commitment, respect, intimacy and forgiveness.

“Why you can’t always get what you want?”

Discussing such sensitive issue, like “why you can’t always get what you want” one can learn that according to Markman perception + expectation met = happiness and perception + expectation not met = disappointment /resentment. Three major areas, where people have expectations about the way things “should be” are how power will be distributed, how caring will be demonstrated and the level of commitment in relationships, or the boundaries, investment and control + power.

“Any relationships need a daily dose of forgiveness”.

What is it forgiveness? It is a choice to “release your partner from owing you a debt, or work to restore your relationship”. It is also the resentment against the desire to punish, and picture of forgiveness is like a cancelled debt. Forgiveness is also a decision to give up your perceived or actual right to get even with or hold in debt, someone who has wronged you. Roles of responsibility and trust in forgiveness: “Although it may not be required for forgiveness, a great way to start you desire to take responsibility is to make amends for hurting you mate.” “Trust builds slowly over time. Trust has change to be rebuilt when each partner takes appropriate responsibility.” “The commitment of personal dedication refers to the desire to maintain or improve the quality of the relationship for the initial benefit of both partners”.

Personal dedication.

On the path to commitment “personal dedication – desire to maintain or improve the quality of relationship for the mutual benefits of both partners” (improve, sacrifice, and invest) and “constrained commitment - dedication is low, constrains can keep people in relationships they might otherwise want to leave” can be made.

The things couple can do to redevelop dedication are:

  • sit down together and talk about the stage of your marriage,
  • remember what you used ton have together;
  • decide to turn things around,
  • do the things you did at first,
  • stay at it.

Commitment.

“Commitment is a complex concept, involving both external constrains that hold relationships together and personal dedication, which helps keep alive the desire to stay in relationship.”

“Choices about how you think about your partner, how you behave together and how high a priority you give the relationship are critical factors in commitment.” “You need to believe in future of yours relationship in order to keep it growing and strong”.

There are dramatic findings that two-thirds of unhappy marriages had become happy five years later. The researchers found that many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work reversals. Married people are looking for alternative ways to improve their own happiness and build a good and happy life that what the marriage should be about.

About the author: Natalia Tkachenko, Masters in Science in Counseling Psychology, Master in Arts in Journalism was born in Moldova, part of the former Soviet Union, now lives in USA. Through the personal experience on the example of three countries, where she lived and developed, author witnessed and observed the transformations of the world and societies. Educated in Russia, she had her successful journalistic career in Moldova, now in America Natalia is telling to us in her stories and books, what values her generation had, and how they were transformed through the life span. Natalia's first book of psychological novels was published in Moldova in 2000. Her second book Married to American: Russian wife stories was published in USA in 2003 both in English and Russian languages. Her recent book Adaptation in immigration: Slav in America (For reading in Russian) which reviews wider the adaptation issues, appeared in 2006. In her set of short stories author reviews the new life in different environment, the ways to cope the stresses of the first years on the new continent and leads the readers all the way through the adjustment process and steps to make it successful from the point of view of her personal perception and experiences.

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More books about Russian American marriage:

How To Survive In International Marriage - Oksana Leslie's book is a very thorough journey through the challenges of being a Russian wife of an American husband. The book not only looks at the many tedious steps involved in becoming an international wife, but the author takes you inside the emotional ups and downs of the process.

Welcome to America: The Complete Guide for Immigrants This volume tells your Russian wife everything she needs to know about living in the U.S.

Russian Wife: Your Greatest Blessing or Your Biggest Mistake This book is written from a Christian perspective, which makes it unique. While nonbelievers may consider that a disadvantage, I would still recommend this book if you're interested in the subject. It provides many helpful insights you won't find in the Internet.

How to Happily Survive Marriage to a Russian Woman This book is worth the read for those who are thinking about marriage to a woman from Russia, Ukraine, etc.

Wedded Strangers : The Challenges of Russian-American Marriages The Cold War may have officially ended, but, as Visson shows, the battle lives on in the culturally dysfunctional marriages made by Russians and Americans. Throughout the 20th century, and often against serious odds, Russians and Americans have been falling in love and marrying.

Russian Women & Marriage : Love Letters from Russia... Autobiography about an average American man's adventure to marry a Russian woman. The book provides a romantic understanding of why thousands of American men have gone through the painstaking process of bringing Russian women to America for marriage.

 

 

References:

  1. Feldhahn, S.& J. For men only. (2006). A straightforward guide to the inner lives of women. Oregon: Multnomah Publishers.
  2. Felhahn, S, Rice, L. (2006). For young women only. Oregon: Multnomah Publishers.
  3. Hendrix, H. (1990) Getting the love you want: A guide for couples. NY: Harper Collins.
  4. Gottman Institute (2006). “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, video.
  5. Heitler, S., (1987). Conflict resolution: A framework for integration. Journal of Integrative and Eclectic Psychotherapy, 6, 3, 334-350 New York: Brunner/Mazel.
  6. Long, L., Young, M. (2007). Counseling and therapy for couples. Thomson Brook/Cole, CA.
  7. Markman, H., Stanley, S., Blumberg, S. (2001) Fighting for your marriage. Positive steps for preventing divorce and preserving a lasting love. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
  8. Patterson, E., Williams, L., Graud-Grounds. C., Chamov, L. (1998) Essential Skills in Family Therapy. The Guilford press, New York, London. Retrieved from Internet www.smartmarriages.com, April 22, 2007.

 

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