Your marriage (or future marriage) will be the adventure of a lifetime.
You will literally journey through clearings of joy and fulfillment, canyons of darkness and life’s challenges, and valleys of hope, passion, and love. You will push and pull yourselves through the balance of staying connected to family and friends while establishing yourself as a couple, and you will have the potential to experience the freedom of growing alongside a partner who supports and encourages your individual growth.
It would be nice to have some guidelines, or a map of sorts, to help you out along the journey, would you agree?
Search no more.
PREPARE/ENRICH implements an incredible process of exploring your “Couple and Family Maps”.
That’s right, this inventory actually provides you with a map that displays some of the most important aspects of your family of origin relationships as well as aspects of your couple relationship that impact how you relate to one another. The knowledge that comes from this will enable you to weather the storms and better navigate through your differences as a married couple.
What does the Family Map Explore?
The family map portion of PREPARE/ENRICH looks at the closeness and flexibility that you experienced in your family of origin. Closeness refers to how emotionally connected you felt to your family. Flexibility refers to how open your family was to change (did they roll with change, or resist it?).
In a healthy, balanced family of origin, you may have experienced a family unit that was accepting of each member’s autonomy and that encouraged you to “be who you are”. A family like this is supportive, cheers you along, and partakes in activities together. Family members feel close and connected to one another, but not controlled or intruded upon. There’s a healthy balance of togetherness and separateness as you grow through your developmental years.
This type of family unit also adapts well to change. A healthy family of origin can deal with uncomfortable emotions and provides a sense of safety and security for you to express what is going on with you as well. There are healthy and open boundaries for family members to share unconditionally with each other.
From this medium, your own personal experience may vary on the map from “overly connected” to “disconnected” as well as from “overly flexible to change” to “inflexible to change”. But you and your partner will both land somewhere on the map.
This is such an important aspect of your life to bring an awareness of into your marriage. You better believe that the dynamics you experienced in your family of origin will impact the way you relate to your partner!
Here’s an example of how the family map can help a couple identify dynamics within their relationship:
Tim came from a family that wasn’t overly disconnected, but also didn’t share much emotionally. He never saw his father cry, and his mother would always lock herself in her room when faced with any sort of conflict or emotional challenge. He learned to stuff his emotions in and deal with things logically, as many men do.
Tim’s family engaged in some shared activities. His parents would show up to his sports games (he always excelled with sports), but on the home front, there was little discussion about what was going on with him other than how his grades were and what team he was going to try out for next. He always felt the push to be the best, so his parents wouldn’t have to worry about him. After all, they had to tend to the needs of Tim’s 4 other siblings.
As Tim reflected in his premarital sessions with his fiancé Sarah, he realized that he never really felt emotionally “close” to his mother or father. Interestingly enough, his family map displayed a “somewhat connected” and “very flexible” view of his family of origin. This made sense to Tim. He recalled longing for more time together with his family to laugh and play with one another, but it never really happened.
As Sarah listened in to Tim’s experience, it began to make more and more sense to her why she felt disconnected from him at times throughout their wedding-planning, and why he seemed to “shut her out” when she expressed frustration towards him or other situations going on in her life.
Through the process of learning more about their differences, understanding the varying dynamics in each of their families of origin, and equipping themselves with effective ways to communicate about it all, the pair was able to identify ways to express when they felt close and when they felt separated from one another.
Tim was able to see how his conflict-avoidant personality was affecting Sarah’s ability to feel close to him. He learned to be an active listener and how to truly be present with her when she needed him. He also began the journey of letting Sarah in more to his own internal experiences.
All couples should have the opportunity to learn about these parts of themselves. Depending on the type of experiences you had in your family of origin, the premarital process may feel a little uncomfortable at times. But in using the Couple and Family Maps, you will actually increase the opportunity to have more empathy and a stronger connection to your partner than before.
And what married couple doesn’t want that?
Liz is a millennial wife and licensed couples therapist in Dallas, TX. She finds passion in helping other millennial couples and individuals navigate through the terrains of dating and pre-engagement, the premarital journey, and the newlywed stages of marriage. She blogs and speaks on the importance of building an intentional marriage and believes that marriage is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer!