Wifeys & Gentlemen,
Before my husband ever asked me to marry him, I knew we’d participate in pre-marital counseling! Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, I didn’t think we needed counseling, but I knew we would greatly benefit from exploring different sides of our relationship in meaningful ways. I believe a failure to plan is a plan for failure, and I wanted to start on the right foot.
If that’s confusing, allow me to elaborate! 😉
So you know how some people just really have no business getting married? Those marriages that, when they end, no one acts shocked or surprised and typically marvels at how long it actually lasted? Well, trust me, that wasn’t at all what was going on with me and my man. We didn’t have any particularly significant “red flags” or major issues that we should have addressed and overcome before deciding to tie the knot. Still, my personal beliefs and understanding of the meaning of marriage made pre-marital counseling something I couldn’t ignore.
What is Pre-Marital Counseling?
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, pre-marital counseling is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, but it isn’t actual therapy. A couple will typically spend 6-8 weeks with a therapist and learn about common struggles that occur in the early years of marriage. They get a chance to discuss any personal issues that might have been weighing on their minds and they leave armed with some excellent resources and ideas for how they will manage inevitable conflict and the nuances of being a newlywed.
Although I certainly don’t have the time to detail all 8 of our sessions (& I’m fairly confident my husband wouldn’t appreciate it too much either), one of the best things that we took from the experience was the concept of the couple bubble. It’s a notion that author and relationship expert, Stan Tatkin (Wired for Love) mentions early on in his text, citing it as one of the most important foundations of successful marriages and long term relationships.
While I highly recommend that you all go out and grab a copy, since I haven’t yet finished my own, I won’t push the issue (hey, a lady gets busy after she gets married! Sue me!), but I sincerely believe that this concept shouldn’t be saved only for newlyweds! This delightful and empowering concept can and should be applied to any significant, romantic relationship.
What is the Couple Bubble?
The couple bubble is an agreement between two partners. Don’t worry, there isn’t any paperwork involved. Instead of drawing up a physical document (signatures required), the bubble acts as a binding emotional contract between you and your s/o where you decide to always burden (yes burden) one another with the wonderful tasks of tending to each other’s safety, security, emotional support, physical/mental well-being, sense of stability, love, and devotion.
“Whoa! Mrs. Renai, that sounds like a lot!” – You
Well, that’s because it is! You are essentially asking your partner rely on you wholly and completely, while offering them your dependence in return. You depend on him/her/them and he/she/they depend on you, before anyone else (B.A.E).
So now what does all that mean?
If you find the description a little unsettling, believe me, you aren’t alone. When we first heard about the bubble, I was initially resistant. Society and media might have you believe that an interdependent relationship is unhealthy. We empower our girls and tell them they don’t need a man to take care of them. We train our boys to make their own way and life, to be an island and stand on their own. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that inherently; people can lead amazing and fulfilling lives without needing a romantic companion (or needing many). Growing up and following our life path requires a certain level of independence and self-sufficiency that is undeniable…
…until you decide you want to commit yourself to someone else.
& that’s when the idea of “doing me” gets replaced with “doing we” (ahh, see what I just did there?!). You and your partner, when giving in to the couple bubble, are deciding to put each other first EVERY time; before work, friends, family, personal goals/interests, and even your own children (which I know some might not agree with but that’s okay, we’re allowed to have different opinions… I forgive you…mostly).
It’s when you decide to show your partner that you are willing to do the things that no one else will to make sure they are forever protected in your relationship, expecting nothing in return.*
*PSA: Please don’t take this as an excuse to ask your partner to help you commit serious crimes. 🙂
How do you practice this principle?
Obviously, every couple’s bubble is going to look a little different. We all speak different love languages and interpret concepts of devotion and security differently. From the most basic perspective, anyone engaging in the couple bubble should remember:
You are devoted to your s/o’s sense of safety and security and not simply to your own ideas of what safety/secure should be. Please please please remember that what makes you feel safe and secure might not be the same for your partner. LISTEN and be heard. Make sure you know exactly what it takes to make your partner feel protected.
- Example: if your partner tells you earnestly that he feels insecure about you going out with your friends and asks that you text him to check in 1/2 way through, the answer is yes; even if it’s super annoying.
It is NEVER okay to pop the bubble. The only way this principle works is when both parties know that they are 100% invested in their relationship, even during the rough times. No one partner is ever allowed to check out or defer his/her responsibilities onto someone else. It undermines the security you’ve created.
- Example: If your s/o feels like she is in competition with your best friend, you’re popping the bubble. Don’t misunderstand, there are some things you share with your best friend that you likely don’t share with your partner(a love of NASCAR or wine tours or something like that). But it should never turn into a situation where you’re pushing your partner away because he/she doesn’t “get you” like your best friends do. There can be no secrets, no talking behind her back, and you must always defend her and be on her side (without being scared to tell her when she’s wrong).
Use the bubble whenever possible. It is designed to provide a safe space for you and your partner to always ask for help. It is your primary source for support and protection.
- Example: if your partner and parents don’t always get along, when it’s time to head home for the holidays, make sure you and your partner have a plan that insures you both will be comfortable and protected. Maybe this means that you never leave your boo alone with the family for more than 5 minutes at a time (when possible)? Maybe it means that you’ll have a secret phrase or hand signal to indicate when one of you is feeling tense or anxious?
You and your partner are going to fail. You will make mistakes and you will do things to hurt each other sometimes. Committing to the couple bubble doesn’t mean that you will never make another selfish choice or think of your own well-being before your partners. It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever tell your best friend something you shouldn’t or flirt a little too much with the cutie at the gym. It means that when you do those things, your partner is going to forgive and accept you. It means that if he/she notices you slipping, they hold you accountable to your word.
Despite the seriousness of this level of commitment, I firmly believe that non-married couples who are invested in a serious relationship and feel ready to take that relationship to the next level would largely benefit from adopting the principles of the couple bubble. There is a rich reward in knowing you are deeply connected and invested in another person. I love having my husband’s back and I take pride in knowing that he’s got mine.
Until Next Time,
Carry On Wifeys!