MAITREYI MEHTA of Connect Counselling shares insights around pre-marital conversations that touch on long-term relationships, commitment issues and potential relationship tensions. This counsellor in Hong Kong also delves into why it’s important for couples to know what commitment looks like.
What is the conversation couples should be having before entering a long-term committed relationship?
First and foremost, it’s important for couples to discuss family histories to really understand what they’re bringing into the relationship. Each of us comes with a personal love map – our template for romantic relationships– and it’s guided by what we saw growing up between our caregivers. To better understand expectations, conflict styles, how we want to be appreciated, values, really anything core to the relationship, I begin there.
Once a thorough understanding of one another’s worlds has been established, then topics like finances, roles and responsibilities, conflict management, intimacy, boundaries around managing time with in-laws, friends and work, and if applicable, children, should be discussed. I also want to add that premarital work has always been a part of religious belief systems. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other religions have encouraged it for generations. These religions have believed for years that addressing these topics and having a firm understanding of what commitment will look like is essential for healthy long-term relationships.
Do you see couples that rush into long-term commitment?
Yes! All the time. Sometimes it’s fine because either the couple is great at managing their differences, or they have very similar values. But for other couples, it can put a lot of tension on the relationship. When that level of tension is mismanaged, it can become a breaking point. It’s no surprise that 50 percent of divorces occur in the first seven years of marriage.
Why does relationship tension happen?
In the first phase of a relationship we’re really focused on all the commonalities we have with our partner. There isn’t much time to focus on our differences because there aren’t that many surfacing; or when they do, they’re rarely considered through a lens of long-term commitment.
With time, we get a healthy dose of disillusionment and begin to see the ways our partner’s differences may impact our own. That’s why it becomes so significant to have these conversations with openness and curiosity at the right time.
When do commitment issues start to arise for these couples?
If couples are able to progress typically, without unpredictable circumstances, then these differences will begin to appear around the six months to two year mark. The longer couples fail to have healthy conversations about their differences, the more resentment will develop.
What are the steps of intervention for these situations?
Intervention looks different at the pre- and post-marital stages. Premarital intervention is designed to have conversations about the differences and prepare for differing conflict styles. Post-marital intervention is focused on learning how to communicate and compromise given the differences that have already surfaced.
How do you start a conversation about long-term commitment?
Start with being curious about your partner’s differences! After enough conversation and understanding, ideally both partners will come together to design their own template for what they want commitment to look like.
Find out more by emailing email@example.com or visit the website at connectcounselling.co.
This article about relationship tension first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.