I’m a big proponent of premarital counseling or coaching for couples but I know that in the whirlwind that is your engagement it’s often one of the things that falls by the wayside.  Couples get busy and money runs out after bridesmaid gifts and exquisite centerpieces.

Although I have seen first hand the benefits of engaged couples making time, and investing money, in working on their relationship skills with a professional, I also know there are some everyday activities that can be just as helpful.  The truth is that the greatest gift you get from working with a couples therapist or premarital coach is the opportunity to look more closely at the mundane tasks of daily life and see how they reveal your relationship strengths… and weaknesses.

So for all you fiancés and newlyweds who skipped the premarital work in favor of a peony bouquet or those Badgley Mischka shoes (don’t worry I get it!) here are 5 everyday things that will help you get your marriage off on the right foot!

Throw a Dinner Party

I love a great dinner party and would do it every week but it turns out that it is stressful to my husband – learning to respect and understand his stress doesn’t just make our parties better, it has made our marriage better.  Like many of the other activities on this list, the dinner party is just a concrete representation of one aspect of learning to be a couple.  It’s not just about good food and great wine… it is about defining how you relate to and present yourselves as a couple to the rest of the world.  From deciding on a guest list to agreeing on a playlist, you will need to work together to create an event that isn’t just pleasing to you but also your partner.

How much do we do together and how much time do we have apart?  What areas of our home (i.e. our life) do we let others into and what spaces are always kept private? Who do we view as our closest friends and who do we feel are just around for entertainment? What do we let people bring to our home and what things do we need to prepare ourselves?

These are all important question when hosting a party and when considering marriage.  Marriage isn’t only about building a relationship with each other; it’s also about redefining your relationship with the other people in our life.

Build a Bookcase

If you’re a 30Rock fan then you already know the dangers of a trip to Ikea; after all it led Liz Lemmon back to singlehood in just one visit!  While I have had many a pleasant, dare I say fun, trips to Ikea with my husband, I understand the fears.  Building a bookcase or any other piece of DIY furniture is more than just a test of your ability to make sense of stick figure drawings.  It is both an exercise in teamwork and a metaphor for your evolving relationship.  Choosing a piece of furniture is about melding your personal aesthetic and also your vision of your lifestyle with another person.  Enter into the process with a open perspective and see what you can learn about each other.  And when you get home with the bookcase (or maybe you’re more of a TV stand couple?) now comes the real challenge.  It’s time to figure out who will lead, who is the assistant, and how to manage your frustration with the process.  The best part is that when you finally finish you have a tangible reminder that together you are capable of building something beautiful and long-lasting.

-. . . you are capable of building something beautiful and long lasting.-

Watch a Chick Flick

This is not just because I love a good RomCom and think that you should too.  The fact is that there is research to show that watching movies about relationships and then discussing the couple dynamics can give you the same benefits as going to a relationship skills workshop or class.  It may not be good for business but I’ll let you in on a professional secret… when it comes to healthy relationships most of us know what to do.  The trouble comes when we don’t discuss these topics openly with our partner.  Learning to empathize with and discuss problematic relationship behaviors will help you both think about what to do and what not to do in your own relationship. {Wondering what to talk about after the movie? Click here for some questions to inspire you from the researchers at University of Rochester }


Assuming you both want to have children, then understanding your parenting style and expectations of children and each other is key to avoiding some pretty significant battles down the road.  While borrowing a friend or relatives children for an evening or even a weekend is not nearly the same as taking on the responsibility of your own children, it does give you some perspective.  It’s easy to say that you will be the disciplinarian or share child-rearing duties equally when everything is hypothetical.  Spend some time alone with each other and a child and you will discover that neither of you are exactly who you think you are when it comes to kids.

Visit an Adult Store

If you gasped when you read this one then you should move it up to #1.  Sex is not enough to make a marriage work but the absence of or disappointment with sex will most certainly lead to conflict and emotional disconnection.  Visiting a place that is devoted entirely to sex is a quick an easy way to open up dialogue outside of the bedroom.  As a married couple you need to adopt the attitude of a constant student when it comes to your partner and intimacy.  Sex is more than just the physical act; it’s understanding what is sexy to each other, what makes each other feel special and wanted, what turns each other on… and what turns each other off.  If you can make sex a comfortable topic of conversation then as your bodies and lifestyle change (e.g. kids, weight gain, hormone fluctuations, illness etc.)  you will have the tools to maintain this crucial part of your love life.

Looking for a little more premarital guidance?  Say hi to me on Twitter with  #BeforeYouGetMarried for some advice and join me in January…

start 2016 with a fresh outlook on finding, keeping, & enjoying the love you want; join me for Cocktails & Conversations on Love in DC


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