I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by relationship therapist Melissa Ferrari and David Prior from the new 2UE Radio show called Talking Relationships.
In this conversation we discussed:
- questions to ask your partner before getting married
- what the brain has to do with falling in love (and why this can cause relationship problems)
- why couples often experience conflict 6-18 months after the beginning of their relationship
- tips for dealing with differences and conflict in your relationship or marriage
- the number one secret to having difficult conversations with your partner that can ensure the successful resolution of conflict
Getting married soon?
If you’re considering getting married, or you’re walking down the aisle soon, Clinton Power + Associates now offers the Prepare-Enrich Pre-marriage counselling program for heterosexual and same-sex couples in Sydney.
Here’s the transcript of my interview on 2UE:
David Prior: Melissa, at the start of a new relationship, it’s all rose-coloured glasses, isn’t it? It’s easy to assume the person you’re with actually shares all the same values, all the same ideals as you. Many people unconsciously ignore their partner’s faults, those annoying traits of course, if they don’t take the time to actually truly get to know their partner before rushing into marriage or settling down together.
What questions do you need to ask before you commit to somebody? Clinton Power is a relationship counsellor with over a decade of experience helping individuals and couples create great relationships. I’m happy to say he’s here in the studio with us tonight. Melissa, you’re on Talking Relationships. Good day, mate.
Melissa Ferrari: Welcome to the show, Clinton.
Clinton Power: Hello Melissa. Hello David, great to be here.
Melissa Ferrari: Wonderful.
David Prior: You’re welcome mate.
Melissa Ferrari: Wonderful to have you. My good friend Clinton is here, and I’m going to ask him some questions and some important ones about when you are at the start of a new relationship and you are looking at getting married, it’s important to ask some questions. Clinton, in your mind, what are some important questions that couples should be asking each other before they commit to marriage?
Clinton Power: There’s so many different questions to ask, but of course there’s more questions that relate to values and likes and dislikes. Then you have the big questions. Sometimes they can become the deal-breakers like, “Do you want kids?”, “What faith do we want to raise our children in?” They’re some of the big questions you need to know before you get married I think.
Melissa Ferrari: They are some big topics there that you’re mentioning. Clinton, how would you advise one approach those questions and those deal-breakers?
Clinton Power: I think it’s really important to speak openly and honestly of course. You need to put your cards on the table right from the beginning. It’s also important not to jump to conclusions or not make assumptions about people as well. For that reason, you want to really take the time to get to know each other. A lot of couples run into problems because they rush too quickly into a relationship, even rush towards the altar and they haven’t taken the time to even get to know their partner. Sometimes it really does take time for people to get to know each other. You just can’t rush that, but certainly being open and honest is very important.
Melissa Ferrari: All those hormones and neurochemicals are running through the body in those early, early stages. I always say-
David Prior: It’s called love.
Melissa Ferrari: It is called love.
David Prior: Come on, Melissa.
Melissa Ferrari: Of course it’s love, David, and we’re here to advocate-
David Prior: We’re in love.
Melissa Ferrari: We’re here to advocate for love, but we’re also here for something else. What we’re here for is to bring in that part of the brain that needs to think about what we’re doing. Love brings us to a place of finding yourself with someone that you love and all that rush and the adrenaline and all of those kind of things. There’s a period, isn’t there, Clinton, probably after about a year or two that all starts to settle. It’s important to ask a lot of these good questions, isn’t it?
Clinton Power: Absolutely. We often call that the honeymoon period. This is the golden period where your partner can do no wrong. You look at them through rose-tinted glasses. They’re completely flawless, but over time, eventually, every couple is going to get to a point … It can be anywhere six and 18 months, but differences will start to emerge. You might start to notice those little idiosyncrasies that start to annoy you about your partner, those little things that you think, “God, that irritates me,” or, “Stop doing that,” or, “Why do you have that opinion? Why do you have that belief?” I just want to say it’s a very normal, natural process. All couples go through it. Some couples can get a bit of a shock though because it’s been such a blissful period with lots of hormones running around the brain that suddenly to have some conflict or some difference can be very upsetting.
Melissa Ferrari: Sometimes people could assume that they’re not in love any more.
Clinton Power: That’s true.
David Prior: Yeah, right. At that 18 months mark, they’re wondering…
Melissa Ferrari: Differences emerge.
David Prior: That you have fallen out of love with this person.
Melissa Ferrari: That’s right. Usually the love is still there, but there’s just other things happening, isn’t it, Clinton? Is that right?
Clinton Power: Differences are emerging. Your partner is really starting to show their true self. They’re revealing who they really are, just as you’re revealing who you are to them. This will naturally cause friction. It’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the relationship and it doesn’t mean you’re not in love or you can’t continue to love each other. It does mean that you need to learn how to deal with your differences. That’s the challenge of this period.
Melissa Ferrari: A lot of assumptions can be made about what married life is going to look like. That’s where problems can arise. Any more tips there on what you think, Clinton, a couple can approach when they are coming to that period where it’s like, “You’re thinking it’s going to be this way, and I’m thinking it’s going to be this way?” How do you get that conversation going?
Clinton Power: There’s a number of ways you can approach it, but I always say, “Don’t jump to conclusions and don’t make assumptions.” It’s really important to be curious. I often say, “Be curious, not furious.” Bring in your curiosity. Seek to understand your partner, where they’re coming from, why they’ve come to that perspective or that belief and really seek to understand before trying to be understood yourself. I think that’s important because that kind of understanding, that’s what facilitates a great relationship: empathy, connection, feeling you’re understood. Any time you feel acknowledged or heard by someone, that’s a good feeling.
Melissa Ferrari: Curiosity promotes that, doesn’t it?
Clinton Power: Absolutely. Curiosity is the secret I believe. Of course it’s very difficult to be curious when you’re angry. That’s the last thing you want to do when you’re irritated.
David Prior: How do you get rid of the anger and how do you start to build again? It’s not easy, is it?
Clinton Power: It’s not easy and sometimes you do need the help of a professional therapist. This is where it can help when things get very tense, but certainly it’s really important not to focus on getting your partner to change, but just really focus on, “What are they saying? Where are they coming from?” How have they come to those beliefs? You mentioned earlier in the program that family of origin experience, as you know, affect all of us and they shape us. When it comes to some of these differences that start to emerge, they’ve been very much shaped by our early experiences.
Melissa Ferrari: Would you agree, Clinton, that couples that do get to know each other and how they have been shaped psychologically plays a very, very important part in helping cement the relationship and keeping the closeness and intimacy?
Clinton Power: I do believe that, yes, but I think there’s another phenomenon that goes on, which I see over and over again … I’m sure you see this Melissa is we often attract partner that represent the best and the worst of our caregivers. Of course, when things are good, our partner can do no wrong. We feel absolutely nothing, but love for them, but sometimes our partners can also represent the worst of our caregivers. They can remind us of painful early childhood experiences or a parent that used to shut them down or be angry at them or not communicate. That’s when it can get really challenging for a couple at this stage.
Melissa Ferrari: Clinton, thank you so much for your thoughts. Where can people find you? What’s your web address?
Clinton Power: The best place to go is ClintonPower.com.au. They can contact me there.
Melissa Ferrari: Wonderful. Clinton, thank you so much for coming on the show.
David Prior: Thanks for coming into the studio tonight too, Clinton. That’s wonderful
Melissa Ferrari: Wonderful having you here.