EducationPremarital Counseling Tip #2

Craig Toonder, MFT. Oakland Couples Counseling

Premarital Counseling Tip #2


Welcome to the second edition of the Premarital Counseling Blog. I hope you enjoyed last month’s blog on electromagnetic attunement. The next two articles will examine the concepts of commitment to “repair” and commitment to “mutuality” in maintaining a healthy relationship. 


Premarital Counseling Tip #2: Repair Part One, Choosing Love

Knowing how to “repair” with your partner after an emotional injury is an essential element to a healthy relationship. It is not only an act of atonement; it is a re-attunement and demonstration of our “caring about” and our “feelings of importance” towards our partner. In fact, “repair” is so important… studies have shown that it is the lack of “repair”, not the original injurious incident that causes the most damage to the individual and the couple’s relationship.

Couples often struggle to create repair. One common sticking point is when both people feel hurt and the need to be listened to… but both feel too hurt to listen to the other. This involves a loss of mutuality – an inability to find the place in relationship in which the couple can hold compassion for both you and me. A common concern I hear in session is, “If I attend to his/her pain then I have to ignore my pain or needs.” Again, this is an either-or mindset rather than embracing the concept of “mutuality.” It simply indicates that the couple has not learned to hold each other’s pain and needs together as a team. The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned but needs to be practiced. If you have trouble creating this together, it is something that a trained professional can help you achieve.

Another sticking point in creating repair is feeling too upset or hurt to want to repair. There are all sorts of reasons why couples hold on to their pain or resentment. You have to realize though, that this is your life! You can either hold on to pain and/or fear, or you can choose love. Either way, it is ultimately up to you. How many times have you thought to yourself after a fight, “Well that was stupid! Why did we fight about that?” Normally (not always) it does not feel good to fight. Most couples regret getting caught up in a fight after all the dust settles. I am also not suggesting you abandon your hurts and needs. I am suggesting that you can choose to treat each other with love while discussing things that bother you at the same time. I am also suggesting that choosing love is a choice. If you make it dependent on someone else’s behavior, you are not taking responsibility for your life and your behaviors.

Here is an example of making an “offer for repair“:

“Wait a minute, honey. I know that you’re (upset/hurt/etc.) I’m starting to feel really triggered. I don’t want to fight with you about this. I love you too much. Can we slow down and try to figure out how we got off track… together?”


Notice that the example includes simple sentences, creating:

  1. A boundary
  2. Empathy for the other (first)
  3. Empathy for the self
  4. Commitment to the relationship/love
  5. An invitation into mutuality.


Remember, fights often involve one-sided argument, blame, defensiveness, needing to be right, and other losing strategies. Successful couples understand the need to commit to being in each other’s care. They are committed to the need to protect their relationship first and foremost!

 “Thou shalt correct all errors…and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.”

–       Stan Tatkin



Post a comment