EducationPremarital Counseling Tip #5

Craig Toonder, MFT. Oakland Couples Counseling

Premarital Counseling Tip #5


Premarital Counseling Tip #5, Novelty and the Mundane

In this edition of the Premarital Counseling blog, I would like to share some ideas about how to create and appreciate positive interactions between you and your partner.

First the bad news:

A lot of life involves “everyday moments.” We get up, eat breakfast, go to work, eat dinner, and go to bed. Our brain is designed to do most of this without much thought. Moreover, everyday moments don’t often catch our attention. For example, when was the last time you noticed how pretty the sky looked on the way to work?

On top of that, the mind is designed to “notice” novelty and threat. This is a fast acting process in our neurologic system and it is “dumb,” meaning it doesn’t utilize higher-level neurocortical functioning. While this tends to be great for survival of the species, it can prove problematic in relationships. Especially with how quickly we feel threatened when our partner’s do something that trigger us. Obviously, these things can be more problematic in long-term relationships.

But wait! There’s good news:

As humans, we are not confined to living our lives on autopilot. Our consciousness allows us to engage the world more volitionally, as well as train our autopilots to habitually direct us towards life enriching experiences.

Now one way to work with this is to focus on novelty. In Brain Power; Improve Your Mind As You Age, Michael Gelb and Kelly Howell point out that being a life long learner is one of the best ways you can take care of your brain. “Use it or lose it.” Couples can utilize this same purposeful mental commitment in their relationship.

I define intimacy to couples as the sharing and receiving of the self. I explain that there are six categories of intimacy: cognitive, emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, and generative.

Generative intimacy is the intimacy of creating something together. This could be as simple as tonight’s dinner. It could be much more involved such as decorating a new house together. Or, it could be meaningful such as making a “home” together. Premarital couples in particular need to be discussing these things as they commit to creating a life together. However, creating a life together is not a one-time event. It occurs on an on-going basis throughout the relationship.

What do you and your partner do to create your future together? How are you using your new relationship as “canvas” for the work of art that is your life?


Helpful Hint:

Do you have the infamous “Ya’ know what we should do one day…” list? How many practical ideas and dreams fall by the way side never to be pursued? Why!?!    If it’s fun and attainable… JUST DO IT!!!


Do you know what makes you feel “alive” in relationship?

Do you hold the intention together to pursue your Aliveness?

Do you act on this intention? In other words, why aren’t you participating in the enjoyment of your own life?


“When things are not going in a satisfying way, then it is ALWAYS an aberration in either your Aliveness, your Intention, your Participation, or some combination of them”

– Jon Eisman


Now for the twist!

While creating novelty is exciting, John Gottman from the University of Washington found that it is the level of friendship that creates the strongest foundation for a relationship. It is not the fancy vacations to exotic locations that hold relationships together, it is how they appreciate and share their enthusiasm and fondness for each other on the day-to-day level that counts most. In his book The Seven Principles that Make a Marriage Work, Gottman shares his findings as well as offers practical exercises for couples to strengthen this aspect of their lives. I highly recommend this book for all premarital couples to help them build a solid relationship together.

For more information on Gottman’s book, please read my book review blog, February 2012.