Local Couples Counselor, Dr. Marc Shulman, Offers Advice Ahead of the Summer Wedding Season


Dr. Shulman offers advice for couples ahead of the summer "wedding season."

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Dr. Marc Shulman, Psy. D, is a licensed psychologist with a doctorate from Yeshiva University and 7 years of experience as an Associate Research Scientist at Yale University.

With a sudden surge in hot weather it feels like Long Island has just charged headfirst into summer, and that means the unofficial "wedding season" has begun. Many couples around the Island will by tying the knot over the coming months, all the stress of planning a wedding and the ensuing reception can put a real strain on some relationships.
In light of the challenges that can arise this time of year, LongIsland.com recently sat down to discuss relationships with Dr. Marc Shulman, a Long Island psychologist and counselor with an expertise in helping couples maintain a healthy and happy partnership.
LongIsland.com: What are the major benefits of engaging in therapy?
Marc Shulman: Therapy enables people to get out of their own way so that they can overcome obstacles and work toward achieving full potential. Participants learn to develop a better understanding of the roots of their problematic thoughts and behaviors, and engage in new behaviors that provide opportunities for growth and happiness.
LI: At what point should a couple consider therapy?
MS: Unfortunately many couples wait too long to come to therapy, after considerable damage has occurred to the relationship. When either member of the couple is having doubts, concerns, feelings that his/her needs are not being met, or feelings of dissatisfaction in the relationship, it is time to consider therapy.
It can become complicated when one member of the couple wants to pursue couples counseling and the other does not. Additionally, there are times when one member of the couple is experiencing difficulties that may be unrelated to his/her partner, but which negatively impact the relationship. In both situations it may be a good idea to pursue individual therapy.
LI: "Wedding season" is fast approaching; do you find that planning a wedding can be a particularly trying time for couples?
MS: Very often it is, but it mostly depends on one’s perspective. If the couple perceives the process of planning a wedding as an overwhelming and unpleasant task, then it can be quite trying. Alternatively, if the couple is able to keep the bigger picture in mind, that this is the start of their life together as a married couple, the stress of planning a wedding can be managed and the process can actually be quite enjoyable.
LI: How can couples overcome the difficulties and challenges of preparing for a wedding?
MS: Couples need to remind themselves that a wedding is a joyous event, because (hopefully) it is a celebration of a union between two people who love one another and who are committed to spending their lives together.
In the grand scheme of things the details of the wedding day, while important, are not what really matters. If the couple is able to remain aware of the idea that being together in a healthy relationship is what is most important, they will be able to cope effectively when wedding preparations do not go as planned. 
LI: What are some of the most important things couples can do to make sure their marriage lasts?
MS: A marriage is composed of two individuals who come together to form a couple. Therefore, it is critical for the couple to achieve a healthy balance between closeness and independent functioning in order to achieve an enriching and lasting relationship. This means that each member of the couple must maintain their independence and pursue their own interests, so that they don’t become overly dependent on their partner for their happiness, as this can cause significant conflict in the relationship.
At the same time the couple must make a concerted effort to engage in behaviors that involve joint activities that promote intimacy as a couple. Research has consistently concluded that couples should engage in novel activities together in order to achieve higher levels of excitement with their relationship, particularly after partners have been together for a long time and are familiar and comfortable with another.
LI: Do you find that there are any problems unique or more common to newlyweds than other couples? How can they overcome these issues?
MS: Yes. When two people come together in a marriage they bring two unique and distinct family cultures. Each person has a long history and background that shapes his/her beliefs and it can be quite challenging to integrate these two worlds. However, it can be achieved by understanding that your way is not the “right” way, but it is simply the way with which you are familiar.
The most essential goal for many newlyweds is to work toward creating a new family unit and culture that combines the experiences and perspectives of both members of the couple. In fact, when newlyweds are successful at accomplishing this goal, they often find that a new way of looking at and experiencing life can be extremely refreshing and invigorating.
LI: What is the most important thing a couple can do to maintain a healthy, lasting relationship? 
MS: Couples need to prioritize their relationship above and beyond anything else! This means that while each person should continually develop him/herself, there is a simultaneous understanding and spirit between both members of the couple that their lives are enhanced through a complementary partnership.
I often work with couples who lose sight of this goal and take the relationship for granted and/or are unsupportive of their partner’s desires and needs.
When both members of the couple realize that they will benefit from the happiness of their partner they achieve significantly higher levels of marital satisfaction. This requires each member of the couple to specifically facilitate the individual needs of his/her partner rather than focusing on how they lose out from their partner pursuing their personal goals or interests.
A happy partner creates positive emotions, which promotes a satisfying relationship that can thrive over the course of time.