Our Course is LGBTQ Friendly
Cost of Florida Marriage License$93.50
Cost of Our Online Florida Premarital Course$19.99
Florida Marriage License Savings by Completing Our Course$32.50
Introduction: Welcome to the Official Florida Premarital Preparation Online Course. Our program is completely online and now in video. The course has six main sections and, in each section, you may either view the optional video (not included in sample) or read the corresponding material. Once you have viewed the optional video and/or read the material, each section has an exercise that needs to be completed.
Prior to getting started, I would like to share a bit about myself, your course leader. My name is Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, and I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Florida Supreme Court Family Mediator, Parenting Coordinator, Custody Evaluator, and Relationship Expert. I am also known as the Relationship Doctor of Jacksonville, Florida. Much of my clinical work is conducted providing premarital therapy, marital therapy, and family therapy, while much of my forensic work is addressing some of the darker issues at the back end of a relationship like divorce therapy, high conflict co-parenting therapy, and custody evaluations for the children. As you can imagine, I deal with the great joys of early relationships, struggles in the middle, and the destruction that occurs through the divorce process because of infidelity, addiction, neglect, and abuse. Treating all types of relationships gives me a keen understanding of what is a healthy relationship from the beginning and what types of relationships survive the test of time.
Additionally, I offer a series of online premarital courses for several states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma. In those courses, and in face to face premarital and marital therapy, I teach much of the material that will be in this online workbook. I have found that if the material is applied, couples grow closer, improve communication, and discover new things about themselves and each other.
Marriage is a challenge and couples need to ensure they have the adequate skills to make it work successfully. Marriage takes two individuals willing to give each other (and their children) 100 percent, even during challenging times. It takes commitment, trust, and hard work.
This online workbook can be done alone to learn more about yourself and your relationship needs, or it can be actively completed jointly as a couple, and you both can work the exercises together. Completing this online course book together would be an act of love and should be viewed this way based on the time commitment it will take to finish it. Again, if you are taking it alone, use it as a tool to reflect on past relationships and to ensure you have a healthy vision for a future relationship. Let's get started after we review the course outline.
The course is broken into six sections below. Click on each section to see that section:
Having a sound relationship house is the goal. You may be asking yourself, "What is a relationship house?" A sound relationship house is not by definition a perfect house, but rather a house that is functional. It has good days and it has bad days, but overall the house functions, is safe, and is a place where a family or couple can thrive. There are four components of the Sound Relationship House. These components include:
Friendship is based on how well we know our partner. The Gottman's defined the term for how well we know our partner as a love map. Each of us has a love map. Truly knowing our partner is knowing their love map. Knowing our partner equates to understanding their likes and dislikes, knowing about their history and goals (including past traumas), and being knowledgeable about how they will act in given situations. It is also about knowing their interests and enjoyments, such as their favorite types of movies, favorite foods, and their hobbies. In addition to knowledge that comes with knowing someone in an intimate relationship, there are many other tools that help us gain an understanding of our partner – tools such as personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs, which tell us a lot about how our partners perceive and understand the world. How can you work to build your love map with your partner? Understanding and knowing your partner as described above is a big step in building your love map. Ask yourself, do you admire your partner and express fondness toward them? Do you turn toward your partner?
For example, do you spend time together, do you express an interest in your partner's perspective, do you share values, do you listen, is he or she your best friend? Getting to the point where you answer yes to all of these questions is a great way to build a strong love map.
Just like we know that a positive attitude can improve one's reactions to life in general, research has found that those with a "positive lens", or positive perspective, toward their partner created a substantial positive difference in their relationship toward the positive compared to those with a negative lens or negative perspective. With a steady positive attitude, partners typically give their partner the benefit of the doubt when their spouse or partner makes a mistake. And when their partner does something pleasing, the partner on the receiving end sees this behavior as confirmation that their partner is a great person. On the other hand, couples who regularly experienced hurt, misunderstanding, anger, disappointment, unjust accusations, frustration and personal attacks develop a negative lens. This results in thoughts of leaving, getting even, or protecting themselves. Developing a negative lens leads to a downhill slide in a relationship. With a negative lens, once one's partner acts unjustly or inappropriate, one views this as confirmation that their partner is not trustworthy or not right for them.
Couples that are able to understand and manage their emotions and behaviors, as well as understand how their partners respond to conflict, are significantly better equipped to have functional relationships. This is related to what is known as Emotional Intelligence. The Gottman's have found that couples that are able to manage conflict do well, whereas those that don't manage conflict well often divorce. The Gottman's uncovered four behaviors that are exhibited during conflict that either sustain conflict or lead to even greater conflict. I will discuss each of these behaviors, labeled the Four Horsemen, and also provide antidotes for each, below.
The first of the four Horseman. According to John Gottman, most relationships have an element of "criticism", but it is imperative that couples work on reducing the level of criticism that they give to their partner. Further, when a relationship become negative or highly conflicted, most feedback is perceived as negative. In fact, even constructive criticism is considered negative. Research shows that for everyone criticism given, five positive statements are needed to counteract the negative effect of this one statement. This makes it difficult when a relationship is already negative, as it becomes extremely difficult to have positive interactions. The goal is not to be critical, which will help prevent a downward spiral.
The second of the four horsemen and a major offender in relationships. It is one of the most frequent behaviors that I observe in couples therapy when there is conflict. Defensiveness is often a reflex action to criticism or to perceived criticism. Sometimes there is no criticism but just feedback stated. However, the individual on the receiving end responds by blaming the other for doing the same thing, denies their responsibility in the matter or whines and makes an excuse for their behavior. When the original speaker experiences the defensiveness of the receiver, they often feel invalidated and alone and the couple becomes more distant. Antidotes to defensiveness are the following: (1) Remind yourself that a relationship is about being part of a team (not two individuals working against each other). (2) Rather than seeing your partner's words as an attack, see them as strong expressions of feelings about the topic being discussed. (3) Acknowledge that you are not perfect. (4) Remind yourself of the positive qualities of your partner. (5) Most importantly, take some responsibility for the feedback your partner is expressing. Don't apologize for something you have not done. Accepting even 10 percent of responsibility, if it is due, will de-escalate tension, improve communication, and build trust.
The third of the four horsemen. Stonewalling is just as it sounds. It is an avoidance or refusal to address or communicate about an issue or conflict. To the other partner, stonewalling often feels as though they are "talking to a brick wall". In his research, Dr. Gottman found that 85 percent of men used stonewalling as a way of dealing with conflict, yet they did not realize that this was a very destructive strategy. Men often use a distancing technique to cope with high levels of emotion. Remember that withdrawing from an argument does not solve it and "parallel living" has been found to be a consequence of this behavior over the longer term. Parallel living leads to a pulling away from a relationship, leaving it vulnerable to outside forces. Also stonewalling leads to increased conflict and major melt downs when the non-stonewaller begins to chase the stonewaller about an issue. At some point the stonewaller reacts with rage, often leading the couple to a regrettable incident. Antidotes to Stonewalling are as follows: Resist the temptation to withdraw –stay with your partner emotionally. Look for the good in each other. Make time for positive experiences. Don't ignore your partner and give some sort of response even if it is just a nod or a brief reply. Further, it is important to practice good self-care to avoid stonewalling. We often stonewall because we are anxious about conflict. Conflict causes many of us anxiety. Again, in order to better manage the anxiety of dealing with difficult issues, it is important to practice good self-care like getting a good night sleep, exercising frequently, and maintaining a healthy diet. Avoidance is okay in a relationship as long as you are avoiding stonewalling.
The fourth of the four horsemen (belligerence is a term used by Gottman to describe a stronger form of contempt. Belligerence is also known as the cousin of the four horsemen). Gottman believed that "contempt" was the most dangerous of the horsemen and he found that "contempt in a relationship" was predictive of divorce in 86 percent of cases. "Contempt" can be described as any behavior which causes your partner to feel "put down". Examples include belittling your partner, treating them with disdain, eye rolling, sneering, insults, name calling, mocking and cynicism. Contempt can be as simple as having disdain or disgust with your partner in how they chew gum, eat, drive, or snore at night. Warning signs of "contempt" include: You no longer feel admiration for your partner. It is difficult for you to remember your partner's positive aspects. You feel that your partner has severe personality deficiencies. Antidotes for contempt include: Focus on your partner's positive qualities. Use "time-out" when you recognize that the situation is becoming heated. Watch your tone and facial expressions. Focus on the behavior and not the person. Most importantly, gain an appreciation of where your partner is coming from. Often when we are able to put our partner's behavior in context, we have a greater appreciation of the cause or causes of their behavior and as a result, better see that their behavior is about them rather than about us.
Joint Influence:It is imperative that both partners accept the "influence" of others. Typically, in relationships there is a top and a bottom, and the top has ultimate veto power. Relationships are most effective when each party has equal veto power with most issues. Further, Dr. Gottman found that in the happiest of marriages, men accepted the "influence" of their partners. Examples of "influence" include: a belief that you can learn from your partner, not rejecting their opinions and believing that they can also come up with good solutions.
Partners that make effective repairs have functional and successful relationships. This means that functional parties resolve problems or arguments during the argument. When couples resolve each argument, problems are resolved at that time and do not become additive and resurface during a future argument. Further, having a partner who has the ability to say they are sorry is crucial. Being able to say you are wrong takes courage and trust and is helpful in reducing conflict and having a loving relationship.
Creating an atmosphere where one can break the negativity is helpful. One can use humor or offer their partner a cup of coffee or tea after the argument, ask their partner for a hug or make light of the argument without invalidating the other. Make-up intimacy also helps make peace and reconnects the partners. Moreover, having a sense that your partner will accept your efforts to improve the situation and vice versa is paramount.
Making compromises is key in building trust and commitment and ensuring safety. Having a sense that your partner will give way on things if there is a disagreement ensures safety. "Black and white thinking" – such as "I'm right so you must be wrong" – is dangerous. Couples must be able to give and take in an argument and share power.
Also, couples need to fight with the end in mind. So, what should the end in mind consist of? The end in mind should focus on resolving the issue and simultaneously ensuring your partner feels good during and after the conflict. Both partners must control their stubbornness. Couples should practice calming techniques, meaning they should pay attention to their heart rates. When we have a heart rate above 90 to 95 beats per minute, we are emotionally flooded and have difficulty being rational in arguments and are in a state of fight, flight, or freeze. When we are flooded, we should pause or take a time-out for 20 to 30 minutes from an argument and then resume discussion in order to resolve the conflict. Just as we should not spank our children when we are angry or emotional, we should not argue or discuss important matters with our partner when we are angry, or we will inevitably say or do something that we regret. Most importantly, if you need a break from an argument, take a break, but resolve the issue immediately following your break.
Watch for signs of flooding – like feeling overwhelmed, not being able to stay calm during arguments, wanting distance, and small issues becoming big ones. If you are flooded, take a break.
Finally, I have illustrated Safe Talking Techniques that have been adapted from Markman and Stanley in "Fighting for your Marriage." These techniques enable each partner to speak without interruption.
Dr. Gottman has developed a five-step tool to discuss an issue or major problem that needs to be resolved. Remember the goal is to gain a greater understanding of where your partner is coming from rather than to win the argument. When I work with couples, I want them both to feel like they have been heard, understood, and are accepted for their position. Often achieving the above deescalates the situation and the couple finds resolution. Couples that get along and don't have conflict easily agree to disagree. Couples who have high conflict are threatened by disagreement.
In using the five steps below, couples should work through each step together.
Supporting each other's hopes and dreams and having a shared understanding of the meaning brings us to the last section of the Sound Relationship House. If we are able to achieve friendship, see our partner through a positive lens, and resolve conflict, then we are ready for this last component. This component involves having shared rituals, goals, roles and symbols with each other.
Rituals: Finding shared rituals is important. Rituals bring us together, give us security, and provide us with an activity that we look forward to. Ask yourself what type of rituals you would consider creating with your partner. What are the rituals that you engage in within your family? Do you eat dinner together, are there special celebrations that you all value, do you share values regarding television, education, time spent together?
Goals: Just as it is important to have developed rituals, successful couples have shared goals and visions for their lives and the relationship. An effective relationship is one that supports each person achieving their own personal goals as well as the goals of their partner. Ask yourself and your partner, do you honor each other's goals, do you have similar financial goals, do you have compatible life dreams, do you each value the accomplishments of the other, and do your life paths fit well together?
Roles: In an effective and functional relationship, each person has an agreed upon role or roles that are supported by the other. Ask yourself, do you support each other in your role in the family, does one of you have an expectation that you hold a particular role that is not shared by the other? How does this impact your relationship?
Symbols: In a functional partnership, individuals understand their partner's meaning behind symbols and factors related to daily living. It is not necessary to have the same understanding or meaning with symbols, but it is paramount that we appreciate what the following mean to our partner. It is also important not to just appreciate but to honor our partner's meaning and reality of these symbols. Some key symbols include:
Spend 30 minutes as a couple and complete the following exercises.
This course was developed by Dr. D'Arienzo, a clinical and forensic psychologist, couples therapist and relationship expert. We use the same scientifically based practices in the course that we use everyday in our offices to help people develop better marriages.
"Thanks Dr. D'Arienzo. I did not know that I have both passive and aggressive tendencies. I'm fixing both because of this course. My wife said she can see a difference of taking this course."
"Great course!. I learned that anger was learned through my childhood and watching others, and not being able to separate the emotions that triggers anger. Now I have the answers to change my life"
"Easy to understand, got my certificate quickly for my court case. Judge approved of it."
"Thank goodness a premarital course like this is offered. The exercises were practical. I used the friendship ones with my best friend too."
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You were right! That was easy and fun. This was our second shot at courses. We purchased another one that was cheaper and it was not good, but then we were pleasantly surprised with Dr. D's course! Awesome premarital course!
Thank you Dr. D'Arienzo. We fixed our communication before we were married because of your course!
Great price for all the info and the discount. Thank you Dr. D for the best Florida Premarital Course! We loved everything about it!
Awesome course! Learned a lot and getting our personality profiles was a definite plus! Quick certificate! Thank you!!!
Great premarital prep course. Great value! We learned a lot and it was easy and informative! The certificate came immediately. Thank you Dr. D!
The Florida Marriage License Cost is $93.50. By taking the DPG Premarital Online Course you save $32.50 on your marriage license cost, reducing your Marriage License fee to $61.00 and you avoid the three day Florida state wait requirement. The cost of our online premarital course is $19.99 (per couple) giving you an actual savings of $12.51 off your Florida Marriage License. It is better than free, and we know that you will love it! Click on "How Our Course Works" below to begin:
Dr D. is an expert psychologist in local and national print & broadcast media