The peal of wedding bells in your not-too-distant future is exciting and a little bit daunting. Finding the one you want to spend the rest of your life with is a mountain-top, butterflies-in-your-stomach situation that is hard to beat. And let’s face it, most people want the day they get married to be special and to go well.
It’s no wonder then that most couples, once they decide to get married, get caught up with wedding planning. This isn’t a bad thing. After all, the wedding day is the first day of the rest of your lives together as a married couple, and who doesn’t want that to go well?
Counseling for couples is not only for when things go wrong – sometimes it can be like a prophylactic; something you take in advance to prevent problems from developing. In the throes of pre-nuptial bliss, the last thing on most people’s minds is taking time out to go for premarital counseling. After all, isn’t there enough going on with day to day life and preparation for the wedding?
6 Reasons Why Premarital Counseling is a Good Idea
Taking the time to engage in premarital counseling is one of the biggest investments you could make for your marriage. While it may seem like an unnecessary burden, it’s a wise move that can only benefit your relationship now and in the future. Here are six reasons why going for premarital counseling is a good idea.
1. You will explore conflict management styles
The sun rises in the east, and it sets in the west. We all know this, and we live our lives with at least a vague consciousness of this truth. One other truth that we know is that when two human beings are close for any length of time, the differences that exist between them can become a gulf if they are not professionally managed.
You and your future intended are different people – you have different family histories, different personalities, and personal histories. You may have different hobbies, likes, and loves – from something as simple as one person liking certain movies or peanut butter, to other more profound differences like one being a homebody while the other is a gregarious extrovert. Differences are not bad, but they can cause conflict.
One area where conflict may arise, ironically enough, is how to handle conflict. Conflict itself is not necessarily a negative thing – the important thing is how you deal with it. Will you deal with it constructively, or will it undermine your relationship?
Some people come from families where conflict or disagreement of any kind was to be avoided. They learned that it’s better to keep quiet if you feel differently about something, and you shouldn’t “raise a ruckus.” Others may have learned to have all-out shouting matches until the people involved are tired and the loudest one wins.
Neither of these approaches to resolving disagreements is healthy, by the way, but it is important to know how your partner deals with conflict. If the two people above get into a relationship, one can imagine a situation where the needs of the quiescent partner go unmet because they don’t get into shouting matches. That would undermine the marriage as a space where the needs of both are met.
Some people need space to figure themselves out when they have a disagreement with someone, while others want to talk it out then and then and figure it out together. This can wind up being frustrating for the couple – the one wants to pull back while the other wants to lean in. Figuring out how you handle conflict as individuals and figuring out a way to handle conflict in a way that doesn’t silence or push your partner away is key for a relationship to thrive. These key communication skills will help a relationship stand the test of time.
2. You will learn to set priorities and goals
If it is not said, it’s easy to assume that your priorities align with your partner’s priorities. Some couples get married and then discover that one partner doesn’t want to have children, while the other wants a house full of them. They just never discussed it, and they assumed they both wanted the same thing.
Similar things could be said in terms of work goals, or buying a house, or which city to live in, when and how to retire, whether and how much to give towards charity, how to spend holidays, whether the one partner continues with school to get a higher qualification and so much more. When conversation about these things doesn’t happen, assumptions fill the gaps, and these assumptions can be later disappointed when reality hits and things are not as you imagined.
3. You will discuss how to establish boundaries
As a new couple, you may need to establish boundaries to allow for your new family unit to come into its own. From conversations about having contact with your exes to talking about how often to visit or be visited by the in-laws, to communicating how you will relate to each other within the marriage itself, establishing boundaries is important.
4. You’ll have an opportunity to deal with “baggage”
Premarital counseling allows a couple to bring up and address any past issues which may impact how they relate to others, including their future spouse. If there is a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, the couple needs to discuss this and acquire skills and tools with which to deal with these realities.
Sometimes in these sessions, it emerges that one partner had a child with someone else, and they hadn’t plucked up the courage to bring it up before. There may be struggles with pornography or addiction, and substance abuse issues that need to be addressed.
The main thing in bringing these up at this point is so that both partners walk into the marriage with clear eyes about the person they’re marrying, and they have the tools with which to cope.
If they decide to walk away from the relationship at that stage, it is probably wiser to walk away sooner rather than later. For some couples, fear of this precise scenario is what prevents them from pursuing premarital counseling – they fear to unearth something that will irrevocably change the relationship, or possibly bring it to an end.
However, it is wiser to know beforehand, to have all the information in hand, before going forward and getting married to someone. Ignorance is not bliss; not knowing does not protect you from reality.
5. You’ll talk about money
Money is an uncomfortable conversation for many people. However, a significant portion of arguments within marriage are about money – what to spend, what to save, where to spend, what to give, and so on. Such an important part of the relationship should not be left to chance. If one of you is more responsible with money and can balance the checkbook better, then perhaps that individual should be the one who handles the finances.
As mentioned above, it is also important to set priorities with your money and set boundaries as well. Knowing how much student debt and other debt you may both have is also valuable – it impacts so many other decisions down the line such as when to have children and whether you will have good credit to get a home loan.
6. You’ll explore and manage your expectations
Bound up with many of the previous points is the question of expectations. When we think of getting married, many of us have a picture of what that means. Our expectations are shaped by many things – our parents, role models, friends, social and other media. You may have communicated these expectations to your future spouse already, and some of them you may not even be aware of.
This includes things such as roles in the relationship, sex, and so much more. Sex is one of the hot-button issues – there are questions of the frequency of sex, whether experimenting can happen, what a “good performance” and sexual experience means, and so on. Having someone to walk the journey with you can help you understand your expectations, shape realistic expectations, and help one another to keep communication open.
Premarital counseling may seem like an unnecessary pit-stop on the way to your wedding day. There seem to be more exciting and pressing things to do instead of exploring all manner of things. However, there are particularly good reasons to go for counseling. Learning good communication skills and being fully aware of who you and your future spouse are is a great way to lay a strong foundation for your marriage.
A tall and glassy skyscraper looks elegant, strong, and imposing. What allows it to stand tall and remain standing is the foundation, which was a necessary part of the building process. Without a strong foundation, that beauty is hollow and can collapse from even the mildest of storms.
Foundations may not be pretty to look at or exciting, but they are the necessary bedrock upon which you build anything of value that will last. A strong marriage needs intentional work from the very beginning if it is to flourish.
“Comfort”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Proposal”, Courtesy of Gift Habeshaw, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happiness”, Courtesy of Denise Jones, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rings”, Courtesy of Jacek Dylag, Unsplash.com, CC0 License