All too many couples get caught up in spending time planning their weddings without developing a plan for their marriage. The early stages of a relationship, when the feelings you have for your partner are usually positive, is the ideal time to become more conscious and intentional in the ways you interact and work together. Counseling can give you insights into where your particular relationship dynamics might be heading in the wrong direction.
Couples considering committing to one another in a long-term union such as marriage may benefit from exploring their relationship issues (or potential issues) prior to making a long-term commitment. Premarital counseling is an opportunity to explore the dynamics of your partnership and set yourselves up for a satisfying future together. There is often an educational aspect to premarital counseling, so that you can learn better communication skills and how to negotiate conflict so that you can resolve your differences in a way that actually strengthens your connection. Also, there is often a coaching aspect to premarital counseling where couples can practice, with the therapist’s help, the new perspectives and new skills that they are learning.
Premarital counseling is as varying and unique as the personality and background of the therapist providing the counseling. Finding someone that you can trust, and who honors your unique situation, is essential. The good news is that new models for developing strong, healthy relationships have been emerging, giving us maps for how to find our way in this new paradigm. Premarital counseling uses these models to help a couple build a strong, conscious foundation for their marriage. Remember that relationships are created; they are dynamic and perennially evolving. The relationship that you yearn for is not the one you start out with but the one you co-create with your partner over time. This takes commitment, trust, and the willingness to look more closely at your own process rather than that of your partner.
We come together from different families of origin. We have learned and have been imprinted, for better or worse, by these early experiences of connection. We come into a marriage with different personalities and temperaments, differing values and needs, and baggage from previous intimate connections. We come into the co-creating of a life together without a training manual or toolkit for how to manage the sometimes treacherous waters of our differences. Premarital counseling can provide this guidance so that each person can mature to their fullest potential within the boundaries of a vital, fulfilling relationship. Through premarital counseling, a couple can explore their dreams, their fears, their differences, and come to a greater understanding of what is sourcing their choices and behaviors.
Intimate relationships have experienced a major paradigm shift over the past forty years. We as a society are reshaping our core dynamics from a role-based model to a partnership model, but not without consequences. We have a divorce rate in the United States where more than half of marriages end in divorce. What is happening here?
Marriages used to serve family and society and the quality of the man/woman connection was secondary. Community pressure would hold a marriage together. Now, for the first time in history, couples are on their own. We have shifted from a community (or village) to a nuclear family so that we have one person, rather than many, to meet our needs. We have also shifted from a survival mode to one of self-actualization--we are demanding deeper levels of intimacy which puts pressure on each partner to fulfill more needs. We live in a youth addicted culture that promotes romantic ideals of love rather than images of couples who have matured after years of finding their way together. We also live in a throw-away society that reinforces the belief that we can have what we want by giving up what we have for the promise of something better. The divorce rate for second marriages is even more sobering at 67%, and 74% for third marriages, according to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology.
Another important aspect of premarital counseling is to normalize what can happen in the early years of a marriage. Many of us have been seduced by the fairytale of the prince and his princess finding their perfect love. But the story really begins when they move into the castle together. Sometimes a newly married person experiences what could be called a post-marriage depression. The commitment can feel like a weight that is taking them down. They have said “yes” to this particular individual but “no” to all the other potential partners--this may result in grief. But ironically, the pain of this condition can deepen one’s ability to connect because by working through the impulses to run, by overcoming the belief that the grass is greener over there, and by making the grass greener here, this individual can find the freedom and joy that is possible in a long-term, committed relationship.
Last updated: 04-29-2015
Premarital Counseling Articles