You’re getting married soon and naturally, your focus is on finding the perfect wedding attire and putting together your dream wedding that also lives up to everyone else’s expectations. But a wedding is just the first event in a lifetime together. Can your relationship weather every crisis that comes your way? When you’re in love, you tend to see everything through rose-colored glasses, but before you walk down that aisle, you must put everything on the table to avoid future heart-aches and ensure a long and happy union. Pre-martial counseling is a great the way to do that.
Will premarital counseling help you?
The simple answer is yes! If you scoff at the mention of pre-marital counseling and assume that it is only for couples with troubled relationships, you need to think again. Studies have shown that couples who participated in premarital counseling sessions reported a 30% stronger marriage than other couples.
Marriages don’t come with a set of instructions or handbooks that teach you how to do it right. Premarital therapy sessions offer useful guidance that prepares you to handle marital problems and communicate effectively during conflict situations. Here are some ways pre-marital counseling will help you.
Premarital counseling helps you understand each other better
You’ve known each other for a while, and you’ve built a great foundation for your upcoming life together. You know what they like to eat and how they like their coffee. You are friends with their friends, and you get along well with their family. You’ve seen everything you need to see, and nothing will come as a surprise to you. Um, really?
As human beings, we have complex emotions and different opinions that often go unexpressed. While we may think we know everything about our partner, we may have just scratched the surface. Premarital counseling will help you discover new and interesting things about your partner that you never knew existed. It also helps you be open about things that you may have held back when you were dating such as hurtful experiences from your childhood, a wayward past, your worst fears or even your most shameful thoughts.
Trained and experienced premarital counselors know how to extract pertinent information that will bring the two of you closer in a more meaningful way. They help address your sore spots and share old buried feelings that may stand in the way of a stable and happy marriage.
Here is a good example of something a premarital counselor will do for you. Let’s say the infidelity of an ex-boyfriend of girlfriend has turned you into an insecure person who keeps close tabs on your partner. Such lack of trust will certainly haunt your marriage and eventually damage it to the point of separation divorce. Pre-marital therapy sessions can help you tackle your trust issues and find a healthy way to rebuild trust and connect with your partner.
Premarital counseling helps you set housework expectations
You probably live together already and know each other’s rhythm. But is one of you doing most of the household chores with little to no help from the other? Although this may not seem like a big deal when you’re dating, it will definitely cause friction when you’re married. Household chores is one of the main sources of marital discord, resentment and divorce in the US.
According to a working paper published by Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia, a study of recent divorcees found that 25% of divorcees cited household work as the number one reason for their divorce.
Experienced relationship or marriage counselors encourage you set your housework expectations beforehand and share them with your partner. This can even be something that seems as simple as allocating household chores and the amount of work to be taken on by each partner. Should the spouse with the less-demanding job take on more chores of should housework be shared equally? Are both parties happy about it? Neither party should feel like they got the short end of the stick.
Premarital counseling helps you set sexual expectations
It is normal for spouses to have different ideas of what sex with their partners should be. Sexual fantasies and boundaries are built over time through experiences. One partner may have expectations or preferences that don’t line up with those of their spouses. Such things can cause great discord and frustration. Sex is a crucial component for marital happiness and a poor sex life and lack of physical intimacy can ruin your marriage gradually.
Sometimes, when you fall in love, you forget about what would make you happy in the long-run sexually. A simple conversation can often ease tensions and make expectations clear from the beginning. Premarital counseling provides a platform for open discussion, with the added benefit of having a referee to mediate. Although upon first thought, having someone else in the room while sharing intimate details might seem uncomfortable, it can often be liberating.
Premarital counseling helps you communicate more effectively
When two different people start living under the same roof, occasional tiffs are not only unavoidable but completely normal. Pre-marital counseling does not and cannot help you avoid conflicts altogether. On the contrary, it helps you embrace your conflicts and deal with them in a healthy and mature manner.
Arguments often escalate out of control and result in name calling, blame games, verbal threats or even use of physical force. A trained premarital counselor can teach you about fair fighting rules and how to resolve your disagreements without turning them into full-blown toxic screaming matches. Here are some of the most important fair fighting rules for couples recommended during premarital therapy.
Do not use demeaning language or yell
When you’re arguing about something, do so like a respectable adult. Your instinct may be to get defensive, be nasty or yell but do not resort to name calling, abusing, demeaning or using swear words. Being intentionally mean can have long-term negative consequences on your marriage. Moreover, research has shown that blaming and using degrading language can cause poor self-esteem in your partner. Would you really want to do that to someone you love?
Do not interrupt when your partner is talking
If you want to resolve your conflict, you should hear out what your partner has to say. Do not assume that you know what they’re going to say. Allow them to express their feelings instead of interrupting them, lashing out or getting defensive.
Do not use physical force
This is a big no. When you’re having an argument, you must show restraint. Even if you’re seething inside, you should never hit or raise your hand against your partner.
Stay in the present
If you are serious about resolving a fight, focus on the issue at hand instead of digressing or bringing up the past. Dredging up old stories can not only hurt your partner but also make them resent you. If you feel like the past has not been addressed, discuss it at a different time instead of aggravating the current situation.
Never threaten divorce
What good can possibly come of this? Threatening divorce or separation will most certainly strain your relationship. Even if you said it in the heat of the moment, your partner may take it seriously and feel insecure.
Premarital counseling helps you get real about money
Does money affect relationships? Sure, it does! Financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce. Money is a sensitive subject for many couples, and we cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing your partner’s financial situation before marriage. The thought of discussing finances with your partner may freak you out, but you must make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to money-related responsibilities, goals and plans.
Say your partner wants to purchase a house but you prefer to rent and avoid all the mortgage stress. How will you deal with that? Or if your partner is a meticulous planner who wants to save all the money for retirement while you just want to live in the moment? How will you arrive at a halfway point that won’t stir up problems in the future?
A premarital counselor will make “money talks” easier by facilitating an open discussion about finances. Some couples like to share their finances while others choose to split all costs. An efficient counseling session will help you come to an agreement that works best for you.
Premarital counseling helps you define your general expectations
Chances are, you have strong beliefs and expectations about the most important things in life like friends, family, romance, children and career. Since opposites attract all the time, your partner’s beliefs and expectations may be in direct contrast to yours. Relationship experts say that the key to marital bliss is to make your differences work for you instead of against you.
Although gender roles are changing, the unspoken truth is that some responsibilities still fall on one gender over the other. Many generalizations are made; men are usually in charge of electronic accessories, cars and appliances whereas women take care of the home. A couple is more likely to live where the man works and not where the woman works. Do you want to live by these stereotypes?
Your premarital counselor may encourage you to define your idea of marriage, things you expect from your spouse, your own role in the marriage, where you want to settle down, and whether you want children. Once you’re married, you’re a team. You need to work together, support each other and stick together.
Know what you’re getting into before you get married. After all, marriage is a lifelong commitment. Explore the benefits that premarital counseling has to offer, and don’t only seek help when things start going south. Preparing for and preventing marital problems start well before the “I do”.