Let me tell you the story of a woman who woke up next to a stranger. Maggie (not her name) planned an elaborate destination wedding. The dating process was a solid five years. The wedding plans took the customary 10 to 12 months to ensure the hotel and carters were available. Cake and meal tasting events produced a stellar wedding extravaganza. The hand beaded wedding dress was ordered and altered. The wedding was the event of the year in Maggie’s social circle. Yet, after every wedding comes the real marriage. Two months into the marriage, Maggie experienced an “aha” moment! Who is this dude and how did he get in the house? She is not referring to a burglar, but her new husband! His behavior and his hygiene no longer compare to the previous dating presentation. This story does not discriminate along the lines of gender, age or financial status. Without proper evaluation of the realities of marriage many couples find themselves writing this same shock and awe story. “She’s a nag. He’s a jerk.” It rings of the need for couples contemplating marriage to seek premarital counseling, before or during, the same time they look for a church or wedding destination!
The Case for Counseling
Why bother? We already know each other
There is a great deal of truth in this statement. Couples indeed know each other at some level. Waking up every day with the same person is a different adventure. A snoring mate or unrealistic sexual expectations can bring stress and tension. Premarital counseling can provide a gracious space to learn the unspoken rules many couples bring into a marriage. Does personal space mean time with my friends or space on the couch? Who will do the cooking or cleaning? Marriage is more than who does what, but how do you feel about what you do. Couples have an opportunity to focus on the critical tasks and issues they will face.
We have so much in Common
Probably true. However, what unique properties do you bring to the relationship? Each person has a unique conflict and communication style. In the dating period, we accept the other’s conflict style. We ignore the quirks and irritations in order to keep the peace. Communication styles can clash when perceptions get in the way of logic. Counseling can help couples appreciate different communication styles in a productive and progressive manner.
Our Families will have to accept our Decision
The challenges of family influence can be overwhelming for couples. Differences in cultural norms and holiday traditions often lead to marital tug of war. After all, one of us must be wrong- right? Who knew that your lovely spouse was not interested in having children or that every Sunday must be spent over at “mom’s house”? Today’s marriages often come equipped with ready-made families. Ex-spouses, parental planning and child support issues are ready-made opportunities for newly weds. It pays to be prepared for the “what ifs” in a relationship.
Money Comes and Money Goes
Until the bills come due or the lights are turned off! One spouse rarely documents debit card receipts compared to the other spouse holding onto every dime like a chipmunk keeps nuts – let the fighting begin. The spontaneous way he would sweep you off your feet to an elegant dinner for two is now replaced with more economical alternatives- leftovers. Premarital counseling is an excellent time to peek at the old credit report. Couples learn each other’s spending patterns and mindsets regarding money. Life goals and dreams are expressed. Couples have an opportunity to write their vision and make it plain. Situations may change but couples with a collaborative vision fair better than those without one.
Moral of the Story
Couples find they have a stranger in the house, when more time is spent planning the wedding over preparing for the marriage. Consider premarital counseling as shoring up the foundation established by a couple’s love and commitment. Those contemplating marriage leave my premarital counseling with a relationship toolbox of references and coping skills. Relationships change over time. Counseling enables a couple to learn, adapt and appreciate change as individuals in the marriage evolve and mature.