The lead-up to a couple’s wedding typically centers on the myriad of wedding and honeymoon details, and less on fine-tuning and clarifying their relationship. But unless the couple are relationally prepared and equipped towards long-term success, that beautiful entry into marriage can become the starting point of a slide towards disillusionment and bitterness.
Of course, caught up in the excitement of their relationship and their dreams for the future, every couple believes that their love can last, and that they are different from the unhappy married couples they know. Premarital counseling sessions can add more certainty to their hope, and solidity to their dreams. In this article, I answer the basic question that many couples face: “What is premarital counseling?”
How Does Premarital Counseling Work?
In premarital counseling, a couple meets with a counselor or pastor and covers a prepared list of topics about marriage. In discussions about their backgrounds and their story of how they met, what attracted then to each other, and how they decided to marry, the counselor begins discussions on the major areas that need attention prior to marriage. The topics to cover should include their ideas and attitudes towards money, having children, decision making, how to settle differences, and faith practices. At the top of the list should be the expectations that each has about marriage. Other topics that should be covered are their personality and outlook differences, and how they plan to handle each other’s families.
Expectations for Marriage
Why should a couple that is experiencing the complete positive anticipation of their life together, and are temporarily blinded to the more mundane aspects of their realities, even discuss their expectations? Because their first serious fights will probably be about their assumed expectations. And because they may never have verbalized the general topic of expectations before this, and discussing it may reveal surprising and disturbing differences.
Take the simple matter of weekend activities—which may not be so simple. Prior to the wedding, Jack assumes that every Saturday in football season will be spent at a game, in person; if not at physically at the stadium, he expects to be watching it with friends, and of course, with Jill. After all, that is what they did on most weekends while they dated. Meanwhile, Jill just knows that it will be so satisfying to work together on the house on their weekends off and has a lot of projects planned. What do you think will be the tone of their Saturdays after four Saturday disasters? It is better to know these expectations now, and to slow down to navigate this speedbump rather than to be jarred by a pothole later on.
Smoothing the Road Ahead
A couple in love may not be able to verbalize their differences well, but they do know that they are different and have different outlooks on life. But what are those differences, and how well do they really know each other? A person’s general emotional habits don’t change after marriage, and our partners cannot change us. But it is surprisingly how many newlyweds and almost-weds assume that their love can change the other person.
Would it not be helpful to know more about your own personality, what makes you tick, how you get energized, and how you resolve interpersonal issues and internal struggles? In Jack and Jill’s sessions, Jill discovered that she was more independent and confident with new situations than Jack was, while Jack learned that he had innovative strengths that had not been previously recognized. The online assessment given to Jack and Jill by their counselor revealed that Jack’s moodiness was more pervasive then either partner had realized. The counselor recommended that Jack deal with some of the clearly unresolved issues in his family of origin. For the first time Jack realized how his inability to regulate his emotions in tough situations was impacting and could impact his life partner, and create problems and stresses later on.
The Gift of Marriage Insurance – Christian Premarital Counseling
If you are considering marriage and have asked yourself, “What is premarital counseling?” you should probably take this further. As a Christian counselor who is passionate about working with premarital couples, I would love to hear from you. Alternatively, you may like to gift this “marriage insurance” to a couple you know.
“Felix and Irene,” courtesy of Jeremy, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Engaged,” courtesy of John Castillo, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Couple Contemplating a Future,” courtesy of Madalinlonut, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain