With divorce rates as high as they are, it seems that couples are facing more challenges than ever in preserving their marriage stability. In my marriage counseling practice, I’ve seen many couples at the “end of their ropes.” Some have very shaky relationship foundations, diminished emotional safety and little ability to productively get through their relationship conflict. If you think about the amount of financial and emotional investment that goes into preparing for the “big day,” doesn’t it make sense to be as clear as you can be about what it means and how you will get through the rough times?
Many couples preparing for marriage honestly believe they are strong going into the union – and they probably are in a lot of ways. Being caught up with all the loving feelings and surge of bonding enhancing chemistry ahead of nuptials, couples can minimize the potential pitfalls. Those “pitfalls” can lead them into couples therapy down the line – or straight to divorce.
Here are six great reasons to get premarital counseling:
- Strengthen Communication Skills: Being able to effectively listen, truly hear and validate the other’s position is a skill that isn’t necessarily a “given” for many people. Couples that communicate effectively can discuss and resolve issues when they arise. You can tune up your talking and listening skills. Good couples communication is one of the most important aspects of emotional safety between couples.
- Discuss Role Expectations: It’s common for married couples to have never discussed who will be doing what in the marriage. This can apply to job, finances, chores, sexual intimacy and more. Having an open and honest discussion about what each of you expect from the other in a variety of areas leads to fewer surprises and upsets down the line.
- Learn Conflict Resolution Skills: Nobody wants to think that they’ll have conflict in their marriage. The reality is that fights happen. The question is whether the couple can successfully (and without damage) work through these situations. There are ways to effectively de-escalate conflict that research has shown really work!
- Explore Spiritual Beliefs: For some this is not a big issue – but for others a serious one. Differing spiritual beliefs are not a problem as long as it’s been discussed and there is an understanding of how it will function in the marriage with regards to practice, beliefs, children, etc.
- Identify any Problematic Family of Origin Issues: We learn so much of how to “be” from our parents, primary caregivers and other early influences. If one of the partners experienced a high conflict or unloving household, it can be helpful to explore that in regards to how it might play out in the marriage. Couples who have an understanding of the existence of any problematic conditioning around how relationships work are usually better at disrupting repetition of these learned behaviors. They can be sensitive to each other’s triggers and find ways to get out of the negative cycles.
- Develop Personal, Couple and Family Goals: This is a long term investment together – why not put your heads together and look at how you’d like the future to look? Where do you want to be in five years? Approximately when would you like to have children? How many children? There are many areas that can be explored and really useful to get on the same page.
Premarital counseling doesn’t need to be a lengthy process, especially if you feel you’re starting out with a very solid foundation and only need some basic education and clarification. For some people who are poised to start out the marriage as a “higher conflict” couple or have deeper issues to contend with, the process could take a bit longer.
Take the time to invest in your marriage as you may the wedding itself.