You’re in love and you’re getting married! Congratulations! You’re busy finding a dress or a tux, finding a venue, meeting with caterers, photographers, florists, bakers, etc. You’re planning the biggest event of your life and you want it to be perfect. Wedding planning is very time consuming so you might be thinking, “We don’t have time to meet with a therapist for premarital counseling”.
Here are a few reasons you might want to make time.
Premarital counseling offers couples the chance to discuss topics that they may not have talked about previously and hadn’t even considered. Disappointment and conflict arise when one’s partner or marriage doesn’t meet one’s expectations. Couples often expect their marriages to be similar to their parents’ marriage, which is understandable because that’s what was modeled to them and what they know. With couples where one partner was raised by a single parent and the other was raised in a two-parent home, it may seem obvious that a discussion about roles and responsibilities needs to take place. But even with couples where both partners were raised in two-parent homes, there can be different expectations about who will manage the finances, do the cooking, mow the lawn or discipline the children. Discussing these expectations now and choosing how you want to handle these roles and responsibilities can alleviate frustration and conflict later. Unmet expectations are not limited to family roles and household responsibilities; they also occur regarding where to spend the holidays, how much involvement with the in-laws, time spent apart versus time spent together as a couple, the list goes on and on. Pre-marital counseling offers an opportunity to discuss many of these differences and also provides valuable tools for communication and conflict resolution when disagreements do arise.
Some couples attend premarital counseling in a large group setting at a church or other venue. While there is merit to these large seminar style settings, such as the ability to disseminate a lot of information to many couples in a relatively short amount of time, I believe there’s no substitute for sitting down directly with your own therapist. These large group seminars are often geared toward young couples who are about to marry for the first time, which is great if you fit that demographic. But what if you are getting married later in life, or this is a second marriage, or you already have children and you are about to create a blended family? A one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work well. I’ve also heard from many couples, who have attended these types of seminars, that after returning home they placed the books or other materials on the bookshelf and haven’t touched them since. As with any new skill or information learned, if you don’t use it… you lose it. To get real value from premarital counseling, it is imperative to sit down with a therapist and discuss your specific relationship, expectations, and potential concerns; because your relationship is unique, valuable, and worth the time.