Taking the fig leaves off the relationship.
The subject of premarital counseling comes on the heels of an ever-approaching wedding season. It is a time where couples will spend thousands of dollars and enormous amount of time and bickering surround the wedding event. Many of these couples will unfortunately spend little time actually investing in the marriage that will follow the “I do”.
Statements from a recently married couple:
• “No one ever told me that marriage would look like this. We have less sex now than when we were dating.”
• “I had no idea that she had a spending problem. We are in debt and that was before the wedding expenses.”
• “Why didn’t someone tell me that my in-laws would become outlaws?”
• “His ex-wife is one crazy b…h!”
• “She insists on going to her church and I will not leave mine. Now what?”
• “I didn’t know he wanted children. I am not interested in being pregnant right now.”
• “If he is supposed to be the head of house, why am I working? He can’t have it both ways.”
These are few quotes fielded from thousands of couples counseling sessions. They are questions that resemble couples ill equipped for the journey of matrimony. The above statements are in the backdrop of a divorce rate that is over 50% within and outside of the church community. It has been my experience that individuals often enter into a series of falsehoods during the dating process. Let’s call it the “fig leaf” dance. It began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve saw they were naked in the garden, they covered themselves with fig leaves to cover up their fear of being exposed. We do the same thing type of dance today. Perspective spouses dance around what is really going on psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Individuals engage in the fig leaf dance to cover up what they do not want others to know about their true selves. Then after marriage the fig leaves get ripped out and the naked truth is exposed! Premarital counseling is an opportunity to gently expose the true nature of each individual’s values, perceptions and thought processes. It provides a window into the spirit of how those areas trigger unconscious dysfunctional behaviors in a relationship.
Research has shown that premarital counseling has significant benefits for the engaged couple to develop communication and problem solving skills that enhance their marriage. The current divorce rate has caused many to pause for pause regarding the most effective way to maintain a healthy relationship. Various religious and secular communities have developed online surveys and questionnaires tools to aid couples in the quest to address the following dialogue: “To marry or not to marry. That is the question!”
Is premarital Christian counseling really effective or necessary? Counseling prior to marriage can predispose a couple to a healthy tool kit of relationship skills. Often couples enter premarital counseling with the understanding they fully know and comprehend the dynamics of their significant other. It is true that surveys and questionnaires can provide a glimpse into the unspoken areas of the relationship. Likewise, books that take a couple through a moorage of questions that explore categories potentially unexplored or ignored can be very productive. However, one’s exploration of matrimony must move from asking questions to exploration of what the answers mean in the scope of individual backgrounds. An in depth series of premarital counseling is necessary to address how values, perceptions, religious deviations, financial comprehension and family origin impact healthy progression in a marriage. Premarital counseling supports the unique differences and similarities presented in a relationship, which allow a couple to build on their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.
Couples who have a subjected themselves to the transparency of their past and how it will affect their future develop better coping skills for handling the diverse challenges in the future. Counseling should incorporate more than communication, but develop an effective problem solving partnership. Couples find themselves extremely accommodating to the needs of the perspective spouse during the dating process. It is not until they come face to face to the daily routine of married life that the unique properties that drew them together are now working each other’s “last nerve”. Premarital counseling can provides a safe space for couples to explore functional communication, goal directed negotiation, problem solving, productive behavior strategies and conflict resolution. Perspective spouses examine their individual strengths and weaknesses in an effort to become self aware of what they bring to the relationship. Ultimately, premarital counseling allows the couple to evaluate their decision to marry.
An effective premarital counseling program will examine and negotiate the following areas:
• Marital roles, tasks and expectations
• Finances and financial decision-making
• Sexual relations and sexual relationships
• Family origins and in-laws
• Friends and friendships
• Children and parenting
Premarital Christian counseling enables the couple to move from the romantic stage of the relationship to exploration of realistic expectations. Is it necessary for couples to participate in in premarital counseling…..absolutely! It’s time to take off the fig leaves and get to the naked truth. Look forward to discussing the unique program I have developed for couples contemplating marriage.
Images cc: Shirley Lytle