What is Premarital Counseling? Speed Bumps before Potholes
Divorce rates are at an all time high, in the United States almost 50 percent of marriages end in a divorce and most people do not seek out premarital counseling. According to the Journal of Family Psychology, couples with premarital education reported higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years.
So what is so beneficial about premarital counseling? Premarital Counseling allows a couple to understand one another deeply and fully before saying I do. Premarital counseling provides tools that strengthen the relationship and prepare the couple for managing conflict effectively when it arises.
It most importantly allows a deeper understanding of yourself and your partner. Think of the phrase, “Speed Bumps before Potholes.” Premarital therapy provides exactly that. Speed bumps often times have a warning sign to indicate what is ahead and give you enough time for you to take your foot of the gas and slowly break; while in contrast potholes come out of nowhere with no sign or warning.
When we have a sign to prepare us for action it helps us take the precautionary steps that need to be taken to preserve our safety and our vehicle. Just like in Premarital counseling, differences among partners are discussed and potential conflicts are evaluated in order for the couple to have the appropriate tools in order to work through them before they get to a point of destroying the marriage.
In a study by Jason Caroll and William Doherty, it was found that 92% of couples reported premarital counseling was helpful in the first year of marriage and a follow up study indicated that four years later 80% stated premarital counseling had helped them in their marriage.
In Premarital Counseling couples discuss how to become better communicators with one another, they look at their communication styles and how these styles can be blended effectively for healthy communication. They discuss the differences between each other and how these differences at times could cause conflict.
For example most women are emotional thinkers while men can be more logical thinkers. How many times have you heard a woman say to a man the statement, “You are being so insensitive.” This emotional and logical difference can be a positive as it creates compatibility for couples as well as a middle ground for both individuals.
But also at times can cause conflict. For example, men at times because of their logical side express themselves directly and bluntly without much thought to feelings and emotions. Women, on the other hand, may get offended at such a direct and blunt delivery of a message, which in turn can cause negative emotion and unnecessary arguments.
In counseling you will discuss how you normally handle conflicts and appropriate ways to resolve them. Counseling explores each individual’s needs and expectations martially. Often, at the beginning of a marriage, simple things such as who does certain household duties are not discussed.
A spouse may make certain assumptions and have expectations based on what they experienced in their family of origin. What they observed from their parents as children shapes their opinions and concepts of what a marriage looks like and how it operates. Since every individual has a different upbringing often times couples may have different expectations and opinions of what household duties are done by their spouse.
For example a friend of mine once told me after she got married the trash started building up in her kitchen. She grew irritated that her husband was not taking initiative in taking it out since it was a man’s job. Her husband eventually mentioned the trash was overflowing and the wife then stated her disgusted at his lack of responsibility.
The husband expressed growing up his mom was always the one taking out the trash and he was waiting on her to take initiative as well. They both chuckled and realized how each one was expecting the other to step up because of their unexpressed assumptions and expectations. We often overlook communicating about the small details in the home and even the small details about the future. Premarital Counseling allows the couple to spend their sessions looking at and discussing the small details.
Expectations, needs and wants of your partner and marriage are important topics to review. Some expectations are unrealistic and unhealthy and it is important that each individual has appropriate expectations set for their partner. Spouses sometimes set expectations that can be unattainable, leaving their partner feeling like it is not possible to satisfy the desires of their spouse.
Eventually, with time, this can destroy a marriage leaving the partner feeling undesirable. It is important that you evaluate where your expectations are formed. Is it from watching your parents as you were a child, your best friend’s relationship or that romantic comedy you watched last weekend? Many times social media depicts a dream relationship, making people feel as if they need to seek after what is portrayed when in reality, it’s an unrealistic depiction of an unattainable relationship that only shows the positive.
Every individual has unverbalized expectations of their marriage partner. Each individual has a concept of a marital role they believe they should play and that their spouse should play. What do these roles look like? You may envision staying home with your kids, depending on your husband to bring home the bacon. Your husband may expect a clean house and dinner on the table. It is often when we do not communicate with one another about our desires and expectations that resentments begin to build.
Topics that are normally discussed during premarital counseling are finances, intimacy, religion, values, household duties, social life, conflict resolution, and how your past has affected your future.
Looking at a person’s upbringing and past patterns in their family of origin can be an indication of patterns that may be repeated in their current relationship. Evaluating patterns and becoming aware of ongoing negative behaviors can help each individual minimize these patterns and provide for a healthier and happier marital relationship.
The three main things that lead to a divorce are sex, money, and lack of communication. Understanding your partner’s vision and expectations in all of these areas are important. Talk to your future spouse about what he or she likes in the bedroom, how many times does he or she expect to be intimate a week? Who will initiate? These seem like obvious questions but it is surprising how often spouses cannot answer these questions about what their partner desires.
Finances are another one of the three main factors that bring tension to a marriage. Therefore it is important to communicate beforehand about how to manage the finances. For example, will you have a shared account, will one person take care of the bills, is there a budget that is going to be put into place, and do you communicate with your spouse before purchases?
Premarital counseling is an opportunity to prepare for your future. When a couple participates in premarital counseling they are able to identify potential conflicts, learn realistic expectations and healthy roles for each partner, understand one another and each other’s goals, and develop a shared marital vision.
Never stop dating your spouse. Keep God at the center of your marriage. Instead of pointing fingers evaluate your own wrong doings and strive to become better. Marriage takes work and investment.
It is like a car. You cannot drive a car or expect it to run without fuel, oil changes and maintenance. The gas is not magically placed in your tank and you have to make time, figure out a route to get fuel and be intentional about filling it up. Your marriage will not operate smoothly if you do not invest in it or give it the attention it needs to operate and thrive.