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Premarital Counseling

Why asking for help is being smart and strong

Premarital counseling is a way of saying, “We take our relationship seriously and we’re willing to invest our time and energy into making us work smoothly.”

Premarital counseling can be a great way to lay a solid foundation of understanding and open communication in your partnership.  Sometimes issues do arise before marriage, but more often than not, the tricky issues show up after the wedding or commitment ceremony. In this way, premarital counseling is a lot like preventative medicine.

It can also be helpful to establish a relationship with a therapist so that when problems do arise in the future, there is pre-established support available for you.  It can be invaluable to have a caring professional who is already familiar with your story and knows you both well. Going to therapy preventatively goes against how therapy is commonly used in our culture. Therapy is most commonly used for crisis situations.

People often wait until things get really bad and then seek help. They are operating under the belief that they should be able to do it themselves and that asking for help is a sign that they’ve failed somehow. This couldn’t be more further than the truth.

The truth is that it takes incredible strength to be able to ask for help.

Engaging in premarital counseling is a way of saying, “We know that problems will arise. There is no perfect marriage. And we love each other enough to make this investment in our marriage and our future family. We are making this investment in our future family so that when problems arise, we will have the help we need to get through them.”

It is a common naiveness to assume that you won’t have some problems in your marriage or in your family. Intimate relationships by nature are tricky.  We want you to go into your marriage and create your family with your eyes wide open. We want you to succeed in creating a thriving marriage and family. We don’t want you to get blindsided when problems arise due to the cultural idea that marriage should just work and if it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong.

Turn 'problems to avoid' into 'challenges to learn from'

Turn “problems to avoid” into “challenges to learn from”

Problems arise in marriage not because one person is doing something wrong, but because there is learning and growth waiting to happen. Once you see that your marriage is a tool for learning and for growth, then you don’t have to be so scared of problems when they arise.  Marriages fail because we are scared of our problems.  When you equate “problems” with “there is something very wrong that I should avoid,” you miss the opportunity.

Instead, try seeing your problems as a doorway to becoming a fuller and better person.  Redefine “problems” as “challenges.” When you face a challenge, then you are open to learning something about life and cultivating wisdom. Your marriage can thrive when you start seeing your problems as challenges.

With premarital counseling, it’s as if you are saying, “problems will arise. And when they do, we’ll be ready.  We’ll have some tools to engage the problems. And we also have some support available to us if are unable to do it alone.”

In premarital counseling, you seek and find the problems instead of them finding you later. You get the opportunity to map out what potential areas you might have some struggle.  But it is also an opportunity to recognize and build on your strengths as a couple.

Learn how to communicate now - not later

Learn how to communicate now – not later

Every relationship has hot topics, such as sex, money, kids, in-laws, time, and sometimes spirituality/religion. Every couple is different. Money might be an extremely hot topic for one couple, while for another it is virtually a non-issue.

In premarital counseling, you begin to explore what are (or might become) hot topics for your marriage.  If a hot topic is already up, then you can learn some skills about how to effectively communicate.  You might also be humbled realizing you may not be as skilled in communicating topics that have a high emotional charge to them as you thought you were.

Remember that our culture does very little to teach us as children to communicate effectively about our feelings and needs.  Communication skills may be taught, but it is not set up to happen like how learning about arithmetic is set up.  Yet, we expect ourselves to be able to do it as adults without having had education or any formal training.

What does this mean for you? It means that it’s okay that you don’t know how to communicate with your partner. Few of us are equipped to know how to do it well.

Premartial counseling can teach basic, effective communication skills that will serve you for your entire married life.

Build empathy & understanding now - not later

Build empathy & understanding now – not later

Premarital counseling can also be a chance to learn more about your partner’s unique history in this world. Of course, you probably know so much about them already.  However, by observing a trained counselor engage with your partner can be an enlightening experience. You can get to know a whole new depth to your partner.

To watch your partner reveal parts of them that they haven’t revealed to you before can be helpful for building empathy and understanding towards them. Building this empathy and understanding for your partner in the beginning of your marriage can serve as a tremendous resource for when you hit rough patches later on.

During courtship, we tend to show only very select parts of ourselves to our new partners. We don’t want to risk showing them the parts of ourselves that might make them leave and/or reject us. We are careful, whether we are aware of it or not. Even though the strength of a relationship might lie in how comfortable two people are around each other and how they’ve shown each other parts of themselves they don’t show to others, there are always unconscious parts to be discovered.

It is through being in an intimate relationship where we begin to meet those parts of ourselves that we’ve never met before, or that have never been seen by another person. And that’s exactly what can be so healing and wonderful about being in intimate relationship: you can reveal hidden parts of yourself to your partner and enjoy being loved and not left. Premarital counseling can help you to begin the process of showing those parts to each other in a vulnerable and safe way.

Acknowledge your separateness

Acknowledge your separateness

While premarital counseling certainly helps improve the quality of your connection, it can also help with seeing you partner as someone separate from yourself.  It can be easy in the early stages of a relationship to focus on the many commonalities. It can be natural to ignore your differences.

Marriage asks you to simultaneously be connected to your spouse and be connected to your own separate and unique person.  This is not easy an easy task. And that’s exactly why marriage can be a tricky business.  Premarital counseling can help you both see each other as separate unique beings who also have a special connection.

When so much focus is on how connected you are, it is easy to assume that you and your partner have the same experience in your life; you don’t.  You each have your own unique experiences because you are two different people. You may share an experience together, but each of you will have different thoughts, feelings, and sensations from it.

To have a thriving marriage, it is essential to be able to see and respect your partner’s experience in the world.  Premarital counseling helps this happen by allowing the this truth to show as your partner talks with the counselor. Seeing your partner as separate from you may amaze you, sadden you, excite you, disappoint, or even anger you.

Premarital counseling questions

Premarital counseling questions

While we don’t have an exact format for premarital counseling at Family Ties Counseling Center, as every couple is unique, there are a number of questions that are typically woven into the counseling process.

These question are for you and your partner to reflect on. They include:

  • What do you hope to get out of premarital counseling?
  • Of the 5 hot topics mentioned above, where do you feel strong? and where do you feel unsure?
  • If something is bothering you, how do you communicate it?
  • What are your greatest fears about being married?
  • What are your greatest hopes for what marriage will bring to your life?
  • Why are you choosing to get married?
  • What does marriage mean to you?
  • Is there anything in your past that you’d like help to have your partner understand?
  • What are you strengths as a couple?
  • What are your strengths as an individual?
  • Do you want to have children?
  • If so, do you want biological children or would you like to adopt or foster children?
  • How would you like you and your partner to relate around money?
  • What are your potential blind-spots about money?
  • How does conflict affect you?
  • What is your style around conflict in intimate relationship? (do you avoid or confront or shutdown)
  • What are your core needs with regards to an intimate relationship?
  • What most nourishes you in your intimate relationships?
  • What do you foresee as your greatest personal challenge to being married?
  • What are your greatest sensitivities in your intimate relationship?
  • To what degree do you want your in-laws in your life together?
  • Do you share a common spirituality or religious faith? If not, how is this for you?
  • How do you each believe is the best way to spend time together?
  • What is your love language? (See below)

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages

Click here to access the website of the 5 Love Languages. This is an excellent online resource that can help you each determine how you feel most loved in your relationship. They are:

  1. words of affirmation
  2. acts of service
  3. receiving gifts
  4. quality time
  5. physical touch

Having an awareness for yourself and for your partner can go a long way towards marital satisfaction.  It’s amazing how many couples try to express love to their partner in the way they prefer love to be expressed to them.  Couples simply do not know what helps the other partner feel most loved. When you know your partner’s love language, then you can feel confident and powerful when you offer it to them.

→ Premarital counseling helps you build a strong & healthy marriage Call 503-349-2281 to make an appointment Email us