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Benefits of Premarital Counseling
We all present our best sides when initially dating someone. The longer we remain in a relationship, the more our partner will get to see our less-than-perfect personality traits. None of us is exempt from character flaws or having a bad day. As we get to know our partners more intimately, we may see things that trouble, confuse or bother us about their attitudes or behavior.
Knowing this person is going to be part and parcel of a successful relationship as it progresses. Learning more about each other is only going to benefit the relationship as it deepens in both commitment and intensity.
However, as much as most couples want to succeed when they decide to take their vows in marriage, current statistics make it seem impossible. Premarital counseling may assist them in successfully navigating the challenges of marriage before they commit.
Having the Conversation
Discussion of what is expected in the marriage will bring up differences of opinion that may seem difficult to bridge now, and these differences will only grow greater as time goes on. Can compromises be made?
When there are issues of disagreement or misalignment between you, how can they best be resolved? How do we learn to express our displeasure when they behave in ways that embarrass us in front of family and friends? How do we work with our future mate to gain their trust? And how do we enlist their interest in making changes that we would like to see in how they move through the world? Is change even possible or practical in these areas?
These are the discussions that need to take place with a third party counselor who is trained to navigate these waters. Having these discussions among couples alone can easily lead to disharmony and disagreement. Seldom can partners come to resolution without learning the basics of how to approach these matters. Counseling will give both parties new insight into resolving conflict and differences between them.
How do we begin to talk about these things?
Therapists are well versed in bringing up challenging issues for couples. When entering into counseling for possible marriage in the future, it is important to present the issues that you have already come across in your dating experience with this person.
As issues are discussed, possible compromises are reached and solutions are explored, resolution between partners should seem possible. Allow honesty and openness to permeate these discussions. Pretending that you are in perfect agreement with your future mate is not the best approach for the future of the relationship. Be sure to express your honest feelings and ideas with your partner. As the discussions grow, both of you should be mindful of accepting the other person as having deep and significant purpose for their ideas, opinions and feelings. Disagreements do not need to make either of you disagreeable.
What if we cannot come to agreement on key issues?
At the onset of counseling, it is important to understand that not all areas will be agreed upon in your future with this person. It is unlikely for that to occur. Many couples will require additional counseling as their marriage matures in order to deal with differences of opinion or belief in some areas. If this is not acceptable to either party, it is good to know before the marriage vows are exchanged.
As issues are discussed between partners, finding what they can and cannot agree upon is crucial to the future of the marriage. Both parties will have to determine what their “make it or break it” policies might be. If one party is determined to be a parent and the other is not interested in having children, their marriage will be in trouble from the onset.
These issues can be worked out if compromise is possible. If so, perhaps additional counseling will uncover ways to navigate the differences. If not, the couple is well-advised to separate or create bridges to new footing in the relationship.
What are the benefits of premarital counseling?
Both parties in a marriage will be more familiar with their partner and they will see where potential problems may exist after discussing key issues. Learning more about your potential partner can only increase the likelihood that marriage will succeed if you feel that going forward is the best bet.
Better decisions about marital issues can be reached after open and frank discussion has taken place. Going into a marriage with these decisions already discussed decreases the likelihood that problems will arise when these situations come up later in the marriage.
Surprises that may occur for couples who do not discuss potential problems can be devastating. Understanding where your partner stands on important issues is a huge benefit for compromise and blending together in the future.
Learning how to frankly discuss ideas and opinions that may be different is a key for future communication. Learning how to navigate compromise with your partner is an invaluable tool for success in marriage.
Confidence in the future can only increase the couples’ sense of joint purpose and bond them more closely together. Seeing how to work through differences in emotions, opinions and upbringing lays a solid foundation for future problem-solving as a couple.
Counseling together makes each party more amenable to having counseling in the future to help resolve conflict, should it arise. Feeling that your partner is engaged in commitment to both you and your relationship will allow each of you to feel willing to go the extra mile to make things work out. Lack of commitment to a successful marriage can create a sense of insecurity that should be a warning sign for potential marriage partners.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.