A couple preparing to wed each other and spend the rest of their lives together has quite a list of things to get prepared for before the big day. Caterer, check. Dresses, tuxedos, and assorted attire check. Venue reserved and deposits paid, check. But they may have a nagging feeling that they've forgotten something of critical importance, perhaps not related to the wedding itself, but the entire marriage in general.
As it just so happens, seeking out a licensed professional counselor and enrolling in a premarital course of couples therapy can greatly increase the chances of having a happy and fulfilling marriage by as much as thirty percent compared to those going in blindly, and getting that significant help in making a marriage last (and happily so) is far more important than the festivities leading up to the lifelong commitment.
The Role Of A Pre-Marital Course Of Couples Counseling Plays In A Marriage
To use an easy-to-understand analogy, spending the rest of your life with another human being is comparable to building a house. When building your dream home, you want it to be built well: made to be durable and able to endure the most intense conditions; be full of love, be stable from top to bottom and inside out, and last you an entire lifetime. Assuming you most likely have started on this journey with a very loving and trusting relationship, to begin with, you have already initially got what is equivalent to the foundation of the house you want to build. Without this good and solid foundation, you will not be able to build anything on top of it that will last very long or survive very much. But simply having this sturdy and concrete slab" of a foundation will also not be enough to keep either of you sheltered and safe when the weather of life turns harsh and unforgiving.
Finding lasting happiness requires a framework, as well. Some couples manage to build that framework together through trial and error over several years together. They eventually find a set of rules, expectations, and problem-solving skills that work best for them as a pair. For those who have already been together for some time before taking the leap and getting legitimately married to each other, there are many ways in which they've already discovered many of the traits and behaviors that are both expected and decidedly accepted by each other. Each other's quirks ensure many years of happiness, with these qualities and actions bolstering their relationship and consequently their marriage, once it happens. Generally, these dynamics consist of knowing how to approach and deal with the inevitable arguments that come with sharing a life with another person, understanding how to talk about how each person involved is feeling along with many other subjects, minor or significant, sharing in intimacy with each other, setting clear goals and expectations, and much more. Only once those factors have been discovered and firmly set into place will you be able to set up the "walls and roof" of your figurative home; in this case, these would be referring to the shared joy and simultaneous burden of managing finances together, raising children (and sometimes also pets) together, and discovering how to come to agreements when making important decisions as a single unit.
Who Needs It
Especially in the beginning, when emotions are running high and the future seems full of endless joy and possibility, it might be unimaginable to picture anything in life ever coming between the two lovebirds. Any couple that has been married for a while will quickly assure you that things certainly will not seem so rosy and perfect all of the time. Marriage requires even more work than the average relationship. If you don't exert the effort needed, things can go wrong and fall apart quickly. Marriage is not so simple to walk away from compared to a relationship without any legal binding. You may feel that you know each other inside and out and with no surprises waiting around the corner. Still, the reality of it is that people have so many layers to their personalities and entire existences that understanding someone else on that deep of a level is going to be a constant journey of discovery over the course of your lives.
As positive as things may seem to two people genuinely in love and bubbling over with enthusiasm for the future, life is prone to throwing wrenches into even the most well-laid plans and causing all sorts of problems. It's during these unexpected rough seasons that other facets of your partner's personality and behaviors may rise to the surface. Stress, grief, disappointment, and frustration from both the big and the small things in life will show you the other "faces" your loved one is capable of wearing. Every couple needs to be prepared to handle both the best and the worst that life has to offer, as well as the effects it may leave behind on a previously unflawed portrait of the family you're building. Everyone will face hardships as they go through the years, but when entering into a marriage, you're committing to helping carry your spouse's burdens along with all of the burdens of your own that you'll come to face.
Any couple can likely benefit from some form of communication skills training before marriage, regardless of their age and even whether or not they've been married in the past before. Allowing a licensed and experienced therapist with an advanced degree in relevant areas to explore your relationship may seem a little uncomfortable or awkward at first. But it may be the easiest and most effective way to start talking about things like what each partner's expectations in the marriage are, where their attitudes to life may differ, what values they agree and disagree on, preferences regarding bringing up children, and discovering on the deepest level what is truly important to them in the long run.
How Couples Counseling Works
Couples counseling is not just about sitting there and talking. It offers a structured, guided approach to improving communication between partners, both while the therapist is in the room and afterward. Plenty of couples tend to shy away from certain topics without even realizing it, whether from trying to protect each other's feelings or because they never thought of having to define exactly where they stand on some issues. As discussed as early as possible, these are the more serious concerns that need to be brought to light to ensure no significant damage in the relationship later on. Ignoring these more serious issues may be more convenient in the short-term picture. Still, it will undoubtedly lead to significant and potentially devastating problems years down the line when a couple realizes that their individual goals and desires don't mesh as well as they thought.
Preventing Trouble Later: The Importance Of Counseling BEFORE Marriage
Some couples that have drifted apart from each other over the years due to their differences in a few important aspects of their relationship, or just general aspects of life, can peacefully cordially end their marriage and sometimes even remain friends. They accept that they had just gone into the legally binding agreement blindly and with their hearts so full of hope and emotion that they didn't dig deep enough and tried to ignore the issues that arose.
More commonly, though, couples that don't address these problems upfront may dive so hard into their marriage and future that they immediately have children and joint assets galore, only to realize over time that they made a huge mistake and now have an even bigger problem than merely their relationship. At this point, though, their lives are so intertwined that divorcing and going their separate ways is a lot more complex than simply ending the marriage. Physical assets are often a common fighting point if the two spouses don't have the means (or the desire) to split everything evenly to support themselves on their own, and even worse is the issue of custody regarding offspring. Not analyzing a relationship before jumping into a marriage that isn't going to work can leave horrible, lifelong effects and consequences for any children born to the couple. Personal preferences aside, this is one of the most serious situations that anyone involved in a relationship needs to consider. If the parents can split peacefully and co-parent supportively, there is a great chance for their children to have still healthy and positive relationships and a positive outlook on the world. However, in nasty divorces full of fighting and frustration, the kids are usually the ones involved that get hurt the most. Of all the reasons to seek premarital counseling, this is a concern that should top the list.
In a sense, a couple’s counselor will help you to understand each other better, seeing as they know all the right questions to ask. A counselor can identify possible weaknesses in the relationship more quickly. In addition, their counseling proficiencies include coaching a soon-to-be-wed couple on concepts like conflict resolution, being more open with one another, and striking a healthy balance between personal independence and a loving, lifelong partnership.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I improve my marital communication?
Improving marital communication requires cooperation from both parties. Although it may be challenging to outline your potential issues in the marriage, these issues may not be resolved quickly or efficiently if you do not cooperate with your partner.
Perhaps one of the best ways to improve your marital communication is by consulting a couple’s counselor. If you have communication issues pre-marriage, you can improve relations between you and your partner by asking and discussing premarital questions. The questions should act as a reminder of why your relationship has worked for so long and may reveal small details that disrupt communication in your relationship.
Other methods include simple exercises that you can do either pre-marriage or during the marriage. These can include the following:
What is a premarital certificate?
A premarital certificate, granted by a professional counselor or therapist, proves that a couple completed a series of classes involving marital issues.
These classes include conflict management, communication skills, family responsibilities, and other similar issues. Typically, premarital educational courses are offered to couples pre-marriage, giving them time to work out their issues before becoming legally married.
Typically, a couple must complete premarital education within 12 months of pre-marriage. Depending on the state, if a couple obtains a premarital certificate, they may have a discounted price on their marriage license. If a couple completes 6 hours of premarital education in states like Georgia, they will not have to pay their marriage license fee.
How long is pre-marital counseling?
For couples looking for counseling on communication issues pre-marriage, there are a few factors that determine the length of premarital counseling. They include:
The timing of pre marriage counseling depends on the couple’s motivation to attend and complete each session. If both you and your partner are serious about repairing your relationship’s damages, then you may complete your counseling sessions much more quickly than you anticipated.
What do you do at pre-marriage counseling?
Professional therapists and counselors create each pre marriage counseling session around the couple’s desires. It is up to the couple to explain their relationship problems and listen to their therapist in coming up with solutions.
As such, a pre-marriage counseling session can address concerns including:
Is counseling required before marriage?
There is no requirement regarding counseling before marriage. However, it is highly recommended to engage in premarital counseling since you will have a better idea of your partner and your relationship’s strengths and weaknesses.
How long should you wait to get engaged?
There is no set rule for how long you should wait before you get engaged. When you are thinking about getting engaged, ask yourself if your partner is truly somebody special. Despite there being no rules, it may be better to spend a good amount of time getting to know your partner.
Though every couple and situation is different, some research reveals particular trends. Ted Hudson, a leading researcher on transitions from marriage relationships, conducted studies on couples for 13 years starting in 1979. He concluded that happily married couples dated for roughly 25 months before they got married. Couples who became dissatisfied with their marriage only dated three years before they tied the knot.
This study may not represent your specific relationship. But it is important to spend quality time with your partner and only consider engagement if you genuinely think they fit your needs well.