Well your wedding is one day in your life, but your marriage is all the rest of the days that come after it. No other relationship, except perhaps parenthood, even comes close in terms of the challenges and triumphs of marriage. It is the most intimate relationship created by choice that is humanly possible. In the rush, the excitement, not to mention the incredible organizational pressure of organizing your wedding, many people don’t care to think about something as mundane and as sober as pre-marriage counseling. Why rain on the parade? Why descend from cloud nine? Why try to squeeze it in, with all the other things that have to be organized? (Who needs it, anyway?)
Every couple could consider and benefit from pre-marital education. If any of the following apply to you or your partner however, it may be particularly helpful;
- Parents divorced
- Physical or verbal abuse by parents
- Cultural or religious differences
- Regular conflict over unresolved issues
- Conflict involving negative ‘put downs’
- Withdrawal and avoidance around decision making
- Unwillingness to talk about feelings
- This is the only serious relationship both partners have had
- A drug or alcohol addiction
- Unreal expectations of each other
Both couples and individuals seek financial planning to maximize their wealth; businesses value succession planning; students make plans about their career path long before they finish their education. There’s a famous saying that says “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Part of planning to succeed in marriage is taking the time to look forward, to survey the land you are going to travel across, taking note of the mountains and the valleys, the difficult crossings and the pleasant, easy places. Pre-marriage counseling will enable you to do that for your marriage.
But isn’t living together a good enough preparation? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Statistics show that divorces are actually higher among people who marry after having a de-facto relationship with each other. There is something about marriage that distinguishes from simply living together–which means that pre-marriage counseling is incredibly pertinent to de-facto couples. It’s a way of learning how to successfully make the transition from one kind of relationship to another.
What stops people from this kind of preparation? One of the big issues is: “what if the issues raised stop us from getting married?” Here are some points to consider:
- You may get some surprises. For example it’s possible that, even if you have lived together, some of your partner’s attitudes to certain things that matter to the relationship (such as communication, gender roles, and children) have so far escaped your notice. Pre-marriage counseling will help you see differences that have an impact–not in order to discourage you, but in order to help you plan ways of overcoming or resolving them. Think of it as an opportunity to become creative problem-solvers and relationship builders. Marriage is an art, and you will be honing your relationship skills to a greater level than you ever have before. You will have the opportunity to understand the issues that are ‘deal-breakers’, and to discuss them, before you enter into ‘wedlock’. Do you both want children? What will you do if it turns out one of you doesn’t? What are your values when it comes to money? What kind of treatment can you live with from your partner? How will you settle disputes? Does one of you have the final say, or is every decision made by consensus?
- Yes, things may come up that give pause to one or both of you–things that may make you decide to postpone your wedding until they are resolved. Don’t be afraid to face these issues before you walk down the aisle. It is easier to work through some issues before the event, than when you are married and the stakes are far higher. If you are open to considering pre-marital counseling (marriage preparation), then you are a candidate for a great marriage. Opening up your relationship to receive advice requires humility, and humility is one quality that creates success in life. Another name for humility is teach-ability. If you and your partner are ready to learn new things about your relationship and how to make it the best it can be, then the world is your oyster.