Before You Meet at the Alter You Need to Meet for Premarital Counseling!

Major Benefits of Pre-Marital Counseling

Most people will go to their primary care physician to take measures of preventive care for their physical health. Yet too many couples getting ready to say their vows do not take any measures of preventive care for the health of their marital relationship, especially in a culture where divorce has become such a common problem. Couples preparing to get married spend more time deciding on the flavor of the wedding cake, the dress, the flowers and food for their wedding day than they spend preparing to have a lifetime together.

When dating, couples always put their best face on, we all naturally do that meeting a person for the first time. So, no matter how long you dated, you really do not get to know each other until you are married and living together. Too many couples believe that living together first will prevent them from having major problems when they marry. However, research has shown that cohabitating does not make your marriage divorce free. Cohabitation is not the same as marriage. Cohabitating couples compare to married couples are more likely to have a poorer relationship quality and less psychological and financial happiness. Most couples who co-habitate unconscientiously leave a door open as way of escape when the relationship gets tough. The thought is “I can just leave when things get difficult. I am not married to this person”.  A married couple has made a stronger investment both emotionally and monetarily when they stand before a pastor or priest, taking a vow to commit their lives to one another with their family and friends as witnesses.

Cohabitating relationships and even subsequent marriage do not offer lasting results. Even abstaining from sex until marriage can offer a stronger and more fulfilling marriage.

When an unmarried couple begins engaging in sex, other areas of their relationship will suffer. Healthy married sex has its place beside the intellectual, emotional and practical aspects of life. Married couples spend less time in bed than they do in conversation, in problem solving, and in emotional communication. Premarital sex dose not prepare you for a strong and happy marriage, in fact sexual happiness grows only through years of intimate marital relationship.

Author Alice Freeling writes in an article “Why Wait for Sex?” says, “Genital sex is an expression of intimacy, not the means to intimacy. True intimacy springs from verbal and emotional communion. True intimacy is built on a commitment of honesty, love and freedom. True intimacy is not primarily a sexual encounter. Intimacy, in fact, has almost nothing to do with our sex organs. A prostitute may expose her body, but her relationships are hardly intimate.”

Ask a couple how the love making was who remained virgins until their wedding night the response you get is usually with descriptive words such has beautiful, emotional, and spiritual. Compare that with couples who had been sexual before their wedding ask them how the wedding night was sadly you usually here “It was nothing new since we already have been having sex together”. What a sad contrast for a couple hoping to spend their life together.

Marriage is much more than dating and hanging out. It is a serious lifetime commitment. When your marriage is successful you will find much happiness and joy in your life together. But when marriage fails, the couple may experience some of the most heart wrenching emotional pain. If there are children in the relationship it can lead to many emotional, spiritual and physical problems that can affect a child for a lifetime.

Pre- marriage counseling is extremely important for divorced individuals marring for the second time. We all carry baggage into relationships regardless if this is a first marriage or if you have ever been married before.  This is especially true for couples beginning a second marriage. Sadly, many divorced couples tend to wait until they marry for a third time before they consider getting counseling.

So, what does happen place in pre-marital counseling, and when is the best time to start premarital counseling? A couple should begin pre marriage counseling as soon as the become engaged. Pre- marriage counseling may not need to be a long process but you should at least expect 8 to 12 sessions so your counselor can help you both learn to work through any problems that may come up and teach you the skills you will have living together in marriage . All couples are different so the time you spend together in premarital counseling also may depend on how much baggage you will bring into your marriage.

Most counselors will help couples learn to have good communication skills, and help you understand one another’s’ personality.                     According to John Fischer, “The success of marriage comes not in finding the “right” person, but in the ability of both partners to adjust to the real person they inevitably realize they married”.

Your counselor can help you both learn to listen to what the other person is saying and their feelings. Validating the other person’s position is a skill that does not come naturally for most people especially when you are upset or angry; however, couples communicating well with each other is one of the most important aspects of emotional safety between couples.

Your counselor will help you both talk about your individual expectations for marriage. They will guide you through looking at and discussing role expectations in the marriage. Helping you both decide what is best for you as a couple and ‘who will do what’ in the marriage. It is not uncommon for some people to marry never discussing with each other jobs and income, who will handle the finances, and who will do what chores.

In Pre- Marital Counseling couples will learn healthy conflict resolution skills.  It may be hard for some newly engaged couples to imagine that their soon to be spouse could ever cause them to get angry or want to explode expletives on to the other. Conflict can range from many different disagreements from who will take out the trash to an argument about more serious issues. This may happen to any couple at one time or another.  A counselor can help you both learn how to de-escalate your emotions in an argument or discussion and come to a resolution over the problem.

Your pre- marital counselor will help you both explore your spiritual beliefs, the importance of those beliefs, how they will be practiced in the relationship, how they will function in your marriage and what role they will play with any children that may be part of the marriage.

Pre-marriage counseling will help you identify any issues that may come from your family of origin. We learn how to be human and relate to others from our parents, and families. Your counselor can help you identify those areas where you may have experienced feelings of hurt, pain, and anger from past situations and how your soon-to-be spouse may do or say something to you that may bring up all those feelings. These are called “triggers”. An emotional trigger can come to surface when your spouse makes a comment, gives you a look, behaves or acts in a certain way that will cause you to have intense emotional feelings come up and makes you feel out of control. Also, pre- marital counseling can help the couple discuss and learn to work out problems that may arise from where their families of origin and their friends can fit into their life once they are married.

Your pre-marital counselor can help you develop personal, couple and family goals. What long term and short- term goals you have for your new family? When do you plan to start having children?  How many children do you both want? How will you discipline and educate your children? Even helping the couple consider what their own family traditions will be.

There are many different areas that should be explored and having an objective ear can help you both discern potential areas of conflict and begin to build unity together that will be stronger to weather any storms that may hit your marriage.

From the Christian Theological perspective marriage is a Covenant you enter into with another person and with God. God takes making Covenants very seriously and the Marriage Covenant is God’s way of protecting and blessing two people and the children born within that Covenant.

Pre- marriage counseling may not need to be a long process, but it is probably the best wedding present you could give to each other. Premarital Counseling would make the perfect wedding gift for your children when they marry. It can be your first investment together that has the potential to keep paying back into your marriage for years and years to come.

Jim Katsoudas