You’re Getting Married! Congratulations!
This is a special time. You’ve found the person you think you want to spend your life with – your partner on the journey.You might be happy. Really, really happy! And everyone is likely happy for you, because you are a wonderful person who met an amazing person and the two of you make a GREAT couple!
But amid the popping champagnes bottles, you might keep noticing a subtle, annoying, persistent whisper, a tiny voice you keep trying to tamp down that says things like, “But what about her insane credit card debt?” or, “But what about how he says he might not want to have kids?” or, “What about that time after the big fight when we didn’t speak to each other for three days?” You might say to the quiet voice, “Shhhhhhh! We love each other and that is all that matters! Enough of you!”
But, when you look around at other couples you know – your parents, your best friends, the newlyweds in the apartment next door you constantly overhear arguing about the best way to load a dishwasher – your doubts and fears may creep back up. You may worry whether you’ve achieved enough in your career or had enough adventure on your own. What if you met the right person too young and you’re making this commitment too soon? Or what if you’re not too young but your biological clock is ticking loudly – are you doing this for the right reasons?
Marriage Is a Big Commitment, and Worry Is Normal
Don’t panic. Having doubts does not mean you’re making a bad decision or that you and your partner aren’t meant to be together. Many people have doubts as the reality of the wedding approaches. This is why the term “cold feet” exists. It is not just you.At the same time, some issues may be deal-breakers for you. It is important to make sure that you aren’t so caught up in the idea of being with your partner that you miss important red flags. If this isn’t meant to be, better to figure that out now as opposed to five years, two kids, and one jumbo mortgage from now.At other times in history, you might have received premarital guidance from your community, respected elders, or your church. Nowadays, you’re given a pat on the back from your parents, a sly remark about the 50% divorce rate from your thrice-divorced cousin, and a few tips on setting up your registry from your married high school friend. Where is the personal, deep support?
Premarital Counseling Can Help You Clarify Your Needs and Explore Your Doubts
In our modern American culture, there is a lot of cynicism about marriage and how happy a couple can really expect to be in the long term. I do not share this attitude. I believe you can expect to have a happy marriage. In fact, you can expect to have a passionate, dynamic relationship that inspires you to reach your full potential as a human being and will be the foundation of a great life.In order to have this, you need to make the right choice in your partner, work at your relationship with flexibility and an abundance of good will, and commit to bringing your best self to the relationship. Premarital counseling can help you achieve all of those things.
In pre-marital counseling, we will examine communication patterns, identify what traps you and your partner fall into, and work out a better way to interact. We will determine what each partner most needs from the other and devise ways to make sure those needs are met in the relationship. We will identify what values you share and use them as a roadmap for the future of your relationship, from figuring out disagreements to making big life changes. Finally, we will go through the myriad of common potential conflict areas in order to resolve disputes and troubleshoot for the future. When you leave therapy, you can be equipped with improved communication skills, problem solving strategies, a value roadmap, and an optimistic outlook for your life together.But who goes to couples counseling before they get married?
Doesn’t that just mean we shouldn’t be together?
Couples who come to premarital counseling want to build their life together on a solid foundation. They want to start off their marriage with tools for better communication, and to have a clear understanding of how to meet each partner’s needs and get their own needs met in their relationship.Alternatively, couples often seek counseling because of one “sticky” issue that keeps tripping them up. As one couple recently told me, “We decided that our choices were to come to see you or to argue about this same thing for the next twenty years.” These issues are almost always about money, sex, kids, in-law minefields, or communication style, and are usually fixable.
But every couple has problems, right?
Every couple does have problems. The purpose of premarital counseling is to learn healthy and productive ways of dealing with your problems before you are married. It’s how you deal the problems together – not the problems themselves – that make the difference between a happy relationship and a miserable one.
Okay, I want to try premarital counseling. But, if I ask my partner he or she will think I’m really unhappy and want to break up.
Many people feel like couples counseling is only appropriate when things have already gone around the bend. In reality, it is so much more effective to start when things are good. Would you rather learn to ride a bike on a gentle incline or straight up a mountain?It can be helpful to show your partner this page as a way of bringing up the topic or to ask the uneasy party to call me directly, so I can explain what this is all about and assuage any fears.
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“As a professional colleague in the field, I highly recommend Tonya as a therapist for those who are looking to empower themselves to make life changes and for couples wanting to improve their relationship. Tonya ‘s approach offers a combination of support, compassion, and practical tools. She is an active therapist who has an astute understanding of relationships and how to help couples understand how negative patterns of relating develop while teaching skills to restore trust and connection through healthy communication. I’m fortunate to have such a skilled and competent colleague in my professional community, to whom I can refer clients.” - Sharyn Levine, LCSW, Psychotherapist
This is an exciting time and a great opportunity for you and your partner. A loving, dynamic partnership will inspire you, challenge you, and continue to surprise you no matter how many years have passed. By developing the skills you need to nurture this relationship from the beginning, you will be rewarded again and again throughout your life together.
“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery