I had a friend who was getting married to her long-time partner. They had lived together for a number of years and owned property together. It seemed that marriage would simply perfect what they had – make it permanent.
After my friend told me about their plans, I asked a question: “Have you thought about pre-marriage counseling?” The question surprised her.
In the rush, the excitement, not to mention the incredible organizational pressure of planning a 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 try to squeeze it in, with all the other things that have to be organized? Who needs it, anyway?
Well, this is why: your wedding is only one day in your life, but your marriage is all the rest of the days that follow. 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.
Both couples and individuals seek financial planning to maximize their wealth. Businesses value succession planning. Students make plans for 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, and the easy places. Pre-marriage counseling will enable you to survey and plan for your marriage.
But isn’t living together 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. Having a intimate relationship with a man does not make him bond with a woman emotionally.
There is something about marriage that distinguishes it from simply living together – which means that pre-marriage counseling is all the more 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 doing this kind of preparation? One of the big issues is based on fear and insecurity: “What if the issues raised stop us from getting married?”
Here are some points to consider:
First, 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 may have an impact – not in order to discourage you, but in order to help you be prepared to plan ways of overcoming or resolving them.
Think of this as an opportunity to become creative problem-solvers and relationship-builders. For most new wives it can show them just how much influence they have over their husband.
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? That may be a deal-breaker. But this doesn’t mean the relationship has to end. Pre-marital counseling gives you the chance to work through these problems….before you’re married.
Second, yes, issues may come up that give pause to one or both of you – issues that may make you decide to postpone your wedding until they are resolved. Issues such as: What are your values versus your partner’s 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?
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.