A lot of people are resistant to counseling in general, so why would anyone want counseling for a relationship at a time when they are happy and planning their wedding? Couples even fear pre-marital counseling, believing that if they bring up conflicts and differences, the wedding will be called off. They hope that all disagreements will fade away with the honeymoon. This is not a recipe for success.
So, why have pre-marital counseling? There are statistics that suggest that pre-marital counseling helps to lay a foundation for success in marriage. According to Healthresearchfunding.org:
- couples who had pre-marital counseling before their wedding have a 30% higher success rate
- 44% of couples marrying today have some type of pre-marital counseling either with clergy or a mental health professional
- the median amount of time spent in pre-marital counseling is 8 hours
In pre-marital counseling, you can bring up any unresolved issues and learn how to better communicate about these issues. This is where you get to say what your expectations are for marriage. It’s where you can learn some tools and techniques for resolving conflict.
The list of topics covered in counseling is long, but common concerns are: money, beliefs and values, roles in the marriage, sex and intimacy, children and parenting, in-laws, career goals, and housekeeping.
The Previously Married (and their children). This is probably the group that most benefits from pre-marital counseling. They have a lot to discuss as they are preparing to blend two families. This is a blog unto itself! There is a lot to discuss ahead of time when two people are embarking on this endeavor. Both partners need to decide and agree about how they will each deal with the others’ children. Often, because everyone has been through a painful divorce, a parent will feel an intense loyalty and protectiveness toward their own children. This may be hard for the new step-parent to understand. The children of this merger may not be all in. This is disappointing to the parents who want to be optimistic about their new life and wish their children would be too.
In Rabbi Boteach’s book, Kosher Sex, he addresses the importance of counseling before marriage. In fact, at the end of the book, he includes a “Checklist for Marriage”. When I first read this, 20 years ago, I thought it was comical. Now, I see it’s value. Here it is:
- Do I find this person attractive?
- Does this person have a good heart?
- Do they appeal to me, not just aesthetically, but in a deep way that will last beyond the first wrinkle?
- Do I respect them?
- Do they love children?
- Do they have the capacity to put others before themselves and empathize with another person’s plight?
- Are they charitable, not just in pocket, but in person?
- Are they non-judgmental?
- Do they live for something other than the material and the transitory?
- Do they share my core values? If not, do they at least harbor other fundamental core convictions?
- Are they humble, or at any rate, not arrogant?
- Are they responsive to my needs?
- Do they always demand an explanation for the things that make me happy?
- When they hurt me, are they forthcoming with an apology?
- Are they slow, rather than quick to anger?
- And if so, are they at least easily appeased?
- If I were asked to sum them up for my best friend, would I describe them as a beautiful person, inside and out?
- Do they understand that the very definition of a relationship is the ability for two people to cater to the needs of each other (even if they don’t understand each other)?
- If you decided not to marry them, how would you feel if you heard that they had married someone else? Would this cause you unbearable pain?
- If they don’t live up to the above standards, do they have the humility and capacity to learn?
- Do they admit their mistakes?
- After being told by others? Or, on their own?