Getting married is a significant and exciting step for many couples. But, unfortunately, some people jump into marriage without considering essential issues that may come later in their married life.
For example, have you talked with your partner about having children? What about managing your finances together as a couple? Do you share the same spiritual or religious values? Have you found it hard to meet your partner’s family expectations? Marriage can be one of the most fulfilling experiences in your life as long as you know the person next to you will hold you in good and challenging moments.
If you are feeling unsure about how to discuss these crucial topics with your partner, keep reading! In this post, we will explore how premarital counselling sessions may be a good option for you.
First, we will begin by defining premarital counselling and who may benefit from this practice. Then, we will explore some of the most common issues couples bring into the therapy room. And we will see how this type of therapy may help you begin your married life on the right track.
What is Premarital Counselling?
Premarital counselling is a type of therapy that helps couples build a strong foundation for their long-term commitment to living like a married couple.
Many couples falsely believe that marriage is going to resolve any unaddressed issue they may have right now. Other partners assume that marriage will be an “extension” of their premarital life. We all have heard of those couples who spend years together, but they quickly file for divorce. The truth is marriage is not a problem-solving tool nor a simple document to formalize a relationship. It is way more than that!
Depending on your premarital relationship, a few or many things will start changing after getting married. But this does not mean that marriage should be scary. On the contrary, life and relationships are constantly evolving, and premarital counselling can help you prepare for your next step as a couple.
How Can Premarital Counselling Help You?
Premarital counselling can help you and your partner to explore and address potential areas of conflict that may impact your life as a married couple in the future. Sometimes, we minimize issues in our relationship out of fear that they may hurt the other person if we talk about them.
Other times, we do not know how to talk about our feelings or expectations with our partners. So, we either bottled up our emotions or became reactive. Unfortunately, with time, these unaddressed issues can become stronger up to the point of damaging many aspects of our relationships.
The goal of premarital counselling is precisely to avoid that. This type of therapy aims to provide you and your partner with effective communication and problem-solving skills to address issues healthily. It also helps you to become aware of potential areas of conflict that may emerge in the future. For example, disagreements regarding child-rearing practices, gender roles, cultural values, spirituality, etc.
If you and your partner are currently struggling with a specific issue, or if you don’t know how your differences may affect your relationship in the future, premarital counselling may be an excellent option for you.
Premarital counselling may also help couples who don’t have significant disagreements but want to enhance their communication skills or plan for their life as a married couple.
What to Expect in a Premarital Counselling Session?
First of all, you and your partner can expect to be heard in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
As premarital counsellors or therapists, we will not tell you what you “should” or “should not do” in your married life. Instead, we will explore your values and cultural beliefs around marriage to develop a personalized program that may build a strong foundation for your relationship.
We will assist you in developing more effective communication, practice conflict resolution skills, and provide a space to explore more profound questions to achieve intimacy.
During the sessions, you and your partner will also learn to navigate everyday stresses in marriage, such as balancing work and family time, handling finances, creating personal boundaries, etc. We will help you to prepare constructively for those or other future challenges that are inevitable in every committed partnership.
Last but not least, we will also explore how you and your partner’s background, upbringing, cultural or religious values may affect your future together. For some couples, this may imply a conversation on each other’s expectations regarding each partner’s role in the relationship. It may also mean discussing your families’ expectations and assessing whether those expectations may add additional pressure.
Last but not least, we want to reinforce the idea that premarital counselling aim’s to meet the needs of your specific relationship. We know that every couple is different, so we will not impose a particular program that may feel unrelated to you and your relational needs.
Tough topics that need to be discussed before marriage
Each person has a different view on “the best” way to save, invest, or spend money. While one partner may find it normal to spend hundreds of dollars on a weekend trip, the other partner may see that action as wasteful. “According to the poll by the Bank of Montreal (TSX: BMO), 68 percent of those surveyed say fighting over money would be their top reason for divorce.” And for many couples, money is, in fact, the reason that triggers most of their discord.
It is essential to know that there is no magic formula regarding the best way to manage your finances as a couple. What premarital counselling may do for you is help you start the conversation and talk about money comfortably with your partner.
Have you ever talked with your partner about having children? Or do you often postpone that kind of conversation? What about child-rearing practices? How do you envision your child’s education?
Conversations about children are complex. While many couples may agree on whether they want or do not want to have kids, other layers to this discussion are equally important but often overlooked. Some couples usually wish to have kids, but they may not agree on the “right” time to expand the family. Other couples may realize that they do not share the same vision regarding the “best” type of education they want for their child. Some couples may not settle on whether they would like to have one or multiple children or whether adoption is even an option to consider.
Often the answer we may have for these questions is shaped by our upbringing and family background. A premarital counsellor may help to identify your inside core values and believes about children and family.
This is controversial, especially for couples who do not share the same faith or spirituality. Rather than having a marital or family conflict regarding whether you should celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan, or not religious holidays at all, it is better to bring up the conversation before you get married.
Sometimes we underestimate the significant value that faith or spirituality has in our lives until we face a different view. Unfortunately, many people think that the only solution to religious differences is to either abandon your beliefs for your partner or have your partner convert to your faith.
Religious conversion is undoubtedly a wonderful experience when done voluntarily, not to satisfy another person’s needs. Premarital counselling will provide you with tools to have a conversation with your marriage regarding this critical topic.
It may also be a perfect space for both to negotiate or find a balance to respect each other’s beliefs system and maintain a healthy discussion about faith, atheism, or spirituality.
“No politics or religion at the dinner table!” Sometimes the person you want to spend the rest of your life with has a very different view on politics. Or perhaps it is not that person, but their parents or someone in their extended family. While sometimes we manage to avoid those types of conversation to keep the peace, from time to time, inevitably, these will arise.
You and your partner may learn to implement healthy coping skills to talk about what is vital for you or your extended family without overreacting, yelling, insulting, or keeping silent.
How comfortable do you feel about expressing your sexual needs with your partner? Have you even brought up this topic with that person? Do you and your partner have the same beliefs regarding “intimacy”?
Even though our modern society is more spoken out sex, this is still a very private or taboo topic for many people. Intimacy or sex talk may trigger uncomfortable feelings, insecurities, and shame. Sometimes, either person may comply to engage in activities they do not want to do out of fear of expressing their own opinion. With time, keeping silent about your own needs may seriously affect yourself and your relationship. Talking about these intimate issues in front of an outsider may certainly feel super uncomfortable.
As therapists and counsellors, we know that! But we also want to tell you: it’s okay! We recognize that this may be a sensitive topic for you or your partner, but we will make sure to respect your process. A therapy room is where we want you to feel safe to be who you are and share whatever you feel comfortable sharing at your own pace.
How To Get Started
There are many counsellors out there, but you and your partner must find the right one for you. A “right-for-you” counsellor should be someone who understands your needs and helps you identify and address your issues.
It should also be someone open to listening to both of you with empathy and without judging. Finally, it should be someone with cultural sensitivity and respect for diversity.
Why is finding a “right-for-you” counsellor is essential? Or let’s better ask, why you should even bother to look for a premarital counsellor? Having an outsider perspective may help us a great deal in addressing a past or current issue in a new light. Yes! Family members and friends can offer us lots of support. Yes! They are often well-intentioned. But sometimes, they are a little too busy, too closed, or too biased to listen attentively or provide us with the type of help we need in our relationship.
On the other hand, a premarital or couple’s counsellor is a professional who has received years of training in identifying and addressing couples’ issues. And she is also someone who may guide you in the process of learning new skills to manage conflict, negotiate, and strengthen your communication.
If you have some insecurities about whether marriage is the next step in your relationship, or if you want to begin your married life with a strong foundation, do not hesitate to contact us.
In Ontario and BC, we have an incredible team of professional family therapists who will be more than happy to accompany you in this exciting, new, and perhaps scary stage of your life. If you cannot join us in our offices, feel free to ask about our online counselling practice.
We will do our best to meet your and your partner’s needs, so you can feel safe, comfortable, and ready to face your future together.
We wish you a bright and cozy day!
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