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Planning Your Future Together With a Strong Foundation
After a period of happiness and togetherness, the question was asked. The answer was given, and the ring slid smoothly onto the finger. Congratulations! You’re getting married.
It is a time of excitement and optimism as you and your partner begin to plan your future as a couple. Where should you go on your honeymoon? How many children will you have
Your relationship is operating at an all-time high. It’s the perfect time to consider couple’s counseling.
That might come as a surprise, but couple’s counseling could be the difference between a marriage full of conflict, frustration, and regret, and a relationship marked by unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding.
Before you instinctively refuse the notion of counseling for you and your betrothed, consider your hesitancy and some of the benefits the service can produce.
Reject the Stigma
Even with millions of people actively benefiting from counseling, many misconceptions continue to fill popular opinion. When these faulty beliefs are held for an extended period, they become stigmas.
Stigmas are unrealistic and unhelpful views that are based on incorrect information. In this case, stigma will prevent many from seeking couple’s counseling.
Here are some truths about couple’s counseling:
- It can be for any couple. New couples, old couples, happy couples, angry couples, married couples, unmarried couples, and even divorced couples can all attend and profit from couple’s counseling.
- Counseling is helpful for anyone. Therapy and counseling are used interchangeably in most situations, but there is actually a small difference between the terms. Therapy works to address some type of pathology or dysfunction, while counseling is a tool to improve the wellbeing of the client even if there is no diagnosable complication.
- It is not the job of counseling to keep the relationship intact. Counseling may end relationships. This is not a failure — it’s a success because the parties can accurately identify that they should not remain together. Counseling can help people see this sooner rather than later.
One of the primary functions of couple’s counseling is to address the differences that exist in the relationship.
For some couples, this process can prove uncomfortable because they are used to downplaying their differences while emphasizing their similarities. In reality, this is a great method that many relationships find instrumental to longevity, but when used in excess, this healthy coping skill becomes a negative.
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Some pre-marriage counseling programs required by groups like the Catholic Church place value on identifying differences early so they can be reviewed throughout the counseling process.
A counselor can aid in presenting and processing these concerns with the couple in a safe, supportive environment where they can find compromise and a shared understanding of future risks. Establishing and agreeing on compromises before the marriage can reduce future stress.
Healthy relationships do not run away from problems — they discuss issues in productive ways. Surely small differences will not negatively impact a relationship, while other differences act as deal breakers.
Examples of relationship deal breakers include:
- Who will work? Who will care for the children?
- How will the children be raised in regards to religion?
- The role of sexuality and intimacy
- Financial concerns related to shared accounts, paying bills, and poor spending habits
- Issues of abuse, infidelity, and other illegal, unethical, or immoral activity
If pre-marriage counseling exposes one or several deal breakers that cannot be resolved, this would be an indication that the engagement should not proceed.
A relationship where one member is determined to have a long-term monogamous relationship and the other is set on having numerous sexual partners stands as a sharp contrast from the expectations of each. Though this is an obvious example, it is illustrative of problems that can be brought to light in counseling.
Another main function of couple’s counseling is to teach and expand upon skills the couple can use throughout the entirety of their marriage. Many couples will possess several of these skills, while others will display major deficits.
Targeted skills of couple’s counseling include:
- Patience. The following skills will not matter much if the couple is reacting with impulsive anger. While teaching patience, the counselor will discuss ways to slow down the thought process without jumping to conclusions when solid evidence is not present.
- Communication. There are infinite varieties of helpful communication a couple can share. The important facet will be building effective ways to share thoughts, feelings, hopes, and fears. Remember, healthy communication can be done verbally, nonverbally, emails, or texts.
- Understanding. One party can communicate, but if the other does not work to listen and understand what is being expressed, it’s useless. It takes two people to have a good relationship and only one to destroy it. The counselor will act as an interpreter early on, teaching the couple how to hear and understand each other.
- Respect. All relationships will experience adversity. The best relationships will survive and become stronger for enduring the events. Here, the therapist will teach aspects of tolerance and open-mindedness that heighten the level of respect each partner has for the other.
If you feel that these skills are already well developed in your relationship, remember they can always develop and grow.
Pre-marriage counseling is nothing to fear. The process can go one of two ways: first, it can expose a relationship that was never meant to be. Second, it can strengthen an already healthy relationship through skill-building exercises. Either way, pre-marriage counseling is a worthwhile endeavor for all.