Monday, June 4, 2012

Before "I do" do this: Premarital Counseling

Why Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is a great way to focus on starting your marriage off on the right foot. While we often get bogged down in the details of planning the wedding, it’s easy for us to forget what the wedding is for: starting a life together as a new family. Premarital counseling is not designed to assess whether or not you and your partner should be getting married; you are the only ones with the knowledge and the understanding of your relationship to make that decision. Premarital counseling is designed to facilitate the discussions you are already having about what’s next as you step in to married life. In our sessions we focus on your strengths as a couple, as well as consider areas for growth and what ways we can strengthen your relationship to give you the best possible start as you begin your journey as a married couple.

What to expect from Premarital Counseling?

The substance of premarital counseling varied depending on who is providing it. A pastor, rabbi, or other spiritual leader will use the lens of their religious background while working with you as a couple. Many churches require premarital counseling before performing the wedding. 

In both religious and secular settings premarital counseling will usually include some sort of relationship assessment, communication skill building, and a discussion about the marital expectations of each partner. Generally, premarital counseling takes somewhere between 3 and 6 sessions.  In my practice, I use the following as a general outline for premarital counseling, though I tend to customize the process for each couples’ specific needs.

·          Your Relationship

o   Initially, I like to focus on getting to know you as individuals and in your relationship. We’ll explore your comfort levels working with each other, with a counselor, and as a team. This will be your opportunity to teach me about your relationship and share brought you together and what keeps you together.  We’ll discuss the strengths of your relationship, your concerns for the future, and any goals you have for your relationship. At this point we will begin to review the results from your assessment.

·         Communication 

o   Communication is key to developing a healthy relationship and starting your marriage off on the right foot. At this time we will discuss each partner’s communication style and how communicate with our partner’s needs and style in mind. Working through communication we will strengthen the alliance already established within your relationship. We will also practice healthy communication and build skills for resolving conflicts and fighting fair.

·          Expectations

o   We all come into relationships with different expectations about how life will be in a marriage. Many of these expectations we got from our families. During this time in counseling we will address each partner’s expectations of the marriage and also deal with practical issues like family and financial planning. This allows both partners to be on the same page regarding the nitty gritty of day to day living in a relationship. 

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