What’s that Pre-Marital or Pre-Commitment Stuff About Anyway?

Are you thinking about taking that next step in your relationship?

Perhaps you are engaged and planning a wedding. If so, chances are, someone has mentioned “pre-marital counseling” to you. To put it simply, pre-marital counseling is an opportunity for you and your sweetie to actively and intentionally navigate life categories that you will be sure to face in your marriage while simultaneously developing skills designed to enhance your relationship. Some think it’s about exploring sameness. That’s not necessarily the case.

Compatibility has little to do with sameness. It is about understanding what each partner feels about a topic and finding a common ground within that. It is about awareness and compromise. It is about agreement on issues of similarity and issues of difference. It is about planning.

Too frequently, couples allow romance, erotic desire, and butterflies in the stomach to propel them towards long-term commitment (often resulting in marriage) without exploring major life topics. And, too frequently, cultural, religious, and family of origin expectations that individuals bring to a relationship are discovered after marriage, children and financial commitments have taken place. This often leads to significant discontentment, disconnection, fighting and statements like, “I don’t even know who you are anymore”.

It’s been said that there is a divorce every 13 seconds. While lower than past decades, the CDC reports that almost half of all marriages end in divorce. Considering the toll that divorce can take on emotional and financial well-being as well as the strain on family and friends, pre-marital or pre-commitment counseling can be seen as a benefit…and a protection of one’s overall health.

In pre-marital counseling, the couple can anticipate exploring ideals on home life, finances, career, sex and intimacy, communication styles, family planning, parenting, spiritual life, values and belief systems, health and wellness, extracurricular activities, and ways to handle conflict.

Many of these categories may seem common or basic. However, we have found through talking with others, many of these categories either go untouched or are just glossed over. Especially in younger couples. Why? Because often the “butterflies” last long enough to propel these couples to the alter and once they settle into married life, they begin to uncover many topics previously unexplored.

There are many formats to explore pre-marital counseling including at religious institutions, workshops, or through a private practice with a counselor if you desire a more hands on approach with one on one attention.

Regardless of the route you take, pre-marital work creates space for each person to share their individual hopes, dreams, and beliefs, gain a richer awareness of similarities and differences, and develop skills designed to enhance connection- all beneficial in maintaining a fulfilling and lasting relationship/marriage.

-Lori Brewster

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