Pre-marital counseling is a great opportunity for couples to make sure their relationship is ready for the next step.
Couples often co-habitat, share finances, or even share children before marriage. For those that are interested in getting married pre-marital counseling is a good place to explore what is working and perhaps not working before taking a next step in their commitment.
When couples come to me we often look at what are each of their concerns to getting married. We look at the families they grew up in. If there was a divorce when they were growing up then that can create fears as to the durability and viability of married life. Taking the next steps toward a wedding can bring up fears around commitment and what that means for the relationship.
I will have them doing “the intimacy exercise” each night when they are in bed or relaxing in the evening.
I have them share with each other:
A. The high point of their day
B. At least one thing they appreciate about the other person.
C. I often suggest that they hold hands and look into each other’s eyes for a minute to increase their heart connection.
In their counseling sessions, we make time to talk about things that may have been pushed down or ignored because they were too hard to tackle without help. Such as:
- Sexual compatibility
- Financial goals
- Desire for children
- How to fight fairly
- The impact of secret keeping
All of these topics and more can be discussed, examined, felt about and have some sense of unity and acceptance come out of really digging into these issues. People that we can really trust are people we can work through conflict with. A goal of the pre-marital counseling is to increase trust, honesty and find ways to accept differences without distancing or disconnecting.
As we are navigating through the issues at hand I also teach both parties how do some self-soothing so that if they get overwhelmed with feeling that have ways to calm themselves.
- Doing some slow breathes (with an emphasis on the slow release as you exhale, which is the most calming part).
- Taking a short break from the process. I encourage them to do this at home if things get heated. Taking a walk to cool down and importantly sharing when you will be back.
- Placing a hand on your heart and tune in to yourself and your feelings so that you can comfort and calm yourself.
I usually work with the couple for six to twelve sessions so that we have time to address their concerns with time to process between meetings. I will have them do “homework” where they can journal on what they envision for their life in twenty years, make lists of the things they really want their marriage to look like, feel like, etc. I then have them bring in their journals and share them so that each person can know what is truly wanted and needed by the other.
I offer my office as a place they can come back to after their marriage as things come up that they want help with. Having both know that they are not alone in resolving all the things that come up is a way to feel support for themselves and their marriage.
Marriage is hard and having a support system to turn to when there is conflict is a needed thing for any couple.