Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi Carolyn! Is there a benefit to premarital counseling if the couple have no major problems — or, at least, aren’t yet aware of them? I think I’ve seen a few times in your column that some people have recommended it in all instances, but I’m not sure how I would initiate that process, or suggest it to a fiance(e), when I don’t have an issue in mind that I feel we need to discuss with a counselor. Any advice on when such counseling is worth doing, and how we get the ball rolling if it is?
Sometimes couples get along because they’re like-minded and communicate really well. Sometimes couples get along because they haven’t yet run across a fraction of the things that will matter to them after they’re married — and expose serious disagreements between them.
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The former couple might benefit from good premarital counseling, but will probably be just fine without it. The latter couple urgently need premarital counseling.
And, here’s the fun part, the latter couple probably think they’re the former, and will continue to think so right up to the day they experience one of those serious things they didn’t know they needed to talk about.
One way you can figure out whether you’re the former without the bother of finding a program is to enlist Dr. Google to dig up suggested questions couples can ask each other before marriage. Some of the ones you fish out will be kooky or irrelevant, but it’s not like asking a bad question will hurt you. The point is to get both of you thinking ahead.
Tweak your search as needed, but I had pretty good results with “things couples should talk about before getting engaged.” Pull up a listicle or three, plan a leisurely dinner and start talking. Sounds interesting, actually, for anyone looking to pry out some good conversations.
Good premarital counseling is also a can’t-lose proposition — and, bonus, broaching the subject gives you a chance to work on your get-the-ball-rolling skills. Uncomfortable conversations are hard, but nowhere near as hard as what happens even to compatible couples when they’re afraid to say, “We need to talk.”
Re: Premarital Counseling: In order to get married at the church of my husband’s choosing (family went there, they’re all Catholic, I’m nothing anymore but was baptized as Lutheran), we had to do premarital counseling with a couple — his aunt and uncle were our counselors — and with the Father there. I wasn’t looking forward to it and figured it was all a way to tell me I had to convert to Catholicism, or tell me that I wasn’t living right because I wasn’t guided by the Bible or the Pope.
But you know what? It ended up being really good and quite beneficial for us. I was actually surprised, while we were doing it, that I was happy we had done it, even though we didn’t have any red flags to make me think it was needed.
Excellent point, thanks. Counseling isn’t always just for fixing; it can also inform, reassure, inspire.
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