Many couples are advised to explore premarital counseling before they get married – and many more could likely benefit from this work. Doing couples work with a therapist to prepare for marriage frequently provides valuable insights, allowing the focus to be on your specific needs as partners. Premarital counseling can also be a great way to discover areas within your relationship that need support, as well as prevent problems in the future and grow closer as a couple.
Learning to Communicate as a Couple
One common focus for pre-marital work with couples is focused on helping both partners discover new, more effective ways of communicating with each other. Sometimes, one partner doesn’t feel comfortable being completely honest with how they feel about specific situations, goals for the future, or other topics. Nearly always, this leads to resentment and disappointment down the road if the disagreement doesn’t come to light until after the couple is married.
In sessions, we focus on learning new tools for how to share tough topics or feelings in a way that does not make your partner feel threatened or upset. For example: taking a timeout when one partner is overwhelmed and setting a timeframe of when to return to the conversation is important. This allows for both to feel their needs are respected.
Planning for the Future Together
We also explore what each person in the couple would like for their future life. Many couples have not talked about their future in a business-like way before getting married. When you get married, having a plan for what you would like for your future is very important. Decision making can become more challenging now that you have another person’s opinion to consider.
We also focus on providing space for couples to discuss their expectations for the marriage with one another. Marital expectations mean things like who does the household chores, who manages the money and pays the bills, whether or not you will share a faith system, how many children and how will they be raised, and so on. By exploring scenarios in advance, both individuals can learn more about their partner and how to engage in dialogue to prevent future stress on the relationship.
Understanding Your Partner
I encourage couples to listen to the audiobook, Your Brain on Love: the Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin. The author does an excellent job of explaining different kinds of attachment behaviors and how to interact with them. Attachment style impacts our ability to love and interact with others in both romantic and non-romantic relationships.
If we have had poor relationships in the past, it can often impact our relationship with our partner as this person is now our primary “attachment figure.” Our brains are designed for connection and understanding more about how your partner’s brain works can improve your ability to respond to challenging situations. The book is a short listen (~5 hours) and gives couples tools to better comprehend how their partner processes events or disagreements, and why they might react differently depending upon their attachment style.
Marriage is about more than the ceremony and the party afterward. If the proper care is taken in the beginning to explore the partnership, the result can be a rewarding lifetime experience. I have met couples who have been married for over 70 years that still love and value each other. It is not easy and requires patience and sacrifice, but it can be achieved with the right effort in the beginning of the marriage.
Ready to get started? Reach out today if you’re in the state of Iowa or contact a couples therapist in your area to invest in your relationship for the future.
About the Author
Ann Gavin, T-LMFT works with adults and couples from all backgrounds, faiths and orientations in Cedar Rapids, IA and online.