Think about it, $100s on a cake, $1,000s on a photographer and other expenses. The average wedding costs well over $10,000. Premarital counseling would be a very thin slice of the marriage budget pie.
Counseling has a negative connotation, and I’m not sure anything can change that. Premarital counseling isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually an incredibly pro-active, healthy process to ensure that the most important relationship in your life starts on solid ground.
I’ve worked with many engaged couples who have come for a few sessions to talk aloud about their relationship, and to see if they are missing any potential issues. Having kept in contact with these couples, they for the most part continue to report having satisfying, happy marriages. Unfortunately these couples are few and far between.
The vast majority of couples come to therapy during a crisis or when there is such emotional distance between one another that the relationship seems beyond repair. Instead of repeating the ideas and points from the previous blog column, I wanted to give three examples of major issues couples face in the first year of marriage: compromise, money, and the extended family.
Compromise. The biggest adjustment for most is the actual process of merging two lives into one home. Furniture, TVs, kitchenware, clothes, beds, etc. What to keep, what to get rid of, where to live. It’s endless. The important part is finding compromise. The foundation of compromise is each person partially sacrifices what they want. Compromise promotes two things: 1) each person is flexible in their wants and needs, and 2) there is mutual care and respect in the relationship.
Money. It doesn't buy happiness, but it can certainly bring stress. Money matters, and it's one of the biggest causes of conflict and divorce. Talk about money so that both people are comfortable with the finances. Talk specifics. Is your household going to have one earner or two, for how long, what are your financial goals? Many couples meet weekly or monthly to talk about household income and expenses. Even if money is not an issue, talking about it builds a comfort level which is important if finances ever do become an issue.
Extended family. Better known as “the in-laws”. Talking about families can be very difficult, because there are a lot of emotions attached to family, and rightfully so. The underlying issue with extended families is boundaries (click here for more about boundaries). When you get married, you are a part of a new family born out of two existing families.
As a new family, you have to find your own identity. This doesn’t mean extended family is excluded, it means you and your partner have to agree on the extent of family inclusion (if any). Once you find agreement, there has to be consistency. Both people have to abide by the agreed boundaries. Lastly, communication about extended family has to be open, honest, and respectful. Beliefs and feelings change, and healthy communication allows for open dialogue about what to do with shifting beliefs.
These are three examples of many issues that arise in the first year of marriage. If you and your partner are having difficulty adjusting to marriage, seek support and guidance. Whatever you do, don’t have children because you think it will fix the marriage.
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