Yes, yes, a million times YES!!!! Counseling has this negative connotation that if we get it we're broken or something must be wrong with us, our children or our relationships but that is not so! 'Wholehearted' people (shout out to Dr. Brene Brown's work) have therapists. John Gottman, a leading researcher when it comes to marital relationships found, in his research, that 69% of couples fight about the same things after marriage that they did before marriage. That annoying thing that gets under your skin or that pressing issue that you're praying remedies itself or disappears all together once you've gotten married does not, statistically speaking.
So let's compare premarital counseling to a forest fire. It is far easier to prevent a forest fire then to put one out. Prevention can occur with clearer thinking, more openness, more empathy than can dealing with a crisis in crisis. Forest fires aren't impossible to put out but they are far more exhausting, expensive and disheartening than a Smokey the Bear commercial. Here is what premarital counseling can do for couples:
Learn the Language before You're 'In Country'
Everyone is familiar with the 5 Love Languages that pastor Gary Chapman introduced to the world several years ago. We all have a love language but in addition to that we all have a way of needing to be validated and validation is just as much of a language as love is. With premarital counseling, couples have a change to not only identify those languages but become proficient in them before getting married. It's basically like learning a country's language before going there to visit. Sure, you'll be able to find the bathroom eventually or you may have to swallow a raw snail or two before you realize what you've ordered, but having a basic understanding can help keep your pants dry and stomach free from garden creatures.
Exploration in Similarities and Differences
Merging two individuals with two separate life experiences and upbringings almost seems like a mad scientists' dream come true verses a romantic Hallmark movie. There are a lot of things that should be discussed before marriage occurs but doesn't often get discussed because a lot of couples don't know what they don't know. Couples can have the opportunity to explore similarities and differences in future goals, expectations of one another, perceptions and values pertaining to life, family and marriage by discussing those things in premarital counseling.
Exploration in Possible Issues
We all come with baggage because we are all human. For the most part, our baggage gets to remain ours and how we respond to it gets to be our choice. However, when we are moving our baggage into someone else's 'marital house' (another shout out to Gottman) they have a right to know what that baggage is. It may be a past trauma or traumas. It may be a mental health diagnosis or disorder. It may be an addiction. These things can be hard to bring up on the car ride home from date night but may be more suited for a therapist couch and office.
Lying isn't something a therapist should do and so I won't. Not every couple walks out of the process unscathed or even together. Most do. The few that don't are much more grateful their pocket book only saw the costs of counseling and not a divorce. The many that do are more connected than they would have been otherwise. Premarital counseling is a sign of a healthy, hopeful relationship and is proof that a couple is more focused on the marriage verses the wedding.
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