Well You Started It: Premarital Counseling
For whatever reason, the word “counseling” seems to have a negative connotation to it, which makes some couples cringe at the idea of the premarital version. Contrary to the way it sounds though, this is not exactly counseling in the traditional sense. This is mostly an open, guided conversation about what everyone expects married life to be like. It’s really more like “premarital discussion with someone there to make us actually talk about it instead of skirting around it”.
Most religious institutions require premarital counseling, and more often than not it is conducted by the ceremony officiant. It can be anything from one session to several stretched out over a couple of weeks, from a simple conversation to one involving “homework”. Its purpose is to make sure you’ve not just prepared for the wedding, but you’ve prepared for the marriage and have at least talked about the tough issues if not come up with a plan for dealing with them.
If your officiant isn’t providing you with premarital counseling, there are several professional services as well. These are usually run by offices that offer many different types of counseling, and it also can run from a single session to several over many weeks. There are also a few online courses and services The cost will depend on the area you live in and how many sessions the counseling is to last. Single sessions can be found online for about $50, with courses lasting a couple of weeks costing in the $600 range. While this sounds expensive, it can be an invaluable experience if there are many aspects of married life that you two haven’t talked about.
Premarital counseling covers a wide variety of topics, from whether or not you’ll change your last name to your thoughts on child discipline, from how you’ll handle family finances to if you want your kids to believe in Santa. If you’re in a truly prepared stage of your relationship, there will be very few, if any, things that are brought up through counseling that you haven’t already discussed. You don’t have to have a concrete plan necessarily, but you need to be aware of any differences in your stances going into the situation. That said, things like finances should be relatively planned for since there is a shorter transitionary period for that.
If premarital counseling isn’t required for you, I still recommend doing something. Even if you find a free online questionnaire and both fill it out then talk about it, just do something. While you may have talked about most everything already, there will likely be something you missed, and counseling is a great way to make sure you really have all your bases covered.
Our Pastor really wanted us to do some kind of premarital counseling, though he also told us we sound like one of the most prepared couples he’s ever met. A family friend of Tim’s is actually a wedding officiant and routinely runs premarital counseling sessions for couples, so we approached him about it. He gave us a book to read, and once we were finished with that he gave us a questionnaire to fill out.
The book was called The 5 Languages of Love. Honestly, based on the title, I was thinking this was a completely silly idea. However, I was really surprised. This book was not only spot on, but it takes a more realistic approach to why couples end up unhappy with each other. To sum it up, the author says that everyone expresses love in their own way, and we all react to expressions of love in different ways, ways he refers to as “love languages”. I’ll spare you a full-blown review, but it really was quite fascinating. If you’re not going to do any kind of counseling (or maybe even if you are), do me a favor and at least read the book. It’s like $7 on Amazon. Both my parents and his parents have already asked to borrow it. It really is an incredibly enlightening read.
I’m planning on writing up a bit more on our personal “counseling” experience as a sort of bonus post later on. We’re still not done yet (we haven’t sat down with Darrell to talk about our questionnaire thing), so it’ll be in a few weeks.
Posted on February 23, 2012, in Ceremony, Misc. Topics (Wedding), To-Do, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged Premarital Counseling, Wedding, Wedding Planning. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.