Confirming What I Already Knew: Our Pre-Marital Counseling
We did our counseling through a friend of Tim’s, Darrel. It took a couple of weeks (okay, by the time we actually did everything and finished all the phone tag it was closer to a couple of months), but it wasn’t really a drawn out process or overly time-consuming. The first stage was for us to read a book called The Five Love Languages. I know, it sounds dumb, but it really was a fascinating book. Here’s how it shakes out:
According to this guy, everyone has specific ways in which they show love for another person. These signs of affection typically fall into one of five categories: words of affirmation (ex: genuine compliments, verbal support), quality time (ex: turning off the computer/cell phone and doing something together one or both of you enjoys), gifts (ex: anything from a favorite chocolate bar to jewelry to a flower from the garden), acts of service (ex: taking over a chore the other person usually does), and physical touch (ex: giving a massage, cuddling). Just like in a conversation, if you “speak” a different love language than your partner, you’re going to lose something in translation. People can love each other a great deal and think they are showing the other person how they feel, but if what they’re doing isn’t recognized by the other person as an act of love, they both will constantly feel unappreciated.
Our mission was to each read the book and decide what our top two love languages were. If it wasn’t obvious by the end of the book, there was a little questionnaire you could take that would rank them for you. We weren’t allowed to discuss the book until we had both finished reading the whole thing and had determined our languages, and at that point we were to try to guess each other’s languages and talk about the mismatch and any other feelings we had about the book.
While reading it, it was very obvious to me what Tim’s languages were, and my number one was obvious to me. Choosing a second one was a good bit more difficult (not to mention all 4 of the remaining ones tied on the questionnaire), but when I thought about what things have happened over the course of our relationship that meant the most to me, #2 came to light. The discussion we had when he finished ready the book was humorous to say the least. I flip-flopped the order of his top two languages, but I did at least have the top 2 correct. He on the other hand…not so in tune apparently! Summary: my top 2 are what he had pegged as my bottom 2. Oops! That was enlightening to say the least.
For me the book and the discussion that followed was mostly a confirmation of things I already knew somewhere in the depths of my head, but there was definitely great information about how to better handle some aspects of our relationship. On Tim’s side, the experience seemed to be an eye-opener, because for the week he read it and the following week after our discussion the phrase “I should have read this ages ago, I could have completely avoided being an ass!” (along with a couple of variations) was said A LOT. It’s also led to a good number of silly jokes (“Here, let me get the door for you, you know, as an act of service”), and I’m never one to turn down more material for jokes.
When we finished the book, Darrel gave us a questionnaire to fill out individually. It was a sort of personality profile with 180 questions, with a range of 3 choices for each question: agree, neutral, disagree. I really disliked it, because about a third of the questions I felt there wasn’t really a straight answer to. When we finished them, we gave them back to Darrel, but I kept a copy because I thought it could be interesting to revisit some of the questions in a discussion with Tim, and I wasn’t sure what would happen with the answers we gave Darrel when we sat down with him again.
Yet again, the results were hilarious. Your answers to the questions place you on a sliding scale in several different personality categories like hostile/patient, sympathetic/indifferent, nervous/confident, etc. These are plotted out on a graph, with shading in the background to mark what is considered “normal”, “acceptable”, and “needs improvement”. My nervousness was through the roof (go figure) at 95%, but everything else was pretty much straight down the middle where it “should” be. The funny part was Tim’s results. He scored a 1%, that’s ONE, on the scale that places him at as indifferent as a human being can possibly be. Right next to that, he’s got a 95% in being hostile. Tim. Hostile. Yeah, not only does that make zero sense (unless of course you get him talking about the general stupidity of the population at large, then you can actually see the vein in his neck throb), we found it particularly hilarious that he is pegged as being hostile AND indifferent. The drive home was full of “I’m so angry but I don’t care!” jokes.
On the way home we also drove through an area marked as a “wild area” and I yelled “it’s like we’re on a safari!”, which made him laugh so hard he had to pull over.
That wasn’t related, but I thought it was funny and needed to be shared.
Anyway, for us the only real benefit to that questionnaire was that we got to discuss a few of the questions (like “does everyone deserve a second chance?” and my personal favorite “do you secretly judge a member of your family?” to which he had answered yes but “couldn’t remember why”; yeah right honey!). They were interesting, but for the most part there was nothing surprising or revealing about the process. I think the book was the more valuable part of the experience, and while I don’t think it has necessarily changed too much about how we interact, I think it has given each of us a better understanding of why we interact the way we do.
Darrel has signed us off as ready to get married, which is convenient considering we’re suppose to do that in 3 weeks. I still definitely recommend doing some premarital counseling of some kind, even if all you get out of it is a reason to laugh and confirmation you know each other as well as you think you do.