What is premarital counseling?

The best investment a young couple can make is in their relationship.

Premarital counseling goes beyond prevention by preparing a couple for the rigors of a relationship and shaping its future and quality. It is intervention at the absolutely best time, when two people have just made a commitment to spend the rest of their lives together.

It is far more challenging and unlikely for a couple who have been married for thirty years to learn how to communicate intimately when they hadn’t to begin with, unless of course, both people are ready to do what it takes.

“Relationship training” is a process of education and communication skills-building. Based on the premise that relationships continue from where they begin; that is, the patterns set at the beginning will continue throughout the course of the developing relationship. If a couple can learn how to communicate intimately with each other from the beginning, they will continue to do so throughout the course of their relationship.

Premarital counseling enables a (new) couple to identify and communicate about their fears, desires, beliefs, values, dreams, needs, and other issues and baggage that was previously avoided or denied, never discussed before. In the process, you learn about yourself and the relationship, see what it feels like to be real and honest with each other in a deep, personal way, so that you’ll be able to continue to do so in subsequent encounters.

Upon completing a regimen of pre-marital relationship training, you will have done what it takes to create the kind of relationship you’ve always wanted. You will have the understanding and ability to communicate intimately on a consistent basis; communication practice, communication that translates to respect, trust, acceptance and deep understanding – the hallmark features of any intimate relationship.

Premarital counseling will also clear the way for continued emotional and spiritual fulfillment, and self growth.

Let’s consider two people, Becky and Patrick, both in their late 20s, and in love with each other. After a couple of years, they have decided to plan a future, live together, get married. A wedding date was set. More than anything, they wanted to get off to a good start.

It was apparent they were both highly stressed about how much they were fighting and how miserably they both were about their futile, hostile bouts with each other. They felt out of control and didn’t know why. They were wishing there was some way they could communicate better with each other. They came close to calling off the wedding.

In the process of exploring what was happening, it quickly became apparent that they got consumed in the wedding planning process – dates, costs, guest lists, and parents with their own ideas.

Premarital counseling afforded them the opportunity to learn how to set boundaries in a relationship. Perhaps their greatest source of stress related to the wedding had to do with being unable to set boundaries with their respective parents, and with being unable to keep their parents from undermining them, and from creating additional conflict and doubt that left Becky and Patrick paralyzed, and at odds with each other.

Their learning how to set boundaries with their parents extended to setting boundaries with each other; that is, clarifying which issues and challenges belong to whom so that they could say to each other when necessary, “That is for me to work out. You can’t help me.” Or, “This is for you to work out. I can’t help you with that.”

They gained some very profound insights about family of origin baggage they were both bringing to the relationship. Becky was able to see that she had made herself responsible for keeping Patrick happy. When Patrick wasn’t happy, Becky felt like she had failed, was not good enough, and assumed that this meant the relationship was doomed and she was the cause. She realized that most of the time when she was in conflict with Patrick about something, or when Patrick was upset about something that had nothing to do with her, she shrank just as she had in the face of her father’s relentless put-downs.

Patrick was able to make the connection between unusually high levels of anxiety and the sense of losing himself, his life and their relationship, as he had watched his parents do. He began to see that his sense of being overwhelmed and his dread about proceeding with the wedding had a lot to do with feeling buried by the onslaught of plans and commitments, and an inflated sense of responsibility for making it all work. Identifying this sinking feeling alleviated the weight, reduced his anxiety and stress.

Additionally, it was powerful for them to get how much they were reacting to other things which had little to do with what was happening in the moment, but rather to people from the past, not to each other.

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About Daniel Linder, MFT

Daniel Linder

Relationships. I was born with a keen sense about relationships, was always assessing how close and intimate people are with each other. I had a knack for relationships. The importance of relationships cuts to the core of who I am. The combination of clinical training, 25 years of professional experience treating dysfunctional, non-intimate couples and families, as well as rigorous self analysis has given me a lot to work with. I put what seemed to come naturally to me under a microscope in an effort to break the process of building healthy relationships down to concrete essentials: Understanding of Basic Principles, Communication Skills, Self-realization and Intimacy.

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