There they are..so in love after their engagement. The wedding plans are in full-swing. They’ve spent endless hours thinking long and hard before making all of your final decisions about all the really big, important things…the venue, the dress..…after all everything has to be perfect!
While it is absolutely wonderful and when a couple decides to get married…odds are that they spend more time planning for and making decisions about the one day of wedding than they do about their actual marriage? You know…that thing that happens every day for the rest of their lives after the wedding?
It is an unfortunate truth that we live in a society where we have grown up watching movies where the female lead meets a handsome man and falls in love instantly. INSTANTLY! This in and of itself suggests that that “feeling”..the “love” between two people is really all that matters..and that once you find someone with whom you have it..they are the one you go off to “Live Happily Ever After”. There are so many problems with this..but the main one is that we never see what happens beyond that point.
Where are the conversations about if love really does conquer all? Does anyone really live happily ever after? Is love really enough to sustain a relationship for the long-haul? Where does anyone sit down before deciding to get married and discuss these things?
Oftentimes married couples will come into counseling unhappy in their relationship over things that, quite honestly, premarital counseling really could have addressed and worked out well before they said “I do”.
Things that may not seem like a big deal to couples when they are still so optimistic about their future are oftentimes the exact things that lead them to be “that couple” they tell themselves they will never be…”that couple” who finds themselves sitting in marriage therapy years later, unhappy and desperate to fix whatever isn’t working.
So, what types of topics would a couple discuss in premarital counseling that could save them a lot of struggle and disagreements going forward?
Kids—whether you want them or not. If so, when you would want to start having them. How many you want. If you can’t get pregnant, what would you want to do? Once the children come, what would you want to do regarding childcare and both of your careers?
Your household. Discussing all of the big and little things that make a household run smoothly are surprisingly those things that many couples find themselves arguing over… and can also lead to other areas that are discussed in premarital counseling.
For instance, one person may like to wait and clean everything on their day off whereas their spouse likes to get things cleaned up and done before they go to bed every night. If this is not discussed, the person who likes to get everything done before bed every night, may become irritated and annoyed with their spouse for not helping them out, thinking they are “lazy” watching them do “everything” and building up resentment toward them.
Likewise, their spouse may feel angry toward them for “choosing” to do chores every night and “ignoring” them, building up their own resentment as they spend night after night alone on the couch feeling lonely and disconnected; wishing their spouse could just “be more easy-going” and “relax” more to enjoy time together instead of worrying about everything being so clean all of the time.
If this does not get resolved or discussed relatively early on, this can snowball into both people holding in a lot of negative thoughts and emotions toward their partner. This results in emotional disconnect and oftentimes some passive-aggressive communication such as the spouse who likes to clean every night slamming the kitchen cabinets as they put the dishes away, or muttering sarcastically under their breath “must be nice to be able to sit down and relax watching TV after work as they pass their spouse with a newly folded load of laundry in their hands.
Or, the other spouse withholding sex, thinking “fine, he/she doesn’t want to spend time with me all night and then thinks he/she can just come to bed and have sex with me. I’ll show him/her how it feels to be left alone”.
This brings up the topics of communication, sex, and discussing others needs and expectations for how they want to spend time: alone, together, with friends and with family.
Finances are another are that need to be discussed. If someone is a saver and someone else is a spender, this can be the cause of real trouble. Have they discussed a budget and if they are going to have a joint account or separate accounts? Do they have to discuss every purchase with one another before they make it, or can they spend freely?
Have they discussed such things as their future goals and dreams? Their careers? Visions for retirement? Where they ultimately want to live and in what type of home?
So, let me ask you…who do you think has a better chance of having a happy, healthy marriage? A couple who has gone to premarital counseling and discussed and worked out these major issues before saying “I do” or one who hasn’t?
Just something to think about.