I may have flogged the topic a little too much but with marriage, you can’t get enough. It is the deepest and potentially the most fulfilling of all human relationships, but it is also one of the most demanding. No one is ready for the journey ahead; not even marriage counseling or a lifetime of teaching from parents can take away these jitters couples face when they get to this stage.
Addressing common issues. The beginning of a relationship is a time of great excitement. You are on the verge of something wonderful and you cannot wait to be with your beloved. No matter how crazy you are about each other, it is best to bring a little practicality into the picture too. Life values, spiritual leanings, dreams and aspirations for the future and major career goals are just some of the many things that couples should discuss thoroughly before tying the knot. Even getting to know your partner’s likes and dislikes in food is a significant aspect of sharing a life. What and how you eat every day will determine your family’s routine and even your way of socialising with your partner’s family and friends. Though these are all topics you may have covered before, going through them as part of marriage preparation will help you deal with them in a more objective manner, as well as cover any area that needs more work, like when your socialising impulses clash with your partner’s homely nature or when spending holidays in a cross-cultural marriage might pose certain problems.
Financial planning. While no one minds having money, how a person wishes to use it tells a lot about his or her priorities in life. Your future spouse may be a builder and believe in saving money for a rainy day. On the other hand, he or she may want to live life to the fullest when young and not wait for an indefinite future. Various other factors also come into play here – your fiancé’s parents’ attitude to money, the level of comforts he or she has been used to since childhood or any major financial crisis in the past. Discussing each other’s financial goals, habits and attitude to money is imperative if your marriage is to be a success. But very often, either partners are not fully informed about various aspects of marital financial planning or they have contrary approaches to finances. In such circumstances the only fruitful discussion that can take place, is in the context of pre-marital sessions. This is because the counselor is not only well versed in various aspects of financial planning, but is especially tuned to relationship dynamics when it comes to money management. Marriage preparation classes can help partners to set financial goals as a couple, identify problematic financial habits and work to resolve them as well as suggest ways of saving for the future.
Raising a family. Whether and when to raise a family is one of the major life decisions facing every couple about to be married. Knowing what your partner feels about having children is extremely important so that neither or you end up taking a decision that is contrary to your partner’s deepest needs. Even if both of you agree on raising a family, you need to agree on when would be the right time. Because of the complex nature of the issue – covering but not limited to sex, pregnancy, child-rearing responsibilities and availability financial resources – often such discussions can get mired in subjective or idealistic attitudes. Premarital counseling on the other hand can give you an outside perspective on such complex matters and your relationship in general besides showing you the way to make it last.
How to communicate. While pre-marital counseling can help you identify problem areas and suggest ways to resolve them before marriage, it cannot function as a 24/7 helpline after your wedding that you can call anytime when you and your partner have a fight. Instead what such marriage preparation sessions will do is to show you and your partner the fundamentals of effective communication so that you can resolve your own issues, as and when they crop up in your marriage. People are not born with good communication skills and a good many never bother to learn such skills. But since most marriages fail due to communication issues, learning how to talk and listen to your partner could well be the tool that saves your marriage in future. Communicating effectively is much more than asking your partner about his/her day or reminding him/her to pick up the kids from school. It includes having a meaningful exchange of thoughts, feelings, hopes and anxieties which may or may not be directly related to the relationship but is bound to have some impact on it in the long run.
How to resolve conflicts. In fact one of the biggest uses of learning to communicate effectively is in the area of resolving conflict. All relationships have their own share of disagreements. In fact only a relationship that is neither free nor equal would be completely devoid of arguments. The thing however is to make efforts to resolve the issue instead of sweeping things under the carpet or pretends that it is not there. In fact sometimes it is even better to thrash out issues but here a couple should know how to fight right and according to certain rules. And it is this that a pre-marital counselor will teach you and your partner. Avoiding personal attacks and emotional blackmails, using “I feel…” statements rather than the more accusatory “You never/always do this”, stopping a vicious cycle of blame and defensiveness, sticking to present issues and setting boundaries are all essential techniques of conflict resolution that you can pick up in a marriage preparatory session.
Family dynamics. Unhealthy Family dynamics are one of the most significant causes of divorces. When a partner is unable to shake off excessive influence or malicious interference from parents or other relatives, there are bound to be problems in his/her marriage. Sometimes a person is not willing or able to do the important step of individuating and creating a new family – in the process his/her partner can be very lonely in a marriage with the result resentment and anger can build up quickly. If anything like this threatens your future marriage too, then couples counseling can help you both understand the need for boundaries and how to create them for yourselves.
Though marriage preparation is always a good idea before tying the knot, you need to choose a counselor who is experienced and well-qualified. If a couple goes to a marriage counselor, who is not particularly skilled at conflict resolution, the couple may end up arguing over an issue raised in the counseling and then even calling the wedding off. A skilled marriage counselor should be well aware of the issues that tend to cause divorce and should also be skilled at properly addressing those issues. Finally like all services, marriage preparation sessions can be expensive and add yet another item to your total wedding cost. The best way to overcome these problems is to do your research thoroughly so that you can find a pre-nuptial counselor who knows his/her job – this way only a minimum number of sessions will suffice to help you and your partner pick up skills that would serve your marriage a lifetime.
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