Premarital counseling is a preventative tool, a way to maintain a healthy connection in the relationship and create a lasting commitment through effective communication. Relationships are like an investment: the more you put into it, the more it will grow and mature. The more it grows and matures, the more you get out of it. Statistics show that nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce (US Census Bureau, February 2002), thus premarital counseling is a way to help couples stay out of this terrible percentage of divorce.
Thinking about Premarital Therapy? If you are thinking about counseling, here are my recommendations in finding a therapist.
How to Find a Premarital Counselor:
- Do your Research: With our current online resources, you have access to finding the best therapist for you. Do your research by learning about each therapist. Pay attention to how comfortable you feel with each therapist. Pay attention to how they work as a therapist, along with the comfort level you have with their photo and website. I believe a website represents who we are as therapists.
- Contact 3 to 4 Relationship Counselors: Contact 2 to 3 therapists that you are interested in and interview how they work as therapists. Take notes on each therapist, keep track of your comfort level. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are specialized in relationships and communicating. I highly recommend using a therapist specifically trained in relationships. Remember, therapists are often in sessions, so it may take a few days to contact each one via telephone.
- Interview the Therapist: The premarital and relationship expert market is full and can be overwhelming. Ask the psychotherapist what their specialty is and the experience they have working with premarital counseling. This is your time to interview and weed out the therapists that you like and do not like.
- Comfort with the Therapist: As I mentioned earlier, comfort level is important. While interviewing the therapist, the most important thing to keep in mind is your comfort level. Do you feel comfortable speaking with the therapist? Do you feel like the therapist understands you and can provide what you want? Remember, you will be in the office with the therapist, talking about personal issues.
- Fees: Be honest with yourself and determine what you are willing to invest in the relationship. Your relationship is the foundation and everything else is positively or negatively impacted by it. If you can’t afford a therapist’s fee, ask if they have a sliding scale (a lower fee slot) or if they have any recommendations. I believe that “one size does not fit all” for therapists, so don’t pick one based off of “cheapest price.” Your relationship matters, so make the therapy worth your time, energy, and money.
Questions to Ask & Address Before You Say “I Do”
There are thousands of questions that we can go through before getting married, but I chose the main issues that I continue to see couples struggle with. Having a game plan before you get married suppress the sometimes overwhelming feeling of, “am I making the right decision?” and will allow you and your future spouse to feel so connected and tightly knit that nothing can get break the everlasting bond you are about to enter.
Go through the following questions together. Answer the questions and discuss the answers as a couple. Use this time to build the tighter bond and try to hear the big message. These are great ways to know how to respond to one another, understand the pieces you two can work on, and know what makes your partner tick.
Laughter is such a great way to feel connected, be playful, and step out of the daily grind of life. How is laughter important in your life? Do you tease and laugh as your way to feel connected? Or is laughter and “letting lose” difficult to do? What things do you enjoy that help you laugh, enjoy your day, and relax? How would you like to see your future as a couple with laughter and fun?
Emotional safety is the key to all relationships. When the foundation is strong, the relationship can grow and build a beautiful future. What characteristics or behaviors does your partner do to reassure you that you matter to them? What helps you know that your partner is there for you….through thick and thin? What things do you try to do for your partner to reassure that you are there for them? What would you like to see more of to help you feel important and that you matter?
Affection and Love:
Affection is shown in various ways, such as cooking a nice meal, bringing home the “bacon,” or buying their favorite candy at the store. How do you express love and affection? How was love and affection shown to you growing up? And what would you like to see more from your partner on a daily basis?
Money is often a rough topic for most couples because it is can be very overwhelming. Would you like your finances to be together or separate? If you haven’t blended your finances yet, how would you like to handle the money? Would you two like to blend your accounts, keep money separate, or have both? What would help you two feel more like a team and more of a family when it comes to finances? Who will pay the bills and be responsible for items to get paid?
Let’s keep it real….conflict happens with all couples. If or when conflict arises, how would you two like to address conflict? What are your roles and how you handle the conflict? Does one person shut down/freeze up while the other gets verbally talkative? What is your first reaction when you feel disconnected or misunderstood? What would be helpful for you to address it to one another? Discuss helpful approaches, “key word,” or ways to show that you two are a team while navigating through rough times. Keep in mind reassuring one another that you will get through the challenge as a couple.
Yep….here it is! This topic of the in-laws can either be a smooth non-issue and other times a disaster. What things may be a possible struggle in the future when it comes to the in-laws? What does your partner currently do that helps you feel comfortable or understood when it comes to your in-laws? What would help you feel more comfortable when dealing with your in-laws during the wedding? Discuss a plan of attack on handling family issues with the wedding and find a way to keep you two tightly connected during the wedding.
Child rearing isn’t a “must know now” type of decision, but there does need to be some sort of clarity on wanting children or not. Do you two want to have kids (this can also include pets) or do you see your future without kids? If so, how many and roughly around what time frame? Would adoption be an option for you two if you can’t biologically have a child? What are some parenting styles that you grew up with that you liked, disliked, and hated?
To have strong bond also requires having a strong self-worth. What helps you feel good about yourself, feel confident in your own skin, and gets you thriving? Is there anything special that your partner may need to know about what makes you tick? Is going to the gym a MUST, or does getting ready with loud music how you wake up and get ready for your day? What are you personal struggles that you are working through? For example, if your body is continually an issue and you are battling it. Share with them how it impacts you. What could your partner do to be of assistance with this?
Goals are great to help get movement in life and to have a direction. What are your….personal goals? Business goals? Family goals? Relationship goals?
Stress is something that is in our world and doesn’t really go away. What helps you de-stress? What are your differences with how you both de-stressing? How do you handle stress and how might your partner know that you are overwhelmed? What would be helpful for your partner to know or do when you are stressed? What is a way that you can let your partner know that you are overwhelmed?
Advice on how to handle controlling relatives and pushy parents:
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Are pushy relatives ruining your wedding planning? Sometimes a parent, sibling, or other close family member with too many strong opinions can take what should be a fun time in your life and turn it into a nightmare! While they might mean well, if your family is telling you where to get married, dissing your dress, and demanding to sit at the head table, your whole wedding experience is in jeopardy. In order to keep your sanity intact, and retain your familial relationships, it’s important to learn how to deal with over-reaching loved ones.
Be Honest, But Kind
When you have a pushy relative, don’t avoid it. Your frustration will only brew and fester until you boil over like a tea kettle! One day you will just snap and wind up in a major fight that could have been avoided. Tell your loved ones that you know they only want the best for you, but you feel like you are missing out on the wedding planning experience because you’re not allowed to make your own decisions. You can be honest without being brutal. For instance, if your mother is pushing you to get a certain wedding dress, explain exactly why you are not comfortable with it and how much it means to you to have YOUR perfect dress on your wedding day. Be firm when you speak, without name calling or screeching, and repeat yourself if necessary until your message is heard. Make your boundaries clear, so there is no confusion about how much advice you appreciate, and when it’s too much for comfort.
Be Prepared to Foot Your Own Bill
Sometimes relatives feel they have the right to guide your wedding decisions because they are helping you pay for the event. Like it or not, in order to stop a pushy relative from offering her opinions, you may have to return her donation. If the money comes with too many strings attached, it might be less stressful to just foot the bill yourself so you can salvage a familial relationship.
Visit Vendors Alone
If your future mother-in-law isn’t at the flower shop with you, she can’t spend 20 minutes trying to talk you into ugly flowers. Leave your pushy relative out of visits to wedding vendors if necessary. Explain that you and the groom wanted to make the decision without any outside opinions. If her feelings are hurt, explain that your intention was not to make her feel left out, but that you wanted to make all final decisions as a couple as practice for how you will compromise and make choices as a couple once you’re married.
Assign a Buffer
If it’s not possible to leave the pushy relative out of the visit to a dress shop or other vendor, bring along a close friend to serve as a buffer. The buffer can temper the atmosphere if things get a little tense, or “just so happen” to distract the pushy relative at the exact moment you need her out of your hair. The buffer should be someone who won’t add to the confusion, and is good at diffusing tough situations. Having a buffer is also a good idea at your wedding – the buffer can chat up the pushy relative if she’s in the way or calm her down when she tries to tackle the caterer.
Learning to cope with a pushy relative will be best for everyone in the long run. You won’t fill with angst and steam until you have a break down, and your family member can’t claim that you never told her she was being overly pushy if she finds out you told someone else she crossed the line. Remember — even thougth family can drive us crazy sometimes, they are also an important support system. Don’t burn any bridges during your wedding planning, because once it’s over you still want to be invited over for Thanksgiving!
Need more advice for coping with the stress of a pushy relative? Give me a call and make an appointment, or schedule online.