The Gift of Premarital Counseling for Modern Relationships

Whether you’ve been together a couple of years or many years….

Whether you’ve lived separately or together…

Whether you’re in a heterosexual or a same sex relationship…

Whether you’ve never been married before or this is your second or third time…

Premarital Counseling is a gift to give yourselves and your relationship. 

You might be wondering why anyone would want to participate in premarital counseling—isn’t it just a “test” that clergy put you though to see if you’re a good fit?  Or is there some test related to sex?  Perhaps it’s always seemed like a way to get people to join a faith community. 

Contemporary premarital counseling is much less about rules, regulations, or membership, and much more about creating an intentional space to cultivate your couple culture.  Premarital counseling is like research and preparation you do before venturing to a foreign country.  Because in many ways—each marriage is just that—a foreign country.  It is a country that will be settled by the two of you.  Its culture will be created and generated by the two of you.  Premarital Counseling is the time to have intentional conversations about what really matters to each of you in the presence of a third person that can help each of you. 

 Premarital counseling also provides you with a person to help you keep your eyes on the marriage—ultimately that is what your wedding day is about—your marriage.  In today’s consumer driven world, it is easy to get lost in the whirlwind of wedding upgrades and additions.  Premarital counseling becomes a grounding place for the two of you to share your hopes and desires—for your marriage and then to be specific about how those hopes and desire can be lived out on your wedding day.  With an idea of your values, a budget, and a third party to assist you in reaming true to your intentions, the two of you can sail through the whirlwind toward your destination of marriage.

 As you move toward your destination, premarital counseling will also assist you in what to bring with you from the past.  In addition to the whirlwind of the wedding industry, weddings tend to stir up storms in your families of origin.  Weddings are big moments for the whole family, and well meaning relatives often have well-meaning pieces of advice to assist you in your big day.  Premarital counseling is a place for you and your beloved to share openly about these challenges.  It also provides safe space for the two of you to discuss what traditions and rituals to bring into your new territory and which traditions you wish to bless and release. 

 If you are engaged, give yourself and your relationship, the gift of premarital counseling.  To learn more about premarital counseling and to schedule a complimentary consultation, contact me.

 

Premarital Counseling

All Couples Give Birth at Their Weddings

Congratulations—You’re about to have your first baby!

This is one of the little sayings I sometimes suggest to couples in the homily at their wedding. Sure, the sentence gets everyone to perk up a little bit. Sure, it can make for a little surprise. It both builds suspense and takes the edge of anxiety.  Beyond those reasons, I say this because I want to help all of us recognize that what’s about to happen is truly the creation of a new life—the marital relationship.

There are numerous unity rituals to mark this creation…whether water, sand, or fire…we have visual symbols to represent this “third thing” between the couple.   But like so many parts of life, that which is invisible, the actual relationship itself, can easily be forgotten, neglected, and taken for granted.

When an infant enters your family, there is no denying her presence. When an infant graces your home, there is no way to ignore the need for food, changing, attention and love. There are a myriad of cries to get your attention.  Overtime, you learn to disinguish their sounds.

A marriage may not be so obvious in its needs, but it, too, cries out for attention. When couples find themselves engaging the vicious cycle of blame and withdraw, a marriage cries out. When days go by without an honest connection, a marriage cries out. When time and energy are continually taken by both and not replaced, a marriage cries out. Also, like an infant, a marital relationship does not have a voice to articulate that it’s hungry, thirsty, or in need of a little TLC. And, like with parents, the couple needs to listen and look for the cries and attend to them.

Imagine if we all entered our marriages honoring the relationship as if it were a newborn. Imagine if we recognized that our marriage, like growing humans, go through stages of growth and change.

Marriage is a Cross Cultural Experience

In the fall of 2007, I prepared for my first trip to India as part of my seminary studies. Part of the preparation entailed a class to study about Indian culture, customs, faith traditions, etc…Although our professor attempted to help us dig deeper in our preparation, often our conversation veered in the direction of what would our housing arrangements be like and what would happen if we fell prey to “Deli Belly”? With anxiety about the unknown, truly exploring all the cacophony of social, political, religious, and even dialectical voices we would engage was not always possible. Like so many journeys, the readings only seemed to make more sense in hindsight. Once we’d had our feet on the ground and our bodies amid a population of people.

In many ways I find premarital coaching and counseling like preparing for a cross-cultural experience. Even when you’ve lived together and known each other’s families, there are elements of “making family” that do not fully appear until after the I Do.   It might not be until you’re knee deep in planning to host your first Thanksgiving feast, that you realize that perhaps you and your beloved truly do not think, feel, see, and understand the world the same.   Suddenly, a favorite holiday becomes a window into the cross-cultural divide between your two worlds. Even couples who grow up in similar ethnic, socio-economic, and geographic regions speak different familial dialects. One of the joys and challenges of long-term relationships is learning each other’s dialects and in many sense creating a new, unique dialect that is all your own.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman, who believe that we have our own unique love maps, emphasize this idea. These maps are a metaphor for your partner’s world—their inner and outer terrain. The Gottmans discovered that knowing the in’s and out’s of what makes your beloved tick is one of the keys to successful marriages and long-term relationships. Recognizing that relationships are like a cross-cultural experience and seeing this as a time to learn and explore rather than fight or retreat is the challenge.

So in many respects, premarital coaching is an intentional time to get to know your future spouse’s love map in more depth. It is a time to affirm the ways and places your maps complement and resonate with each other and to lift up places that might have more rugged terrain. It’s a time recognize that your beloved is a deep, complex, and multifaceted person that you will continue to know more fully.

Premarital counseling and coaching can transform the focus from one day to the dreaming about the rest of your lives.