Should Premarital Counseling be Mandatory Before Marriage?
A lot of planning happens leading up to the days, weeks, months, and sometimes years of a wedding. But what about planning to be prepared for life after marriage? Preparing for marriage involves more than throwing a party to celebrate an engagement. At one point in time I didn’t really believe that premarital counseling was important. After all if 2 people fall in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together, outside forces should just keep out right!?
My opinion on premarital counseling has changed drastically. I believe that you should know upfront what you are getting into and what your mate’s thoughts are about marriage, because it’s for the rest of your natural life. Also, statics prove that 50% of all marriages in America will end in divorce. That’s a scary statistic! Top reasons included: Poor Communication, Finances, Abuse, Loss Attraction, Infidelity.
One day I was at family court and as I was waiting, I noticed a lady walked in accompanied by her sister. She looked worried and nervous. They both sat and waited for the attorney to come out and get them. As they went into the room with the attorney, I noticed a gentleman walked in with a large back pack and walking next to him was his attorney. He looked very anxious and was worried that he may not be able to take his oversize backpack (filled with documents) into the courtroom. I read the court docket that was posted on the bulletin board for the day and there were their names, “Mr. Almost and Mrs. Pretty Close”. I thought to myself, what could have caused the demise of their marriage? Never the less they both went into the court room and about 30 minutes later they exited. From the looks on their faces, I could see both sadness and relief that it was over and they both left out of the courthouse very quickly.
A few minutes later, I noticed this young couple that walked in with big smiles on their faces, holding hands. They walked up to the counter and happily told the clerk that they were there to apply for a marriage license. I thought to myself, awww they look so in love and innocent. Then my thoughts quickly turned into sadness, because the same place that brings couple together also separates them. Then I began to wonder, what if before marriage, all couples were required to attend marriage counseling that shows them a real glimpse of the 2 possible outcomes for their marriage (together forever or divorced). What if all couples had to attend a divorce decree hearing and listen to first hand testimony of a couple that was once happy and in love?
I believe that premarital counseling should be required for all couples prior to marriage because love can be blind. There are rough patches in every relationship, but when it get’s difficult what skills do couples have to make it work?
Some questions/topics I have for premarital counseling:
- What are some bumps that every married couple face, but are not truly prepared for?
- What does good communication and conflict resolution look like (Nobody is sleeping on the couch!)?
- What are some hot buttons we both have and what happens when they are pushed?
- Do we have unresolved issues within the relationship right now?
- What are some clear goals we have for the marriage?
- How do you deal with your partner who was raised with different values or beliefs from you?
- How do you handle finances if you like to spend and your partner likes to save for a rainy day?
- Will there be one big money pot with access to both of us, along with separate savings accounts or will there be secret accounts (Hmmmm, I know some couples with secret stashes because they split everything evenly like a business transaction)?
- Does she/he expect intimacy every night (lol)?
- What do you do when the honeymoon phase wears off and the hugs and kisses stop flowing?
- What do you do when faced with “in sickness
and in health”?
- What are your spiritual beliefs and practices, and how will we include them in our life (I love Jesus, no working around that one for me!)?
- How often do you want to have date nights / vacations?
- What do you do if you see another side of your spouse after getting married and living under the same roof?
Let’s be real… Life is filled with many uncertainties and on top of that when we enter into relationships we bring our own values, opinions and history into a relationship, and they might not always match our partner’s. I am now a big advocate for premarital counseling because I believe it can help couples improve their ability to communicate, set realistic expectations for marriage and develop conflict-resolution skills.