Before Saying “I Do,” Many Couples Are Seeking Pre-Marital Counseling
We offer personalized one-on-one premarital counseling
Pre-marital counseling may be on its way to becoming as commonplace as driver’s training. In fact, Florida now encourages couples to attend marriage prep by giving those who get counseling a reduction in their marriage license fee.
“A relationship is like a garden,” says Dr. John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. “If it is to thrive, it must be watered regularly. New seeds must be sown, and weeds must be pulled. Similiarly, to keep the magic of love alive, we must understand its seasons and nurture love’s special needs.
When Marie and Sam got engaged, they decided to work on their marriage, not just their wedding. Marie, 34, had five sisters and brothers and grew up in a Catholic family. Sam, 36, was an only child, adored by his parents in a doting Jewish family. They were grappling with several issues, among them the religion of their future children.
Once we started counseling,” Marie said, “I felt like I was being heard, and we were making in-roads. That made me feel safe to bring up other concerns. Now I feel much more confident about our future.”
Studies have found that couples who are intimately familiar with each other’s emotional worlds are better prepared to cope with conflict.
All couples have disagreements. How they manage conflict distinguishes satisfied partners from miserable ones.
Getting married without pre-marital preparation is like starting a business or any important venture without preparing. Half of all marriages end in divorce and only half of those that endure are truly happy in the long run. Some mistakenly believe that if they just wing it and count on luck and romantic attachment, they will be prepared for marriage. Also, research shows that co-habiting couples have no better chance at marriage success than others.
Unhappy couples and those who divorce tend to resort to what John Gottman, a Seattle psychologist and a pioneer in the study of marital behavior, calls “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”– criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. They get stuck in negative, destructive patterns, have fewer positive interactions than happy couples, and are unable to resolve problems.
Pre-marital counseling teaches self-awareness and empathy coupled with communication and conflict resolution skills. Couples learn to communicate effectively while avoiding destructive tactics like name-calling and withdrawal.
Often couples are so busy preparing for the ceremony that the relationship is put on the back burner. Sometimes just mentioning pre-marital counseling to the blissful bride and groom to be elicits a dumbstruck response: “But we’re so happy. How could anything go wrong?”
Neurobiologists have discovered a chemical released in the brain when a couple falls in love. This chemical, phenylethlamine, functions like an amphetamine, thus explaining superhuman feelings, such as: “I feel like I can walk on air.” “The grass is greener.” “The sky is bluer.” During this stage, couples never seem to tire of one another.
Unfortunately, phenylethlamine highs cannot last. The body builds up a tolerance. Neurobiologists say it takes about four years for the chemical to run its course. Once the chemical is gone, the couple is faced with experiencing the relationship with their own basic brain chemistry.
Statistically, couples who received pre-marital counseling weathered the storms of the first year of marriage much better than couples who did not receive it.
While many engaged couples seek counseling to better enjoy each other and reduce the risk of future problems, we also see couples in long-term committed relationships.
According to marriage research, pre-marital counseling can reduce the risk of divorce by up to thirty percent and lead to a significantly happier marriage.
Pre-marital counseling offers an opportunity to explore expectations, compatibility, values, and long-term goals.
Topics may include:
- Division of chores
- How many children to have
- Religious perspectives
- Living arrangements
- Anxiety about commitment
- Unspoken issues that might have corroded the relationship
Research shows there is a window of opportunity a year before the wedding and six months after when couples get the optimum benefit from marriage counseling. Later, under stress, negative habits and relationship patterns develop, become entrenched, and are harder to erase.
According to marriage research, good, skill-based pre-marital counseling can reduce the risk of divorce by thirty percent and lead to a significantly happier marriage. It can also reduce the stress of the pre-wedding period. Just a little effort now can make your odds a lot better over the long run.
John was close to breaking his engagement with Susan when, in a desparate attempt to save the relationship, she suggested pre-marital counseling. John and Susan were amazed to discover that pre-marital counseling helped them not only to heal the rift but also to feel closer than ever.
Pre-marital counseling enables couples to strengthen their bond and more fully enjoy each other as they walk down the aisle.
We help our clients to create super marriages. Take the first step. Pick up the phone and call. We’re here to help you: 1-888-242-1720
Arlene Foreman, M.S. & The Counselors at Philadelphia Area Couples Counseling Alliance
Relationship Counseling and Couples Counseling
Marriage Counselors located in the Philadelphia Area including:
Havertown, Bryn Mawr PA, Rosemont, Narberth, Upper Darby, Wynnewood, Gladwyne, Bala Cynwyd, King of Prussia, Blue Bell PA, the Main Line, Manayunk, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County and Montgomery County.