Written by: Caitlin Edwards.
I was talking to a friend recently about our practice and I mentioned that we offer premarital counseling. They were surprised and asked why couples would need to come to therapy if they were just starting out and did not experience any issues or problems. This led to me to think that this might be a question from other people, our clients included. So, in typical therapist fashion, I’m going to answer this question with additional questions:
Is your relationship in peak condition?
Many couples feel ready to get married about two to three years into their relationship. Research demonstrates that this is when we began to truly feel safe and secure in our relationships, so this timeline makes sense. However, most couples have experienced a few bumps (and/or some mountains) before this time. So, before agreeing “’til death do us part,” it makes sense to ask yourselves how you have navigated those rough times and what it has meant for your relationship. Many couples agree that a mutual struggle can increase close feelings in a relationship, but others leave rough seas feeling fractured or disconnected. If these rough patches have brought you closer, ask yourselves how that occurred so you can be prepared going forward. If you are uncertain, it may be helpful to consult a therapist to make these ways of interacting explicit. If the struggles you have faced have resulted in resentments or feelings of distance, it also would be worthwhile to explore those prior to tying the knot to ensure safe navigation going forward.
Have you left your past in the past?
Most of my clients do not marry the first person they end up in a relationship with—can you imagine marrying your middle school crush? As such, many of us carry some sort of baggage from past relationships, whether it be a small bag or an eight-piece luggage set. Although some issues may never be completely resolved, it makes the most sense to know what these issues are and how they are affecting you in your current relationship. It also can be helpful to clearly hear from your partner what has happened in their past that they worry may happen again—being proactive rather than reactive can go a long way in creating a long-lasting relationship. Again, counseling can help to illustrate this and help that eight-piece luggage set become just a small carry on bag.
Are you your best self?
Throughout my career, both in women’s health and as a counselor, I have run into people looking for their relationship to ‘solve’ something. Marriage does not solve anything inter-personally (although it may help with tax benefits). As such, I recommend focusing on self-improvement before walking down the aisle. Entering a relationship to “get” rather than to “give” may wind up hurting both you and your partner. However, if you walk down the isle feeling like the best version of you is marrying the best version of them, you are staring with a strong foundation. Both individual and couple therapy can help to answer these questions.
Who will the two of you be in the future?
Although we cannot predict the future, we can do our best to try to know who we want to be, as well as who our partner wants to be, in the future. Have the two of you talked about dreams and goals? Are you able to resolve conflict? How do you connect? How good is your communication? Answers to these questions now are likely to indicate what your relationship will look like in the future—and if you’re reading this and thinking your answer is more along the side of ‘not good’ rather than ‘great!’ premarital counseling may be right for you.
I will end with something deeply personal….
I spent eight years working in women’s healthcare. I made a lot of friends along the way, some of whom I am still very close to. One of the nurses I worked with was a truly outstanding mentor in many areas of my life, including my romantic relationship. One day, after I was voicing some struggles I was currently having, she turned to me and asked: ‘is this someone you want to suffer with?’ This question has stuck with me, and something I routinely ask the couples I see. So, my parting thoughts regarding premarital therapy: have you answered the question of whether you truly want to suffer alongside your partner? Is this the person you want to weather storms with? If you are uncertain, it may be time to seek extra help.
For more information on our services, click here: Premarital Therapy