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There is so much to plan before the big day. What has been happening more and more often is couples who are about to enter marriage or civil partnership are now being open to pre-wedding therapy. Not always because they are experiencing issues, but because they fear that going into this new contract might bring about changes that one or neither of them feel ready for. Sometimes, people enter into therapy as they want to discuss some issues that they already foresee as becoming a bigger problem as time goes on.
- gender roles
- events that may have happened prior that need to be discussed (affairs, etc)
The subject of money can be tricky. Many couples do not discuss the matter for fear of sounding materialistic or intruding, however joint finances before entering into the contract of marriage or civil partnership should be open for discussion. Credit ratings, old debts, whether to have a joint account, and earnings are integral to issues around trust, stability, and worth. One of the major reasons marriages fail is down to money. There is no reason why your partnership should go the same way if couples discuss grey areas around finances early on.
If there are any gender roles that are damaging the relationship (the main breadwinner and a homemaker role), these may need to be talked through, as not everyone wants these traditional roles in marriage. Being a main breadwinner can cause resentment, especially if you do not enjoy your job, as you may want to take a step back from work but find your relationship doesn’t allow for that. Being the person who has to do the lion share of the household chores causes many rows, as it is unpaid work and can be unappreciated. Why should you have to conform to these roles if you don’t want to?!
Children, the little darlings! Do you want them? If so, how many? Would you prefer to adopt or have you felt that it is something that doesn’t feature in your plans? None of this is a problem, providing you both agree. If you do decide to have children, will they go to private school? How will you raise or discipline? Again, none of the above are areas that can’t be discussed and worked through. The same can be said about religion. Is the expectation that one of you convert, and have you decided whether your children will have any religion or faith?
Many couples (especially those who haven’t really seen a healthy relationship in their childhood and adult lives) struggle to understand what a good coupling resembles. They look for social media, memes, and other people's societal constructs as to what they think they should expect. This is both unrealistic and setting yourself and your relationship up to fail. No one ever posts the not so nice stuff. Your friends won’t necessarily admit if they and their partner are experiencing problems, and being married for a long time isn’t an achievement if one or both of you are miserable. Going to couples therapy will help dispel the myths about what you think your relationship should look like, and get you to cohabit realistically in a marriage that works for you both.
The main thing that comes up in pre-marital therapy is communication. To be more specific, how you both communicate with each other when in conflict. This goes back to how you were raised to communicate. Whether you placate then feel resentful, whether you get into a rage then are always apologising (even if you originally had a point), or perhaps you never say when something is bothering you and then act out in other ways (chatting up other people, avoiding home, or becoming embroiled in a hobby that takes you away from spending time together). Old habits can be hard to change, but when entering into the partnership of marriage, negotiating how you discuss problems can help the relationships' longevity.
Choosing a couples counsellor before you get married is a great way to discuss these difficult topics, as the therapist is impartial, not known to either of you, and will help you resolve any conflict. A good couples therapist won’t be concerned with how society views relationships, but will be more concerned with what you want in your relationship. What other people may think is irrelevant you both think is paramount, as it is you both that have to make the relationship work behind closed doors not just for Instagram.
Pre-wedding therapy doesn’t always have to end once you get married, but it often does, as you have the opportunity to try and test the skills you have developed whilst in counselling. You can always return if you are struggling, but hopefully you won’t need to.
If you take anything from this short piece, I hope that it is that many couples have issues before they get engaged and after the engagement party. Being married won’t automatically change how you are with each other or banish any problems you may have had before. To change the way you are with each other can take more effort with a third impartial person to help guide you through it. Going into pre-wedding therapy isn’t something to be ashamed of. Try to see it as a way of putting in protective measures to safeguard your marriage and to help you both have the relationship you want moving forward.