Perfect couples don’t need therapy, right? This couldn’t be further from the truth: if you’re willing to take pre-emptive action to strengthen your relationship, this is a good sign for your marriage, not a bad one! So, whether you choose premarital counseling online or alternatively opt to see a therapist in person, this form of therapy can benefit any relationship – not just couples who are already experiencing conflict.
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What is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling is a form of talk therapy that’s designed to help couples prepare for their marriage and subsequent life together. This process is facilitated by a trained professional and while some therapists will want to get to know you as individuals first, others start with both of you in session together from the start. Premarital counseling usually involves a focus on the communication styles and the specific emotional needs of each person; whilst also discussing your practical plans for the future and helping you to develop conflict resolution skills for when differences arise.
Why Premarital Counseling?
Having premarital counseling is like rehearsing a fire drill. By developing your knowledge of yourself as individuals and as a couple – and by considering any future disagreements that might arise – you’re training yourself to put out the flames as soon as they start to show. Furthermore, when attending premarital counseling online or in person, you’re familiarizing yourself with what therapy is and how it can help you. This way, you’re more likely to call on a professional for input if it’s ever needed later down the line.
Below we discuss 9 questions that should be considered by any couple that wants their relationship to stand the test of time. By considering these questions ahead of time in the presence of a trained professional, you’ll strengthen your bond by making sure that you both have a sense of where the other stands. In this way, you’re likely to avoid a lot of unnecessary tension and heartache later down the line.
1. How do We Handle Family Stress?
Stress happens. This is a simple fact of life, whether it’s something short-term like a tough day in the office or something more enduring like serious debt or a chronic illness. Whatever the situation, individual stress is family stress – when one person is affected, the entire family is likely to feel some of the impact.
Premarital counseling helps you to understand how you respond and cope as individuals and as a couple. Do you speak out and ask for support, or do you bottle up your emotions until a blow-out occurs? Is either of you prone to engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms that might have a negative impact on the other, including gambling or substance use? Could one of you assist by becoming more responsive to the other when they’re stressed; and could either of you benefit by developing some healthier coping strategies?
2. How do We Handle Family Finances?
Money may well make the world go around, but how does it affect a marriage? There are several possible financial road-bumps that should be preemptively discussed because while this topic may sound practical in nature, financial choices tend to be highly charged from an emotional standpoint.
For example, what happens if one of you is the saver and the other is the spender? What if you disagree about the extent to which you should be setting aside funds for a rainy day versus spending enough to enjoy life in the moment? Who’s going to be earning more and will this create feelings of guilt or resentment in either of you? Will your bank accounts be joint or remain separate?
3. How do We Handle Family Decisions?
Transitioning from being free-spirited roamers to committed lovers means sacrificing the privilege of being able to completely drive your own destinies. In exchange for this freedom, you receive love, security, commitment, and connection. For some, however, it can be jarring to suddenly realize that you can no longer make life-changing decisions without considering the impact that this will have on your other half.
It’s important, then, to consider the choices that will need to be made about where you’ll live, the sort of house you’ll reside in, whether you’ll have children and generally what your life together will look like. If you have largely differing desires, it’s important to discuss this and try to find a compromise earlier rather than later.
4. Should We Have Kids?
While some people have wanted to be parents since the time they were children themselves, others fear the responsibility and commitment, worrying that a child will get in between them and their career or lover. People who are denied the opportunity to have a child by their partners may experience immense anger and regret as a result. Disagreements about child-bearing have the potential to end even the strongest of long-term relationships. It’s incredibly important, therefore, to speak about children early on. One need not necessarily decide in the moment whether you’ll have kids or not, but it’s important for each of you to start thinking about one another’s hopes and expectations in this regard.
5. How do We Handle Jobs and Careers?
Most of us spend a considerable proportion of our lives working, so this is a topic that’s worth raising with your betrothed. You may find, for example, that for one of you a career is central to their identity; whereas for the other it may simply be a means to a paycheck. Would you be willing to move homes or countries for their career opportunity? What if it was you that was offered your dream job in another city, but your partner wasn’t open to moving? Would your partner understand if you put extra time into your work because of a sense of pride and ambition; would you understand if your partner was hurt by your tendency to repeatedly choose work time over family time?
6. How do We Handle Personal Space?
A healthy marriage is characterized by two people who can be united without sacrificing too much of what makes them different. It’s important, then, that each of you encourage and allow for personal space and time spent apart. For many people, this may be a simple matter of having a weekly get-together with your own friends, enjoying a yoga class or going to see a movie solo.
If you’re likely to feel rejected or neglected when your partner takes time to themselves, it’s important to explore these feelings and speak openly about them instead of letting the resentment build. Premarital counseling online or face-to-face with a therapist can provide a safe setting in which you can agree, as a couple, on how each of you can hold onto personal passions and interests.
7. What Role do Family and Friends Play in Our Marriage?
As a couple, it’s important to consider just how much your respective family and friends will be involved in your own life together. For example, when it comes to navigating relationships with the in-laws, this can be an exceptionally complex and emotionally charged conversation to have.
If your partner doesn’t get along with your parents, how would you feel about that? What if your betrothed shares an unnaturally close relationship with his or her parents, and you feel that your in-laws are becoming too deeply involved in matters that should remain private? Will your respective families be assisting you financially in any way; and what role will they play in the upbringing of your children? When the in-laws become frail and elderly, who will bear the responsibility – both practical and financial – to care for them? These are incredibly challenging and complex ideas to navigate, so it’s advisable to think about them before they materialize.
8. How do We Handle Conflict?
Conflict is an inevitable and natural part of any long-term relationship, and resilient couples are those who are willing to work through the roughest of patches. But different people have varying styles for managing conflict, and sometimes these don’t complement one another! For example, when a problem arises you might find yourself overwhelmed with anger, insisting on hashing it out there and then. Your partner, on the other hand, might defensively disconnect from what’s going on, retreating and avoiding the argument.
Other approaches include stonewalling, nastiness and various other forms of emotional defensiveness. In order to navigate conflicts successfully, it’s hugely helpful to develop an understanding of how each of you operates and what is needed from either side in order to reach a compromise.
9. How do We Approach Our Sex Life?
Sex is the proverbial elephant in the couple’s therapy room: few clients are comfortable to discuss it and yet it’s a central part of so many intimate relationships. It would be prudent to explore, however, what it might be like if someone’s sex drive eventually starts to taper; or what will happen if you start craving novelty and diversity in the bedroom. How would you cope with a desire discrepancy: where one person craves sex more frequently than the other? What if one of you is eager to explore role play and fantasies while the other is unnerved by such (s)exploration?
While there are many ways to be intimate, your sex life often serves as a barometer of your relationship’s emotional health. For this reason, it can be helpful to develop the vocabulary and confidence to speak openly about what’s happening, or not happening, under the covers.
Challenges of Premarital Counseling
Then there are the practical challenges which anyone seeking out professional help tends to face. For example, seeing a trained therapist can be expensive. Furthermore, when it comes to coordinating three different schedules, this is often easier said than done. Finally, if you’re looking for a family or relationship therapist that’s experienced in providing premarital counseling, you may find yourself on a waiting list or traveling long distances to attend sessions. Fortunately, however, many of these challenges can be avoided if you opt to have premarital counseling online. Read on to learn more.
Premarital Counseling Online
For many, high-speed internet connections and HD quality cameras have become the norm rather than the exception. It’s not surprising, then, that increasing numbers of trained professionals are consulting online. While some clients simply prefer the familiarity of seeing a therapist in person, those that are open to premarital counseling online benefit from the same standard of care with reduced fees, an absence of waiting lists, a wider pool of specialized experts to choose from and an ability to experience therapy from the comfort of their own homes. Couples who are interested in having premarital counseling online are advised to contact Thrivetalk to start the process of being matched with the right therapist for their needs.
Growing Together as a Married Couple
Whether you’re having premarital counseling online or offline, you’ll be challenged to consider the parts of yourselves that you would normally choose to avoid. Perhaps you have a quick temper, or maybe you’re harboring a shameful secret. On the other hand, you may be feeling a range of common but difficult emotions about the relationship, including guilt, regret, resentment or ambivalence.
In the presence of a trained therapist and the safety of a confidential environment, you’ll be invited to shed light on the aspects of yourselves that you’ve avoided up until then. This process is inherently challenging! But it’s only through being challenged that we’re able to grow, and this is exactly what premarital counseling seeks to help you achieve together. Remember: what comes easy won’t last long, and what lasts long won’t come easy.