There has been lots in the media recently about the rise of counselling for couples due to or thinking about getting married. This counselling has been termed as “premarital therapy”, and is one of the biggest growing trends in the counselling world. This article in the Guardian provides some accounts of those who have had premarital therapy and their reasons behind it, but why might you think about having some relationship therapy before you embark on marriage?
- You have never lived together. Loving each other and living together are very different things sometimes! If you have never lived with the person you plan to stay with for the rest of your life, then you probably haven’t had to experience how they manage household bills, or how they deal with various chores or jobs around the house. Changing lightbulbs, taking the bins out, doing the food shop: all very mundane activities but the division of labour in these areas can be a make or break for many couples. If one person feels they are doing more around the house than the other, or feels left out of any financial management, then resentment can easily build up.
- You haven’t had sex yet. Many couples choose to wait until they are married before having sex, for personal, religious or cultural reasons. However premarital counselling can help you think about the meaning of sexual intimacy and your worries or hopes for your future sex life. Ironing out these issues early can save a lot of heartache in the long run.
- You’re having doubts. Maybe you are wondering if the grass is greener on the other side, or whether your fiancé truly is The One. Maybe you feel there are trust issues that make you feel anxious. When you say your vows, it’s important to be certain that you want to marry that person.
- Difficult discussions leading to arguments. In marriage, there can be many difficult discussions to be had around things such as fertility issues, childcare, money and family relationships. These complex issues can stir up a range of emotions and often lead to couples arguing. Talking these issues through with a counsellor before marriage can help you be aware of your own relationship “flashpoints” and work out strategies to manage these difficult conversations.
- You’re holding on to emotional pain around marriage. Perhaps it’s because your parents had a difficult marriage or break up. Maybe this is your second marriage and you’re still feeling burnt from your last relationship. Emotional pain from the past can last a long time and has the potential to wreck our future happiness if it’s left unresolved. Although opening up these wounds in therapy can feel painful, it’s often a beneficial option in the long term, to allow you space to explore and resolve your past.
- You have different views about children. Many couples come to counselling at the point where one of them wants to stay trying for a baby, but the other one doesn’t. This can be a very upsetting experience for the couple, where they each feel they cannot meet each other’s needs and they wonder why they have reached this situation. Having discussions about how many children you want, when you would like to start a family, or whether you just want lots of dogs and no children at all- these are all vital conversations to have pre marriage but can be difficult to work out without therapeutic support. Premarital Counselling can provide a good, explorative space to have these emotional conversations, and work out what your options are.
Good post Elinor. I think the primary reason you would have premarital counselling is to start to get to know each other on a deep level. As you begin to understand each other’s childhoods and how they interlink it is easier to have compassion for each other and move into a more conscious relationship. It’s easier to do this before resentments have built up in the relationship.
So true. Thank you for your response to this, exploring the past can be so useful for couples even if they think their problems exist solely in the present