If you're marrying within the confines of a religious community, some churches will strongly recommend premarital classes. Others will require a course to be completed before you can say, “I do.” Even if you're not obligated to delve into the most personal issues in your relationship in this manner, it may be a good idea to take a course or talk to a counselor.What Happens in Premarital Classes?
A group leader will take you through a series of potential problem areas. The larger the group, the more general the presented problems will be — but the idea is to get you and your fiancée talking about certain issues. What are your goals in life? How do you propose to achieve these dreams? Do both of you want the same thing? Are you going to have kids? When? How many? What about money? Who's going to be expected to bring in the dough? Who's going to take charge of the budget? Who's going to pay the bills?
As prepared as the two of you think you are for marriage, even the most alert couple can be blind-sided by crises after the wedding. Discussing potential problems — and learning methods to deal with them — can mean the difference between having a successful marriage and having a marriage that doesn't cut the mustard.
The list goes on and on. The big topics in marriage — and/or coupledom — are addressed. If they seem obvious to you, that's good news. Some couples don't address these problems until they come face-to-face with them.
Because many life-altering issues (kids, finances, careers, etc.) are bound to pop up sooner or later, it's a good idea to have a heads-up on what your partner has in mind as far as these topics are concerned. Both of your futures are involved here, after all.What's the Point?
You're thinking, “So there are a lot of problems in life. Big deal. We'll be fine. We love each other.” Love is great, and you need it, but there's more to a happy marriage. Love can fade over time, and if you haven't based your marriage on a solid foundation — i.e., if both of you
Think back to the section on giving your fiancée the old “Yes, Dear.” You may be tempted to use this line — but is it effective communication? Have you listened to what she's really saying? Have you told her what's on your mind? You've skirted the issue, which may get you off the hook temporarily, but it's not going to be helpful in the long run.
Learning the important skills of effective communication will make your marriage a strong one from the get-go. You may acclimate to married life more easily because you'll know that life
The point of premarital counseling and/or classes is to open the door of communication. You'll learn how to talk to each other effectively — and, just as importantly, you'll learn how to listen to what the other person is saying. You'll also learn that conflict is a natural part of any intimate relationship — it's how you resolve the conflict that counts.
Other Issues So learning to communicate is a big issue here. But learning what makes the other person tick is just as important to a successful union. For example, if your bride pitches a fit every time you have a beer with the guys after work,
Everyone has some kind of baggage that they bring into a relationship. Realizing what sets your partner off — and why — is essential to understanding her. If you realize, for example, that taverns mean trouble to her, you're more likely to grasp the magnitude of her feelings, and less likely to think that she's just exhibiting signs of being a control freak.
Something else you'll be asked to consider: What are your expectations of your partner? Are they unrealistically high? (Do you expect your fiancée to pull in $200,000 a year at her nursing job — racking up a
Another expectation issue you may be asked to cover: Do you think marrying her will change her for the better? It isn't fair to ask this of someone. You should be marrying her for who she is now — not for who you think she
You may be asked to discuss what this wedding means to each of you. Some couples misunderstand the wedding as the culmination of the relationship (so
Are you both ready for marriage? Are your separate lives (careers, finances, money, health) together? You can't offer much to someone else if your own life is a wreck. Marriage itself won't save you in this situation; it will more likely bring the other person down.Where to Find Counseling
If you're marrying in a church, ask your priest or minister about premarital education. If the minister himself doesn't offer premarital counseling, many churches offer classes.
If you're not marrying in a church but you're interested in the idea of addressing big topics before taking your vows, you'll probably be looking for a counselor. While this sounds easy enough (they're all listed in the phone book, after all), finding the right counselor is key to your success.
If you don't know anyone who's gone to premarital counseling, ask your family doctor if he can recommend someone. Even if a counselor's name doesn't pop into his mind instantly, he'll know where to locate the name of someone who's reputable in the field. It won't be a complete crapshoot, like picking a name out of the phone book would be.