How, when, and why we marry has changed dramatically over the decades. Today, fewer people than ever decide to get married. It is becoming more common to hold off marriage or simply live common-law for decades if not for life.
Tragically, many couples specifically point to the risk of divorce as a reason to avoid marriage, and with good reason: about 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce by the 10-year mark in America.
If you’re considering marriage, all of these statistics and the negative outlook can feel a bit overwhelming. However, don’t assume all is lost; nothing could be further from the truth. Licensed premarital counseling allows you to root out potential problems and build a strong foundation so you can move towards your union ready to take on the world.
Learning Effective Communication with a Licensed Pre-marital Therapist
By far the most important and challenging area for married couples is communication. None of the other benefits can even matter if you don’t understand how to communicate effectively. This isn’t just about resolving conflict, either; it’s about explaining your needs and handling the everyday conflicts on a day-to-day basis, no matter what problems arise.
Unfortunately, many couples go into marriage with baggage from past relationships, childhood, and even friendships. Emotional baggage can significantly hamper effective communication after the initial “honeymoon period” of happiness.
Not one person on Earth is born with perfect communication skills. We learn and discover what works (and sometimes what doesn’t) through real-life experience and guidance from those we trust. Your premarital counselor can show both of you where your weaknesses exist and how to strengthen them.
Getting to Know Each Other Deeply
Couples fall in love all the time without really knowing exactly what that means for the future. They fall in love with who they see in front of them; it’s not exactly superficial, but it’s not really deep, cultivated love, either. A failure to really “know” the other person and how they love is a major player in later divorce, too.
Think of the last time you went on a first date or met someone new. Very likely, you tried to present your best face. You might have sought out a haircut, a new outfit, makeup, or even a nice pair of earrings. A spritz of perfume is the finishing touch, and allows you to put your best face forward. There’s certainly nothing wrong with doing any of these things, but if you only ever show your fiancé your best, you aren’t revealing who you truly are at the core.
Couples often find that once the magic wears off, they really don’t love the real person underneath as much as they thought. Real people are unfortunately flawed, and many of those flaws simply aren’t very appealing once they’re revealed. Couples who experience true, long-lasting love are aware of each other’s flaws but still love and value them all the same.
In premarital counseling, you’ll receive homework that focuses on getting the two of you to take off those masks. By letting down the walls, both of you will discover exactly who the other is at their core. If you decide you’re really not as well-matched as you thought, you can walk away without the added drama of a divorce.
Fortunately, revealing negative traits in counseling isn’t an automatic sign that your pending marriage is doomed to fail. Most therapists are more than happy to help you reconcile them during the process.
Resolving Financial Conflicts
Financial conflicts are a common source of arguments in married households. With the cost of living skyrocketing and wages failing to keep up, financial problems are almost a given rather than just one potential outcome. Should those problems crop up during your marriage, your happy relationship can quickly turn into a battle over who spent what, where they spent it, and why it’s wasteful.
However, pointing fingers isn’t helpful; in fact, it’s counterintuitive. Ultimately, the only way to resolve or prevent financial struggles is to learn how to be completely open with your partner regarding your history, credit situation, and spending habits.
A licensed premarital counselor may not be able to teach you financial literacy (you’ll want a personal accountant for that), but they can teach you how to de-escalate emergencies and plan for the future together as efficiently as you possibly can.
Aligning Values and Ideals
This is another major player in divorce. Couples who marry without truly understanding the other partner’s values and ideals may find themselves in for a shock when they’re suddenly revealed 10 years down the road. This article from About.com lists each of these relationship deal breakers as falling under nine individual categories:
Understanding how both of you feel about each and every one of these issues well in advance isn’t just an option to improve the health of your relationship, it’s a must. If, for example, one partner wants children and the other doesn’t, it might lead to resentment and loss of love down the road.
Worse yet, the partner who doesn’t want children might give in in an effort to please the other. Then you have a situation where the spouse resents both their partner and the child for years into the future.
A Word on Red Flags
It’s up to you and your partner to decide exactly what your deal breakers are. If you aren’t sure, this is another way licensed premarital counseling can help. Sometimes, the first step we need to take is discovering exactly where we stand and how we feel in the first place. Your therapist can work with both of you to draw out insight on these and other important topics.
Ultimately, if the both of you decide it isn’t a deal breaker after giving it a fair amount of thought, it's okay to move on. What’s important is that you discussed it and came to a conclusive decision as to how both of you feel.
In other issues, like fidelity and sex, opinions and values can vary dramatically person-to-person. Discussing exactly where each of you stands on issues like these with the help of a counselor can enable both of you to compromise without sacrificing your well-being.
Despite the daunting statistics, it is possible to have a happy, fulfilling marriage that lasts for life. The most important way to achieve your goals is to talk, talk, and then talk some more. Communication (before the problems occur in the first place) is key, and not every couple learns the right set of skills to make that communication happen early in the life. Never assume that a few little arguments or disagreements are a sign that your marriage is doomed to fail. That’s an enormous decision to make that requires a higher degree of insight. Your premarital counselor can give you the tools needed to cultivate that insight with each session you attend.