Before “I Do”
A wedding is such an optimistic time at the beginning of a new chapter in life. There is much focus on the dress, the venue, the photography, the guest list, rehearsal and all the beautiful choices involved in planning a wedding! However, the lasting part — the marriage — is the key for a lifelong relationship, and it requires personal investment.
Premarital counseling is intended to help couples gain insight and develop skill sets prior to marriage to set a healthy tone for the many years to come. It has similar characteristics to marriage counseling, but premarital counseling isn’t just for troubled couples or marriages. Practical insight into ourselves and our spouse can certainly provide enhancement to relational desires as well as enhance the quality of our lives going forward.
Faith-based counseling differentiates from secular counseling as it applies positive Biblical principles from the Creator of marriage. With each person professing their relationship with Jesus Christ, it is a common positive foundation from which marriage is built. Faith-based premarital counseling does not exclude the couple from problems, but provides a common ground framework for solving them. We apply known clinical truths of successful marriages in a practical way. It is an exciting opportunity to gain insight into the value and dynamics between two people.
As in most marriage counseling, the goals, values, roles, responsibilities and views of a couple are covered. To establish these items in my practice, I use a book called Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott. This is a book and workbook that couples can do and discuss on your own, which is a resource you can begin with now!
However, the number one issue in most marriages is communication. Communication often evolves from individual history. It is usually beneficial to explore our backgrounds, personalities and perspectives on spiritual, financial, sexual and social needs. In premarital counseling, we explore personality differences to gain insight on how to handle conflict and communication in these important areas. We do this by identifying strengths as well as areas for growth for each person. By working individually and then together, the couple can discuss and know ahead of time how to handle conflict constructively. It is like “preventative health” for marriage!
In my practice, if the couple is willing to make a very minimal investment, I use an online inventory called Prepare-Enrich. Each person completes this inventory totally separately and confidentially. Then we meet together and discuss the potential strengths and areas for growth. This helps the couple develop personal insight with themselves and their spouse, and develops applicable skills that contribute to long-lasting respect, happiness and friendship for life. It can also be very beneficial to those slugging it out who have been married for years in a not-so-constructive way! In addition, premarital counseling or couple counseling can be customized to address other specific needs that an individual couple is facing.
So, I invite you to take the opportunity to enrich this chapter in your lives with faith-based premarital counseling. Make your marriage a happy, fulfilling experience and all God intended it to be!
Kathy Harrison, LPC, MHSP
Licensed Professional Counselor
Mental Health Service Provider