The #1 fear for most people is a fear of public speaking. I believe the #1 fear for most engaged couples is the fear of pre-marital counseling, that time when the two of you need to speak publicly about subjects you're afraid may be deal breakers to your relationship. But there are really good reasons why you should feel that fear and do it anyway, as Susan Jeffers would say. I'd even like to suggest that it's displaced, since perhaps you've been given an antiquated definition of what it actually is.
Statistically, a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology, states that couples with premarital education report higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years. That alone should send you running to a professional trained in premarital education! But let's not stop there.
Realistically, getting married is not an inexpensive task, and getting divorced is substantially more painful and expensive in the long run, oftentimes very disruptive to more than just the two of you when children are involved. I know that sounds terrible to say, but #Truth.
What if. What if! What if pre-marital counseling was truly educational. We all know that it's impossible for two imperfect human beings to have a perfect relationship. That just makes common sense, right? It also makes sense that life happens, and we change, grow, and learn, both as individuals and as a couple. Sometimes that means we don't do those things exactly the same way. A life-altering event such as the long-term serious illness of a parent, for instance, may change each partner differently. Have you discussed how you might respond to such an event if the time came? What if that response changes for one of you when it actually happens? Does that negate what you might have discussed earlier before you got married?
It's impossible to predict all that will happen in your relationship at the time you're engaged, but what can be predicted is that if you don't have the skills to communicate effectively when conflict happens, you will not be able to navigate any conflict successfully without hurt feelings and damage to your relationship.
So let's take a fresh look at pre-marital discussions. When I work with couples before a ceremony, I focus not on whether the two of you will want to paint the kitchen blue or hot pink, but rather how to talk with and to each other when a difficult discussion arises. We explore your individual responses to stressful situations, how your partner can support you during those discussions, and how the two of you can resolve them together, rather than retreating to individual corners and preparing for an attack or going on the offensive to avoid getting hurt.
There are several experts in the field of relationships that talk about being able to identify in minutes which couples will succeed and which will fail, with no prior history with the couples. Many of them measure your communication styles instead of whether you hold hands, talk baby talk to each other or share a series of hobbies together.
How do you and your significant other communicate with each other? How do you respond when you feel stressed or under fire? What's your partner's initial response? How is it working for you now? Is there room for improvement? If you plan for success professionally, wouldn't you want to plan for success in your relationships as well? Talk with your partner today and make sure you have all the tools you need to assure your success for years to come. If you're already in a committed relationship, why not improve your marital satisfaction and overall happiness together?
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Rev. Ronnie was ordained in 2010 as an interfaith minister through The New Seminary, located in New York City. She is available to perform ceremonies throughout the United States, aboard ship or in other countries.