Pre-Marital Counseling: Why?

Happy Thursday you guys! Today's blog post is A LOT different than usual.  But, I find that when I write personal blog posts--like the one about my Dad (read that post here), how Tim & I met (read that post here), and other personal ones I get a significant amount of more interaction from you guys. Which I love!  So, I'm listening to analytics and trying to do a lot more lifestyle posts around here. Based off the title of this blog post, I'm sure you can figure I'm talking about pre-marital counseling and our experience. When I knew Tim was the one (which I knew very early on), I knew there were necessary steps that I wanted to take to prepare us for that next stage in life. Even though we both knew from the beginning, we didn't start taking these steps until we knew an engagement was coming up. In this post, I'm going to go over some things that Tim and I have done to prepare for this exciting stage in our lives and also tips for those of you who are about to go through this! Let's jump in. 

Pre-Marital Counseling

Tim & I started this before we got engaged. You’re probably wondering, but I’ll explain that in a little. This was a 100% MUST for me. I’ve attended therapy a few times in my life, and find it to be unbelievably helpful. It has helped me overcome so many obstacles, helped me work out the hard stuff, and just given me a space to think and be heard. With that being said, I knew couples therapy or pre-marital counseling was something that I wanted to do with Tim.  In our generation therapy is looked at as such a negative process. People who go to therapy are looked at like they’re crazy. That is NOT how it should be looked at- at all. Don’t get me wrong, there are people with serious mental health issues that attend therapy and so on, which I’m fully aware of. But at the end of the day, it’s something that’s so healthy and should be looked at as a positive. Because even though we’re not married, hard times are going to arise during marriage. During my marriage, and during yours. For Tim and I, I wanted it to be something that was looked at as helping us prepare for a successful and healthy marriage. And when the dark times come for us, having “therapy” be something that we have done before and something that we were both comfortable with.  

Now that I’ve told you the “why” in pre-marital counseling for us, let me explain the concept. During our sessions, we followed a course that had us answer questions. MAJOR life questions. Money, kids, communication, sex, religion, politics, etc. Every topic that you and your future spouse should discuss before marrying each other and definitely before getting engaged. It was so refreshing to have a new perspective sit in with us, and to express our thought process about everything out loud. We were given new methods on how to communicate, and I just feel like it brought us so much closer together.  This is something that I think every couple should do to help prepare for marriage because in case there’s something you haven’t talked about, you can discuss it with a third party and talk about major life things with someone else and be that much MORE ready for a life long commitment. 

Every couple has there issues, including us. We were well aware of a majority of them prior to attending any sort of counseling. However, even though we discussed them together, neither of us are professionals. To go into a little more detail on the help of having a third party there: it changes perspectives. Our therapist (obviously) has no background of either of us. And by that I mean how we were raised, what type of people we are, did we have any trauma growing up, stuff that will affect the people we are today. During this time of counseling is helping us come to resolutions and also guiding us through. We have this person there who is a blank slate— knows nothing. I’m able to express my side of things, for example how I think a household should be run. Tim is also able to express his feelings, and then we are able to talk, hear each other out, get an opinion and also reiterate and dig deeper in a safe space. Where as discussing these things in real life on our own are usually done in the car, driving somewhere, we’re distracted by our phones, or we’re multitasking and nothing is getting solved or ACTUALLY discussed. This time frame of one hour has seriously been magical in the sense of having an uninterrupted time where we discuss feelings and hard topics, in a judgement free zone.

The course that we followed was Two Becoming One. Since we are religious, we decided to follow this program since it covered the religion aspect of things as well. With this though came homework. A good chunk of it! Since we were meeting once a week, both of us had to sit down separately and set aside a half hour I’d say. The entire week leading up to our appointment I was SO anxious because we weren't allowed to do the homework together or share our answers with each other. So during the first few weeks, I was like a giddy second grader sharing secrets with her best friend! The best part was feeling completely refreshed when our answers to questions were exactly the same. It really made us (both) feel like we were a team and on the same page!

At the moment, we are taking a break from our counseling since we haven’t had a moment to just breathe. Since I have a charger personality (keep on reading to see what that means!) I’m constantly planning and I always need to be busy. Tim is easy-going, so he just follows my lead. Like I said in the beginning, we started going before our engagement so since then- we haven’t just been able to enjoy! Talking about our feelings multiple times a week has been happening so we’re taking a slight pause before we finish the rest of our course. And I’m soaking up all the time because its nice to have one night a week back that we can put towards quality time.

Marriage Class

Not only did we do counseling one on one with a therapist, but we also did one through my church. For those of you that are in Orange County, I attend Rock Harbor Costa Mesa and have for the past 3 years. It’s the place I consider home and really feel connected spiritually there. They offer a course called Seriously Dating or Engaged and I highly highly highly HIGHLY recommend it. If you do anything or can only financially afford one, do this one. It was a 4 week course that was 4 hours every Saturday. I know what you are thinking- ew. That is not what I want to do on a Saturday. It was really hard for us too and it was a struggle for those weeks since it took half of our day and also forced us to not be able to sleep in. Now that we’re on the other side of it though, we can confidently say that it was worth our time and worth our effort, and in the long run, will benefit us trimendously.

Compared to pre-marital counseling with a therapist or couples counseling, this was WAY different. We were basically in a classroom, and that’s why I called this essentially a marriage class. We had about over 100 people in this class with us, so we weren’t the only ones wanting to learn! The class was called Seriously Dating or Engaged, so not EVERYONE was engaged. There were people in the class that had only been dating for 4 months, and then the couple who had been together the longest was 7 years. We had a wide variety of people with us and that included second time marriages, boyfriend and girlfriends, and also people with children. It was set up as a “workshop” in the sense that it was 4 hours, we got one break half way between and were able to get a snack, and grab a refreshment. The class was led by the main teacher, and then he had 4 couples who had been through the same course that had all been married for different periods of time. It ranged from 30 years to 2 years between the 4 couples. A lot of experience was brought to the table with these relationships!

This marriage class also followed a particular course, and this one is private based so that is why I highly recommend attending this class on your own so you can experience it and all it has to offer. Anyways, every week for 4 hours we would work our way through this course which in this case was a book. It went over main topics (like our pre-marital counseling did) like religion, finances, sex, communication, and a lot more. Since I’m sure to you this sounds very similar to our actually therapy, let me clarify that it was different. Though the book we did with our therapist is for the most part religion based, since this course was through a church, it was even more so.

Over the course of 4 weeks, I’d say the biggest thing we took from this course was how to communicate effectively, and how to conflict resolution. You see, I’m a big “in the moment” kind of person. If something feels good, then I do it- whatever it may be. Being this way has its positives, but it also has its negatives. This includes when Tim and I fight (gasp). I say things I don’t mean, and sometimes react in the wrong way that both I regret later. These methods of communications that were taught in this course have changed the way we argue, for the better. We now have a safe word for when one of us needs a break, we (try to) do the 5 A’s daily, and have a prompt that keeps our arguments (sometimes lol) calm. Like I said, marriage is for forever and we are going to have a ton of obstacles to overcome throughout our life together! To some it may sound like we can’t solve problems on our own, or that we need help. Let me tell you my thoughts on that… 1. We can solve problems on our own, but why not better ourselves and our communication? Doing both of those doesn’t hurt anything, it just makes us stronger. 2. EVERYONE can use help. If you think you’re too good for it, and that your relationship doesn’t need it, you’re just wrong. Sorry, not sorry.

I am in no way, shape or form saying that pre-marital counseling saves all marriages and is the resolution to everything. I know couples who did no form of pre-marital counseling and have been happily married for 50+ years. I also know couples who did pre-marital counseling and are divorced today. For me, I just knew it was a must. To know that I prepared as best as I could, educated myself, and got ready for marriage. Every individual is different, and each relationship is unique. Though the divorce rates are dropping, the number is still tremendously high. So to me… take the marriage course. Go meet with a therapist, even if you’re doing just fine. Do those cheesy relationship exercises. Read tips on how to keep things spicy in the bedroom. Practice communicating. Hint: none of these will hurt your relationship, it will only better it. For some couples, it’s not worth the money & I get it. The past couple months for us has been EXPENSIVE to say the least. Mostly going to a therapist, as our marriage class was a one time fee. But still… money is money!

I wish I could say Tim and I are officially pros on marriage, but we still have a lot to learn! Tim’s Best Man’s father is marrying us, so we still actually have one more course to do. It’s been a lot, but it feels good when it’s over. It’s a lot of talking about your feelings, and talking about just everything marriage has to do with. It can be exhausting at times and we’ve definitely both reached the point where we’re tired of it all. Even though we’ve done all this prepping, there’s a lot you can’t learn until you are actually married. So now, we count down the days until the wedding!

Random Tip

Grab a book! This one was SO fun for us! We got this book as a gift from my God Parents and loved it. It has 135 questions to ask your spouse and we finished it probably in the span of 3 to 4 months. Some of the questions were random and we were like, why would we need to know this? Ha! For example your favorite movie and why- simple silly questions. Then there were conversational ones like “Will you be sharing bank accounts and social media accounts after marriage?” “What would you do if your spouse voted for the opposite presidential candidate as you?” The more serious questions. I recommend getting a book like the one we got because 1. It’s fun 2. They’re conversations you need to have and 3. It makes for great conversation and quality time. I linked a few more that look interesting if you want to try!

I hope you guys enjoyed today’s post, but most of all I hope you understand it. Why I think working on your relationship is important and also why I strongly recommend pre-marital counseling. What I don’t want you to think is that people who don’t do it are failing themselves or their relationships. Not at all! To each their own. I have some friends who skipped it because 1. financial reasons 2. They didn’t think of it 3. They preferred to do research on their own and read books. So with that being said… did you skip it? Did you do it? Do you still use tools you learned? Let me know!

XO,

Danielle Alana