Congratulations! You have decided to take your relationship to the ultimate step. Most likely you have a good feeling about what you are about to do. You feel that you have been with your partner long enough to know him/her quite well. You have met each other’s family and came away with a greater understanding of where your partner came from. You may have been intimate and able to communicate to your partner what makes you feel good.
In general, each partner is an individual entity with separate life experiences. Each has been culturally indoctrinated with a belief system and behaviors from their family-of-origin. This is what you bring into the relationship. One holds these beliefs and behaviors near and dear to their heart. It is understood, this is what you know. However, a new family unit is about to emerge. New rules need to be established and new behaviors need to be agreed upon. The focus of attention needs to shift from each partner’s family-of-origin to the family that is about to be created. What worked for the parents’ of the partners may not work for the partners themselves. Premarital counseling will help negotiate agreements that will serve the relationship in the long run.
Frequently, there are critical issues that have gone unsaid and when it comes up in the course of the marriage it tends to throw the relationship into crisis. For example, one of the major reasons couples separate is because of money. Each of you has been used maintaining your own bank account and spending money as you saw fit. Now, you have decided to come together as a couple. Has there been a conversation around bank accounts, who is going to be responsible for paying what bills, how are the day-to-day expenses going to be paid, who contributes to what account? There are no set rules for these issues. However, if not discussed beforehand, it could lead to marital distress early in the relationship. Premarital counseling can eliminate the guesswork about the issue of money.
Another important issue is children. There is nothing worse than finding out after you are married that your partner does not want any children and you do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with couples deciding not to have children as long as it is agreed upon prior to the marriage. It is unwise, going into a marriage, to think that you are going to coerce your partner and change their mind. This is a prescription for disaster. It can lead to resentment and anguish in a relationship and sometimes divorce. Premarital counseling will put this issue on the table.
Religion can also be another touchy issue. When the partners come from different religious backgrounds, there are questions that need to be addressed. Will the partners follow both religious customs? If children are planned, how will the children be raised? Will they be exposed to both religious customs? Will the children ultimately be given the choice of which religion to follow? Even when partners are from the same religious backgrounds there could be differences in how engaged they are with the religion. Questions surrounding which place of worship will the couple attend or what customs will be followed are legitimate topics for discussion. Premarital counseling with a thoughtful therapist can help the couple discuss the sensitive issue of religion.