Premarital counseling and education is becoming more and more prevalent, and is even a requirement in some faith communities by those officiating at the wedding. While some couples enter premarital counseling because they are already experiencing relationship issues or are expecting challenges based on their own relationship history, there are many who enter premarital counseling without an agenda and are looking to learn tools to help create a great marriage.
It can take newly-married couples a while to get used to living with a permanent roommate whom they love but didn’t realize was so different from them! If you are engaged or newly married, you may have been too starry-eyed at the beginning of your relationship to listen to any marriage advice.
We wish we had known what we know now, BEFORE we got married! Although we were starry-eyed and not anticipating too much trouble, we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache if we had known what was to be expected as well as tools to help us work through the challenges. And even for those couples not coming in with major issues, they end up learning valuable marriage and communication skills as well as information about how relationships really work.
Without a predetermined agenda, we often ask couples the following premarital counseling questions. These questions touch on some of the important issues that couples need to address when entering a relationship.
When we ask these premarital counseling questions, our aim is not to cause doubt or stir up trouble; rather to become conscious about each other’s perspective on this issue and anticipate where they may need to work harder together to be at peace with each other’s differences.
Here are ten relationship questions we typically ask:
- How did your parents handle conflict in your home? How do you envision dealing with conflict in your home? Does it differ than what you witnessed?
- Did your parents display affection, and if so, what did it look like? How do you display affection?
- How was money dealt with in your home? Was it a source of stress? How important is making money to you? What is the type of financial status you are hoping to achieve?
- Do you want to have children? If so, do you want a big family or a small family?
- How do you envision religion or spirituality playing a role in your life?
- What do you anticipate may be areas of challenge with your in-laws?
- What are some of your fears about getting married?
- What are parts of you that you do not want to lose when you get married?
- What role does intimacy play in a marriage? Do you have any fears or expectations about intimacy?
- What are your expectations about work? Do you expect that both of you will work?
When couples answer these premarital counseling questions, they go into their relationship with a clear idea of what they want and have a better understanding of their future spouse.
One of the biggest disappointment for newlyweds is expectations that are shattered early on in the marriage. By asking these premarital counseling questions, we are able to make couples aware of each other’s expectations beforehand, preventing potential disappointment that would have occurred.
Keep reading the following 5 premarital counseling tips to help your pre marriage journey.
5 Pre Marriage Counseling tips
1. Revise your expectations. We all have expectations for marriage, whether they are from relationships we personally witnessed like our parents or from portrayals in society-at-large. But expectations set us up for disappointment.
Every relationship is unique and it is impossible to expect your marriage to be exactly like anything you’ve ever seen before.
Your marriage may not be picture-perfect, but then what?
You can either remain disappointed or discover how this relationship is a gift for you and an opportunity to create something even better.
Great relationships do not happen overnight. They take years of investment and care by both partners. You may be able to form the relationship of your dreams, but don’t expect it to be that way immediately following your wedding.
2. Don’t give unsolicited advice to your spouse. One of the most common mistakes that couples make is to provide unsolicited advice to each other. While you may have good intentions, your spouse may not see it that way. Unsolicited advice can come across as criticism and invalidating of your spouse’s feelings.
If your husband complains all the time that he is feeling down and you suggest he go to a therapist, he may feel you are just trying to fix him and you don’t really care about his feelings when all he wants to do is vent and be heard. Unsolicited advice can also make your spouse feel like you are being bossy, controlling, or condescending, even if you are only trying to be helpful. Ask your spouse if he/she is open to feedback before opening your mouth and a potential can of worms.
3. Limit outsiders from your relationship. It’s hard transforming two separate lives into one. Couples often feel that they shouldn’t leave their old friends left out of their new life and want to include them as much as possible. You may also feel the need to go out with other couples.
Realize that it is important for you and your spouse to have alone time where you can build your relationship, and while it is thoughtful to include others, it’s not always healthy for your marriage.
Many newlyweds can become insecure about their spouse if they spend time with other couples. You may feel the need to compare which will generate negative feelings about your spouse.
Don’t become a hermit, but do put your marriage first and make spending quality time alone with your spouse, even if it means not always including others.
4. Your spouse is not you. One of the rude-awakenings couples face when they get married is that your spouse is not you. As much as you may have been blinded during the romantic stage (“We’re so alike! I feel like we’ve known each other forever”), at some point you have woken up to the harsh reality that you married an “other.”
This “other,” as lovable as he/she is, has different thoughts, feelings, and opinions than you do. He/she may see the world completely differently and that’s okay.
The ability to honor the world of the other is a key ingredient to successful relationships.
As challenging as it may be that our spouse is not an extension of ourselves, it serves us well by compelling us to grow into becoming more accepting and other-focused.
Learn to love and cherish those differences as that’s what makes your spouse unique.
5. The 90/10 rule. This rule posits that 10% of anything that really makes our blood boil is the cause of the actual stimulus, while 90% of our reaction is due to what it is being triggered within us.
If you take ownership for your disproportionate reactions, you will undoubtedly see that you are responding so strongly because of what this offense is evoking for you from your past.
For example, if you have an “irrational” response to when your husband loses his phone or misplaces his keys, think about how that may remind you of something from your past. Were you reprimanded for being careless growing up or did you feel like you were forced into a role to be the “responsible one” when no one else in your life was? While most people may be annoyed by such behavior, if you feel your reaction is overly strong, that’s a good clue that the 90/10 rule may be at work.
The 90/10 rule removes the power struggle with your spouse and helps you realize that it is really not all about him/her. Taking ownership for your reaction will help you view the behavior in a new light and not react as strongly, allowing for your relationship to be healthier. While this does not excuse the 10% your spouse did to contribute to the conflict, it helps put everything into perspective, taking the edge off the situation and preventing explosive damage to the relationship.
Pre marriage Course & GuideWe love it when engaged couples get educated about preparing for marriage and decide to take a marriage preparation course. It’s the best way to prepare yourselves for marriage, learning more about why you picked each other and what attracted you to him/her. It’s always fun to understand more about those reasons and believe it or not, knowing more about why you picked each other is going to help you when conflict comes your way.
That’s because each of you came from a different home, and saw different parents modeling different kinds of relationships. When conflict comes your way, if you understand more about your partner’s upbringing and their personal story, you are going to be so well equipped for how to grow from the conflict.
If you are looking to take an in depth pre marriage course, contact us to attend our next Getting the Love you Want weekend couples retreat. You will learn so much about past relationship history, why you fell in love, how to break old relationship patterns, how you can complete and complement each other, and so much more!
You can also download our premarital counseling printable worksheets and follow along with your partner for some DIY pre marriage counseling!
We would love to work with you if you are engaged and seeking a marriage preparation course. It would be amazing for you to attend our next Getting the Love You Want couples workshop to be able to understand your past relationship history and go into your new relationship and marriage with eyes wide open! Click here to register.
And if you’re engaged and currently experiencing conflict and you NEED to make sure that your relationship starts off right before taking the plunge, talk with us about our private 2 day Marriage Restoration Retreat where you can gain tremendous clarity about past relationship baggage so you can get married for life!
There’s nothing quite like the power of gaining clarity on a confusing situation. Complete the form below to talk with Rabbi Slatkin to see what he thinks would be best for you and your unique situation.