What You’ll Discuss In Premarital Counseling
I didn’t always understand why couples went to pre-marital counseling. I believed that counseling, of any kind, was only necessary when there was a problem. So when a friend would tell me that she and her fiancé were going to premarital counseling, I have to admit that I thought to myself, “Well, they’re in trouble. They don’t even have real problems yet and they already need to see a therapist. How are they going to handle real problems later?” Since then I’ve learned that that’s the exact reason couples go to premarital counseling: to avoid large problems taking them by surprise later in life. Couples counseling helps you go into marriage with your eyes wide open, so you don’t feel blindsided by your partner’s expectations later. Here is what you can expect to discuss in premarital counseling.
How you believe married life will change
Do you believe your relationship will change once you’re married? Does your partner? It’s pretty important you discuss that. If your partner has certain expectations regarding your investment in the relationship and your behavior after you tie the knot, you should know what those are, and tell him whether or not you can fulfill them.
Your career goals
Talking about your long-term career goals will be very important for your marriage. Does your partner know about the business you’d like to start? The position you’re pursuing? Does he know what kind of work will go into that? Or, perhaps, that it would mean you had to move? Or invest some of your own savings into your business? It’s better to discuss these things now, rather than when you need to give that investor/boss/colleague an answer.
Children: yes/no/how many?
You should certainly be on the same page about whether or not you’d like children, and how many. If you aren’t on the same page, you should at least have the chance to discuss with each other, early on, what having children means to each of you, and what role you see each of you playing as parents. You don’t want to wait to have these conversations at the heightened time when your biological clock is ticking.
If you do plan on having kids, you should discuss your parenting beliefs, now. Perhaps one of you believes in very hands-on parenting while the other believes in standing back a bit more. Does one of you believe in punishment? Does the other think kids learn from their own mistakes? Talk about this now so you can show a united front once you have children.
Your therapist will likely ask you to list your priorities. Marriage, parents, children, friends, career, physical fitness, hobbies…these may not be the order for you. But you should discuss where your priorities lie with your partner. Having him understand what importance certain things have in your life will help him better predict and understand your actions.
How to handle finances
Will you be savers or spenders? What would you like to save for? How much are you willing to spend on a house? A car? Prep school for your children? Vacations? These decisions come up fast in life and it’s better to know what to expect now.
Who contributes what
Will you both continue to work? Will you split costs of things 50/50, even if one of you makes much more than the other? Or, perhaps, will you join your bank accounts? If you do, do you need to set ground rules for spending or will you just trust each other?
How to handle fights
It can be very valuable, when you are calm and getting along, to identify some things you must do and absolutely must not do when you’re in a fight. Maybe you cannot tolerate a partner who disappears when you’re in a fight or your partner needs you to give him some space in an argument.
Would you like to travel the world one day? Start a nonprofit for a cause you care about? Do volunteer work? Write a book? These are important things for your partner to know about because they will affect him.
Where you’ll live
Your therapist will likely dedicate some time to discussing where you’ll live. Does one of you hope to live near your family one day? Does one hope to spend five years traveling the world, living in a new place each year? Cohabitation is such a basic thing that you need to get on the same page about.
Boundaries with your families
If you’d like to spend some holidays without parents around—just you and your partner—discuss that now. If you don’t want parents stopping by unannounced, discuss that now. Once you get married, each of your family’s will feel more entitled to space in your life so you need to discuss boundaries early.
Boundaries with other people
For some individuals, marriage signals a change in behavior towards others of the opposite sex. Discuss what constitutes cheating to you and your partner. Talk about the boundaries it’s important to have in play with other people, in order for trust to remain in your marriage.
What will you do if you’re unable to conceive? Will you adopt? Use in vitro? Get a surrogate? People can have pretty strong feelings about this. You don’t want to face the surprise that you don’t agree on this matter once you’re ready to have children.
How to spend on children
Parenting and how to spend money on your children are two different topics. Will your partner want to send your child to an expensive prep high school? What about college? Do you believe in starting a fund for your child now? Or should he apply for scholarships? How about student loans? Will he pay those off or will you?
If you are of the same religion, how active in your faith would you like to be as a couple, and one day, as a family? If you’re not of the same faith, that complicates matters more. In which faith will you raise your kids? Do you expect one another to convert once you have kids?