Marriage engagement is an exciting event, which is usually followed by a flurry of activities and plans for the wedding. Details of the wedding can become the focus of many conversations, often taking the place of even more important discussions about your future together as a new entity -- a married couple. Couples counseling before marriage increases the likelihood that you will have a satisfying union. While you might "fall" in love, living happily ever after takes preparation.
The Marriage Triangle
Successful marriages are based upon a marriage triangle of three major factors -- individual traits, couple traits, and personal and relationship contexts -- according to Jeffry H. Larsen, Ph.D., in his "Marriage Preparation" brochure for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Individuals' traits, such as self-esteem, interpersonal skills and beliefs about marriage affect their approaches to marriage. Expectations might not be everything, but expectations affect everything. Marriage counseling brings expectations into focus, putting them on the table for discussion before problems arise. Couple traits include values and goals, along with communication and conflict-resolution skills. A marriage counselor helps a couple build upon their strengths and learn ways to overcome their weaknesses. Personal and relationship contexts are the baggage you bring with you from your past. The best way to deal with these issues is with an objective third party before you cross the threshold.
Every healthy marriage includes three entities: the two partners and the marriage itself. Major tasks of a successful marriage are maintenance of the individual identities of each marriage partner and the identity of the partners as a couple. The degree of individuation -- the ability to maintain your own personal identity within a marriage or family context -- depends upon your own personal characteristics and your early experiences. Counseling before marriage identifies your strengths and weaknesses and offers suggestions to help you increase your own awareness for the benefit of your relationship with your spouse.
A primary benefit of counseling before marriage is demonstrating your commitment to the success of the marriage. Premarital counseling offers couples an opportunity to plan their trip through life together. More importantly, it provides a forum for developing problem-resolution strategies. Going back to expectations, when couples expect their plans to fall through sometimes, and learn how to develop back-up plans and face life's crises with hope and humor, there is less stress and more satisfaction in the marriage.
Premarital counseling offers a guide to enriching your lives together. You didn't learn everything you need to know about marriage growing up in your own family or going to school. Counseling before marriage suggests many ways to enhance being a couple, from simple activities such as eye-gazing to learning each other's love language. For the smitten, many such activities come easy -- others require a learning curve -- all bring mutual benefits to the relationship and prepare you to be a happy individual who is part of a committed and satisfied couple.
- American Psychological Society: Nine Psychological Tasks for a Good Marriage
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: Marriage Preparation
- Family Evaluation; Michael E. Kerr and Murray Bowen
- Scientific American Mind: How Science Can Help You Fall in Love
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