Do emerging patterns at the beginning of your relationship help predict your future marriage?

by Jenny Friedland on March 24, 2011

Premarital RelationshipWe had been dating for 4 years before we decided to get engaged. We had a long engagement before we got married, and I really thought I knew and understood my soon-to-be husband. Events building up to the wedding were quite stressful in terms of organisation, finances, planning and interference from in-laws. However most of this was all fobbed off by family and friends as being wedding nerves. Some of the events leading up to the engagement/wedding were:

  • aggressive, abusive ways of talking about my parents and putting them down repeatedly
  • Proposing to me, but then making the engagement a secret that we couldn’t share for 2 months
  • Having an argument, me not being able to get hold of him for a day, then meeting and acting as if nothing had happened, and not wanting to talk about it
  • Him wanting a big, expensive wedding – I would have preferred a smaller, more intimate wedding. I was left to plan and prepare and organise the wedding while he wasn’t interested in any of the details

How different my life would have been if we had attended premarital counselling and discussed pre-designed themes of relating. I hadn’t realised that aggressively talking about my parents would lead to aggressively talking to me. The engagement secret became merely one of many secrets, and formed a basis of controlling who I spoke to and what I spoke about. Not being able to make contact formed the foundation of weeks of being ignored and given the silent treatment. My planning the wedding started the lifelong task of organising outings, events, holidays, children, schooling, and the household single-handedly. These difficulties laid the foundation of silence, abusiveness, controlling behaviour, secrecy, disrespect, withdrawal and lack of communication. If only I had understood that little disagreements become bigger issues, or if I had the support and validation from family and friends that these dynamics were serious warning signals, or if I had attended premarital counselling – perhaps I would never have married and been spared of 16 years of conflict, power and control.

If you understand your current interactions and recognise that these patterns are forming the very foundation of all your future dynamics with this person, wouldn’t you treat this with more importance? Do you really understand that the way you communicate during the build up to the wedding, is probably how you will communicate for the rest of your relationship? The wedding hype and build up are giving you clues about how you make decisions, communicate, and negotiate within your relationship. Wouldn’t you prefer to change and understand the way you interact with each other before you get married, rather than after?

Pre-marital counselling offers you the opportunity to openly discuss issues before they become problematic. It focuses on the future, helps identify areas of relationship strength, commonality, shared interests and values; and opens the way to discuss areas of disparity. It also takes place within a safe, neutral environment and new ways of relating, communicating and negotiating are learned and practiced. You can then use this information to live a long, happy, stress free marriage together.

Pre-marital counselling will help you explore difficult relationship themes that are the biggest contributing factors leading to relationship breakdown and divorce. These factors include (in not any particular order):

  • Finances
  • Raising and disciplining children
  • Extended family and in-laws
  • Spending time together, relaxation time and sharing common interests
  • Romance, affection, fun, lovemaking
  • Equality in the relationship and overall household contributions
  • Understanding and respecting gender, cultural, value, racial, and religious differences
  • Handling conflict and differences of opinions
  • Sharing of thoughts, feelings, dreams and goals
  • Compromising
  • Trigger points from past experiences and past relationships
  • Communication
  • Relationship expectations
  • Understanding power struggles
  • Recognising differences in emotional, work, personal, spiritual, financial, social, familial and health values

It is my personal belief that pre-marital counselling should be a prerequisite for marriage, and that marriage should be made harder, whilst divorce should be made easier.

Most couples, today, have a prenuptial agreement drawn up as a way of protecting their legal and financial rights should the marriage dissolve. I believe that pre-marital counselling protects the emotional rights of individuals and honours the relationship.

I’d love to hear the ideas you may have about this article. If you would like to, please leave your comments below.

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