It can be difficult to decide if premarital counseling is right for you, because this everything tells you this should be the happiest time of your life, right?
Yet in addition to happiness, you’re both probably experiencing the full the gamut of emotions: excitement, elation, anticipation, anxiety, and even fear. And while all of those feelings may be happening, there’s all the planning, finding a venue, deciding who to invite, securing the right vendors, managing the never-ending onslaught of details to decide upon, and possibly negotiating with your respective families on what kind of religious, spiritual or cultural wedding ceremony to have.
There are a lot of expectations and likely a lot of people to consider, other than you and your fiancee. For many couples, planning and preparing for the wedding becomes one of the most stressful experiences they have ever navigated together. It may cause undue frustration, tension, and conflict, but if navigated well, it can also sow the seeds of a deeper level of trust and cooperation.
Did we make the wrong choice?
Amid all the stress, you might find yourselves asking, why are we suddenly now dealing with conflict after we’ve made this commitment to one another? It may feel like you have made the wrong choice, and this can be a scary question to consider. But it’s actually natural to question the relationship during the engagement. It is such a huge decision, and the tensions you might be experiencing can easily be taken as signs that he or she is not the one. All of your partner’s faults may suddenly become impossible to tolerate. There can be a feeling of loss as we say goodbye to the single life we have known. Feeling anxiety about this change is natural and does not mean there’s anything wrong with either of you. It can be that much harder that everyone, even strangers, tell you that you should be elated. Sheryl Paul, MA, a wedding counselor, offers a helpful perspective on the experience of being anxiously engaged; she emphasizes that the wide range of feelings that come up in the transition of marriage are incredibly common, even between wonderful partners who end up being happily married.
Choosing to go into premarital counseling does not mean that your relationship is doomed! In fact, quite the opposite. Healthy relationships have healthy conflict, and the benefit of going into counseling early is that you have the chance to work through the tensions that may have come up during wedding planning, to set in place positive patterns of honesty, openness, mutual respect, and fulfillment.
What can premarital counseling do for us?
Premarital counseling can be incredibly helpful in supporting the two of you through this process, by providing you with the following:
- The perspective that all of the feelings that are coming up for each of you are entirely appropriate and understandable, even if you are feeling sadness or fear when you think you should be excited and joyful.
- A special time and place each week devoted to the two of you, amidst the sea of planning details and stress.
- The presence of a supportive person to acknowledge and work through differences or underlying tensions that may have come up around family obligations, religion, money, changes in intimacy, expectations around roles in marriage, etc.
- Identifying the core values of each person and of the relationship
- Exploring the possibility of including those values in the wedding ceremony to create a ritual that not only honors your familial, cultural and religious values, but also incorporates beliefs and passions specific to the two of you.
- Invaluable support as you begin a lifetime of growth together.
Marriage is a major rite of passage that can have far-reaching effects on each person, the relationship, and the families coming together. While there are endless resources to help plan the wedding itself, there are very few guides on how to navigate the mental and emotional aspects of preparing for marriage. Some people turn to religious leaders, priests, community elders, or mentors. For many, there simply aren’t role models who are of the same age, culture or religion to turn to, and they’re left to navigate this on their own. While this can be the ultimate challenge that you survive together, it also may be time to turn to professional help to lessen the load on the two of you, and to deepen your bond and trust in one another. Like building a house, going into counseling can help set the foundation for a solid relationship that can weather the years and decades to come.