When most couples get engaged, relationship coaching usually isn’t at the top of their gift registry. But it should be. It’s one of the best things an engaged couple can do before they tie the knot.
Most of us think that seeking out marriage help is only necessary late in a relationship – typically as a last resort before filing for divorce. But the reality is that all couples could benefit from talking through conflicts with a professional and learning tools for building a strong relationship.
Pre-marital counseling is particularly effective. It allows you to start off from a stronger place, laying the groundwork for long-term happiness together.
Remember, Marriage Differs from Dating
It may seem painfully obvious, but married life isn’t the same as dating life. Marriage is a completely new phase of your relationship. Even if you’ve been dating for a long time, your married status comes with different experiences, expectations, and challenges.
A relationship coach that specializes in pre-marital education will help you anticipate the new obstacles and priorities that are ahead. Here are just a few examples of issues that you can work through together.
Raising a family. Maybe you and your partner have been skirting around the idea of when it is a good time to have children. You know you have opposing views. Perhaps you want to start trying to have a child immediately, and your partner wants to wait. Or you envision a large family, but your spouse would only like to have one child.
You may also have very different ideas of how that family will function once it exists. Will one of you stay home with the kids full-time? Will both of you continue to work? Who will handle the bulk of the housework? Or will you divide it equitably? What does “equitable” mean to each of you?
Financial disagreements. This a top cause of marital friction. Maybe you stick to a budget, but your partner is a free spirit. Or you want to invest in the purchase of a home, but your spouse wants to spend that money on travel instead.
Even smaller purchase, such as clothing or electronics, can reveal big differences in your financial priorities. Setting a budget can make a big difference to your long-term happiness and your long-term financial health. That’s easier to do once you talk through the larger differences on the table.
Setting boundaries. It’s incredibly important to spend quality time together in order to maintain your connection. But what that means may be very different to each of you. You need to be able to maintain separate lives and interests as well. Navigating this balance can be tricky, particularly at the beginning.
It’s equally important to set boundaries with outside parties. Couples who engage in intimate conversations with others of the opposite sex are more likely to face infidelity. And if you discuss your personal disagreements as a couple with friends and family, you won’t be taking steps to actually solve them. In fact, you’ll make them worse. When it comes to what’s good for both of you as a couple, no one matters but the two of you.
That means learning how to communicate openly with each other about these types of issues. Not doing so is likely to lead to resentment and frustration, which can explode into serious arguments.
With pre-marital coaching, you not only learn tools that help you to improve your communication with each other, you gain a safe, open environment where you can bring any issues up. You will discover how to become comfortable talking about your plans, dreams, and priorities – and actively listening when your partner tells you about his or her desires.
Proactive, Rather than Reactive
The goal of pre-marital coaching is to give you the tools you need to address issues in your marriage before they even start. You’ll learn how to handle conflict in a way that builds up your connection rather than tearing it down.
Think of marriage as a house. You need a toolbox with the proper tools to build a strong, sturdy home. As you dated one another, you both gained different skills, or “tools,” that allow you to be a good partner and grow a strong relationship. Your skills may include negotiating, being open and honest, compromising, practicing forgiveness, and so on.
But just because you get married, it doesn’t mean that your toolbox is full. You’ve built a foundation and framed your house. Now it’s time to build a roof, furnish the inside, and make this a home to live in permanently.
Pre-marital coaching can give you and your partner the tools you need to finish building your home. Not only is it beneficial for this new phase in your life, it is an investment: it will help you enjoy a strong, happy marriage for decades to come.
Sara Freed is a professional relationship and marriage coach based in Monsey, New York. By drawing on her extensive training and personal experiences, she teaches couples the skills they need to build happy, lasting relationships and grow strong, healthy families. A bestselling author, Sara wrote 5 Secrets to Bringing Peace and Happiness to Your Marriage and co-wrote Putting Kids First in Divorce.