Deb Toering is a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor (BCPCC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with a wide range of client populations and presenting issues, Deb is also an engaging public speaker. She has spoken in front of various groups across a range of topics including marriage, bullying, ADHD/ADD, and teen leadership.
So you’re getting married. Are you ready for the big day? If so, you are probably feeling very much in love and wondering why you would need to learn anything more about how to love or communicate with that wonderful spouse-to-be of yours. You still may be experiencing that tingling sensation at the very thought of your loved one. Or perhaps not. Conflict may be looming as you make those seemingly monumental decisions about the ceremony and the reception. You want a church wedding; he prefers the beach. You want to invite 400 guests; he wants to keep it intimate at 25. You want a string quartet; he’s already invited a country singer. You’ve always dreamed of wearing a formal white gown; he’s more comfortable in jeans. Then there are those in-laws-to-be. How can you be experiencing so much conflict with the love of your life?
Our preferences reflect who we are, and who we are has been shaped by many things: our family, education, cultural background and religious orientation to name a few. Most people fall in love with someone very different from themselves; hence the potential for many misunderstandings. Decisions about the wedding are only the beginning of a lifetime of decisions that can cause conflict unless the couple can begin to understand, and yes, even appreciate their differences.
Conflict doesn’t end when the wedding starts. Not long after the honeymoon comes the next series of decisions. Do we have children? If so, when? And, how many? Who will take care of them? Will one of you stay home or will you both share the responsibility and privilege of caring for your children? What approach will you take to discipline? And what about finances, leisure time, in-laws and religion? Many couples report feeling less marital satisfaction after the birth of their first child. Spending less spontaneous time together, coupled with the fatigue that results from sleepless nights can bring couples to the place of wondering why they married each other in the first place. As the song goes, they’ve lost that “lovin’ feeling”. They are not feeling loved and can easily become resentful and angry with each other.
Another topic in premarital counseling is “love languages”. We all feel loved in different ways. For some, it’s spending quality time together; for others, it’s being affirmed verbally. Physical touch does it for some while receiving that special gift is enough for another to feel warm fuzzies. We often love our spouse in the ways that we feel loved. Our partner may not feel loved because we are not speaking his or her love language. Both partners can end up missing each other and feeling unloved simply because they don’t understand this key aspect of their relationship.
A couple should discuss their expectations before marriage to avoid disappointment and hurt after marriage. He expects a gourmet meal every night; she wants him home at 5:00. She may be expecting to spend the first Christmas with the baby at her parents while he was thinking how much fun they would have with his parents. She may expect him to be a handyman like her father; he may assume she will work full time and keep everything running smoothly at home. Expectations often are rooted in the way we grew up. Thus, it’s helpful to discuss expectations before misunderstandings occur.
Remarriage has an entirely different dynamic, especially if children are involved. First -time married couples have a 50/50 chance of remaining together. Second marriages have a 40% success rate. Thousands of dollars are spent for just one day in a couples’ life. That’s okay—the wedding day is special. But doesn’t it make sense to invest a little time and money for premarital counseling that will offer dividends for a lifetime?
Trinity Family Counseling Center in Shelby Township offers this kind of premarital counseling. An online assessment, “PREPARE/ENRICH”, is used to help identify a couple’s strengths and growth areas. PREPARE/ENRICH is one of the most widely used assessments, which, over the last 30 years has helped more than three million couples. The online format taken at home will automatically customize to fit the couples’ unique stage of relationship, and their life situation. It will also ask specific questions depending upon your faith background. Over five or six sessions, the counselor works with the couple on issues ranging from communication to conflict resolution, finances to family background, stress management, establishing personal, couple and family goals and learning how to appreciate personality differences.