The wedding ceremony is one of the most romantic moments in couple’s lives. It’s filled with hope, promises, and celebration. It may feel like all the many months of meticulous planning for ceremony perfection will ensure a “happily ever after” marriage. But what really increases the likelihood of a successful marriage? A beautiful wedding cake? Flowers? A romantic ceremony location or an equally astonishing reception? It’s ridiculous to suggest this, yet looking at wedding day statistics tells another story.
The stats available suggest that most couples will in fact spend hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars for a wedding day. Couples spend a great deal of energy, time and money to create a wonderful wedding experience. In comparison, I wonder how much time the average couple spends to prepare for the rest of their lives together? Having married hundreds of couples and witnessing their response to the suggestion of pre-marriage coaching, my educated guess is that very few couples consider it a priority.
Marriage is hard and there are many forces that work against it. While the decision to get married can be wonderfully fulfilling, it does not come without its challenges and they must be addressed. Pre-marriage preparation coaching is simply getting ready to live life with another individual for a very long time.
“Getting ready” is something we often do, whether it is taking a trip and having an itinerary or perhaps preparing for a new job by reading the company manuals. Doing new things requires getting ready. It just makes a lot of sense and so does preparing for your marital relationship. Regardless of whether a couple has been living together prior to the ceremony or not, marriage is a new arrangement that deserves attention and preparation.
There are many good reasons but here are the three main reasons why it just makes good sense to register for a pre and post ceremony marriage preparation program with a marriage therapist.
Because you don’t know what you don’t know. We all have “blind spots” where we don’t see clearly. Every individual has hurts, biases and expectations that shape their view of how a relationship “should” work. Not surprisingly, no two people have the exact same set of expectations either. It is unfortunate when a couple get married and then discover the surprises afterwards. This almost always leads to bitterness and resentment. Doesn’t it really just make sense to discuss expectations about money, family, sex, religion, children, and responsibilities ahead of time? To put it another way, would it make sense to enter into a business agreement with a partner, pay the lawyers and sign the documents and then afterwards discuss what the business is going to do and how you are going to structure it. By then, it is too late.
Pre-marriage coaching shines a huge spot light on issues that should be dealt with. Sometimes though, individuals may be uncomfortable talking about this kind of stuff or they are under the incorrect assumption that: “it will all work out.” It is wise to discuss the key issues beforehand and leave little to chance. A good coach/counsellor is going to make you feel at least a little bit uncomfortable in exploring issues so that you enter into matrimony fully aware of your challenges and expectations.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Perhaps this saying seems a little antiquated, but there is a lot of truth in it. As a therapist I work with many couples that could have easily avoided conflict by doing the preventative work of nurturing an emotionally connected marriage. However not everyone knows what this means, and sadly we are entering a generation of normalized divorce, which seems to suggest that there isn’t enough prevention taking place. Yet on the flip side, we now have a new generation that doesn’t want to make the same mistakes as their parents. Pre-marriage coaching helps direct couples toward building and maintaining a healthy marriage by equipping them with tools to connect and thrive. This entails discussing how to communicate through conflicts, but it mostly directs couples with how to maintain a safe and healthy emotional connection through the most difficult of stages.
I work with many clients that end up in my office because they did not know how to maintain a healthy relationship, and were in full-blown crisis mode. Shawn and Lisa could have used coaching before they entered into marriage. They thought they had it all figured out because they even tried living together, but they hadn’t really discussed children and afterwards found themselves hurt and disappointed by different dreams. It would have been far easier for them to discuss their differences beforehand but they were now left to go back and compromise in areas they both felt strongly about. This also left them feeling resentment and bitter towards each other.
Pre-Marriage coaching highlights areas of necessary growth and strength
Most coaching involves some kind of inventory that reveals to the couple what their strengths and personal areas of growth may be. These are also known as “raw spots” and we all have them. If the triggers or challenges that we carry into relationships aren’t properly addressed, it will possibly undermine the relationship. A good relationship coach will defuse the situation and help couples approach their raw spots with optimism and openness that lays the groundwork for potentially greater intimacy. They will also encourage couples to build upon the strengths they already possess.
In sports, some of the best trades made are the ones that don’t happen. It is possible that after the couple goes through a pre-marriage program they decide that their marriage isn’t the right decision for them. I sometimes feel most helpful when a couple comes to the conclusion that they aren’t ready or right for each other, because it’s far better to discover it before the ceremony date, then afterwards.
Now you may have heard it said: “Fail to prepare and prepare to fail” or “success befalls the ready.” My hope is that all married couples have a beautiful ceremony day to remember.
But long after that special day is over, it will be what the couple did to prepare for life together that will ensure a successful marriage.
Kevin-Joel Coupland is a Registered Psychotherapist who works with couples before and after their marriage ceremony at Bayridge Counselling Centre in Mississauga & Brampton. He also runs an organization called TWOgetherONE, which inspires couples to have great marriages.
He has been married for over 20 years to Natasha and still has lots to learn.
Bayridge Counselling Centre: http://www.bayridgecounsellingcentres.ca