Category: Pre-Marital

Spirituality and Marriage

Chances are the subject of spirituality has already come up if you’re in the middle of planning a wedding.  You and your fiancee´have probably discussed what, if any, religious elements will be included in your ceremony.  Having an open dialogue about spirituality is important not only for the wedding, but for your marriage.
How would you define your basic beliefs and doctrines?  What about your partner?  How important is religion or spirituality to you?  Your partner?  Do you follow an organized religion or do you take an individual path to spirituality?  Are there certain rituals, customs, or holidays you observe?  Is your partner on the same page?  If not, will you be able to respect each others different views?  Is prayer an important part of you or your partner’s life?   Do you plan to worship in a specific place?  Will you expect your partner to attend with you?  If you have children do you envision faith and spirituality being a part of their lives?  If so, how?  Does your partner agree?
No matter where you are on the spectrum of spirituality it’s important to discuss your views with your fiancee´.  Try to actively listen as you allow him or her the same opportunity.
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Parenting: An Important Premarital Discussion

Deciding to get married is one of the biggest decisions a person can make.  The decision of whether or not to have children is arguably just as big (if not bigger).  That’s why it is vitally important to discuss the issue of parenting with your partner before saying, “I do.”  Do you want to have children?  Does your partner?  Is your answer non-negotiable?  It’s best to share your thoughts and feelings openly with your partner about the issue and allow him or her the same opportunity.
You may be thinking, “We both definitely want kids.  No issues here!”  While that may be true there are a number of other things to consider including in your discussion.  How many children do each of you want?  How would you like to space them?  Who will handle discipline in your house and how will it be done?  What about childcare?  Will you both be working or will one parent stay home with the child(ren)?  Do you (or your partner) plan to raise your kids in a particular faith?
Perhaps you or your partner already have kid(s) from a previous relationship.  Parenting is still an important topic to discuss.  Just because he already has children doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be open to having another one.  Don’t leave anything to assumption.  Also, when blending a family you’ll want to discuss who and how the discipline of the children will be handled.
Hopefully these questions are just a sample of an ongoing discussion you and your partner are already having.  You may not be exactly on the same page for every question.  The important thing is having the discussion and knowing where you each stand on things.  In some cases, you may not know how you feel about an issue until it comes up.  Or, as it does for many people, your feelings about an issue may change once you actually have children.  Building the foundation for a healthy dialogue now will allow you to continue to have healthy conversations as you experience the journey together.

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Resolving Conflict in Your Marriage

If you’ve been with your partner for any length of time chances are you’ve had your fair share of disagreements.  Conflict is inevitable in any marriage.  The important thing is knowing how to handle the conflict when it comes up.  Below are just a few tools you can use in your marriage to improve healthy conflict resolution skills.
1.  Remember that the goal is resolution – not to hurt each other. With that in mind it’s important to avoid name calling or personal character attacks.  If the argument moves in that direction you or your partner will quickly become defensive and it will no longer be about the discussion at hand.
2.  Watch your words. Remember that “I” statements are often better received than “you” statements.  For example, stating “I feel hurt when we don’t spend time together” versus “You never spend any time with me.”  You statements are very accusing and will again put your partner on the defense.  Your partner is not a mind-reader so you’ll need to clue them in to your feelings anyway.   Also, it’s best to avoid words like “always” and “never.”  Keep the discussion current by talking about whatever the particular issue at hand is.  Avoid throwing in old issues.
3.  Maintain an open mind. Ultimately, it’s not about “your way” versus “my way.”  It’s about finding “our way.”  Reaching an agreement together requires both parties to be fully committed to keeping an open mind and be willing to compromise.  That means both need to participate in the discussion with full attention.  Put down the remote or turn off the cell phone if it’s an important issue.  Be an active listener and take the time to try and understand your partner’s point of view.

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici

Communication is Key

You’ve heard it said before that communication is the key to any good relationship.  But have you ever really stopped to think about just how multifaceted communication is?  More than half of our daily communication is non-verbal.  That includes everything from tone, facial expressions, and even our moments of silence in conversation.  Take a look at the picture to the left.  What does the woman’s body language seem to be saying?  How about the distance between them on the couch?  It’s impossible to know exactly what she’s thinking or feeling without being in the room, but the truth is sometimes even when you’re in the same room as your partner it can be challenging to understand and communicate effectively.
Communication styles are, in part, learned behaviors.  For example, an individual who grows up in a very stoic household may have a difficult time as an adult being open about his or her feelings and emotions because they were viewed early on as a sign of weakness and because there was not an early example of how to do so.  If this individual marries someone who craves sharing feelings and experiences openly and routinely there can be challenges.
Fortunately, couples can work towards understanding their individual communication styles and needs and those of their partner’s.  Through that process they can begin to adapt when necessary.  Perhaps you and your partner have different concepts of what it means to “respectfully communicate” – one may view a raised tone in an argument as threatening or disrespectful while the other views it as being passionate about the topic at hand.  Taking the time to really understand how your partner communicates can help you to understand how best to communicate with them.
The quantity and quality of your communication can also have ups and downs during the course of your relationship.  It’s important to invest in each other and make it a priority to talk and listen.  Beginning the process of truly exploring how to effectively communicate with your partner now can help lay the foundation for a healthy marriage.

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Let's Talk About Sex…

Any premarital series would be remiss without discussing sex.  It’s a vital part of marriage. Regardless of whether you and your partner have been sexually involved with each other for years or have remained abstinent – a professional may help shed light on areas you haven’t even thought about discussing.  Are you able to communicate openly with your partner about sexual needs and wants?  Is your partner?  Take a look at some of the discussion topics below which are frequently used in premarital counseling.
– Desired frequency of sexual intercourse
– Preferred sexual positions
– Feelings about marital aids such as erotic films and sexual toys
– Sexually unusual behavior
– Sexual handicaps
– Sexual preferences
– Specific behaviors that turn you and your partner on
– Personal definitions for intimacy
Have you discussed each of these topics with your partner?  What do you do if you have different opinions about them?  What if your opinions change?  As with most things, it’s best not to assume you know how your fiance feels about an issue.  Premarital counseling gives you the opportunity to dialogue about intimate issues in a safe environment.

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In Love….With Your In-Laws???

You’ve found your soulmate and  are looking forward to the big day!  You can’t wait to ride off into the sunset together after the reception.  But what do you do when your mother-in-law calls you five minutes after you’ve left to make sure you got on the road ok?  Or when she calls first thing the next morning to see how your night went?  Hopefully, this is an extreme example and something you won’t encounter.  But it is important for you and your partner to have open conversations about in-laws and expectations.  Because in some ways it’s true – you’re marrying the whole family.
Have you thought about how much time you plan to spend with your family after you’re married?  Have you discussed it with your partner?  Do you know how much time he or she wants to spend with their own family?  Maybe you anticipate seeing your family once a week while your partner would prefer something less frequent.  Perhaps you’d like to go as a couple to extended family gatherings, but your partner is more comfortable staying at home while you go alone.
Then there’s the issue of holidays.  Will you spend them separate from your families of origin?  Will you split the holidays and spend the morning with your family while you spend the afternoon with the in-laws?  Or, for example, will you alternate holidays – spending Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other?  Will these arrangements change if you have kids?
Then we come back to money (see our previous post).  How important is it to you to be financially independent from your parents and your in-laws?  Is it just as important to your partner?  Your partner may be quick to turn to parents or grandparents for a loan while you may want to avoid it at all costs (or vice versa).  Or perhaps you have different views on whether or not you want to loan money to other family members.  Maybe for one of you it’s important because it’s a family member, while the other finds it difficult because it’s the third loan and you’ve never received any of the money back.
Also important to discuss is the issue of elder parent care.  For some of you, this may be far off and hard to think about.  However, for some this may be close at hand or an issue tied with strong emotions.  Should either set of parents get to a place where they are no longer able to live independently do you know what living arrangements you or your partner would be comfortable with?  If they need full-time care would you be more comfortable with them living with you or in an assisted living facility?  Would you pay for the facility?
None of the above questions are designed to scare you.  Instead, the hope is that they will act as a springboard for conversation with your partner.  Take some time to think about where you stand on some of the issues, share them with your partner, and listen to their views.

Be sure to check back next week as we discuss our next topic: Sex.

Money & Marriage: Things to Discuss Beforehand

Money-MarriageYou’ve probably heard it said that money is the number one issue couples argue about.  Did you know it can also significantly predict divorce?  According to a recent study out of Utah State University, couples who argued over money once a week were 30% more likely to get divorced than those who argued over finances a few times a month.*  In fact, disputing over money was a larger indicator than any other category examined; including sex, spending time together, in-laws, and chores.
With this in mind, it’s important to openly explore issues of money with your partner before even getting married.  Perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning.  Take a close look at your upbringing and how it compares to that of your partner’s with regards to money.  Were your parents major savers or spenders?  Was debt commonplace or something avoided at all costs?  Did they combine incomes or keep them separate?  Most money behaviors are learned so it’s important to explore your pasts together and determine how they have shaped your views.
Continue your exploration into the past by discussing credit.  It’s important to be honest with your partner about past financial mistakes.  If you decide to pool your money together then one person’s debt becomes that of both individuals.  It’s best not to have surprises in this area after saying “I do.”  Do you have a plan to manage the debt?  The sooner you discuss the better.
Next, take a look at the logistics of money management in a marriage.  Who will handle paying the bills?  Will you set financial goals together?  What are those financial goals?  How will you develop specific plans to save (for a home, children, vacations or other luxury items, retirement, etc)?  Will every purchase be made after consultation with your partner or will you develop a specific dollar amount that deems it a “big ticket item” which requires consultation with your partner?  What will that dollar amount be?
The truth is you won’t be able to predict every potential disagreement about money before you get married.  The important thing is knowing how to communicate with your partner when those disagreements come up.  So ten years from now when your step-daughter turns 16 and asks your spouse to buy her a car and he’s ready to sign on the dotted line while you’d prefer to make her work for it herself – you’ll want to know how to discuss your views in a way that won’t damage your marriage.  Or when you discover that your partner’s desire to eat lunch out everyday is making a significant dent in the savings towards a down payment on a house – you’ll need to find a way to come together on the issue.  Money will inevitably play a role in every marriage.  Premarital counseling can help you to identify problem areas and give you the tools to communicate about them throughout the course of your marriage.
Check back later this week for our next topic in our premarital series: In-laws.


Planning A Marriage (Not Just A Wedding)

Planning-A-MarriageWith half of all marriages ending in divorce it’s important to do everything you can to create a solid foundation in your relationship.  Fortunately, you can begin this prep work before you even say “I do.”  Premarital counseling is an opportunity for you and your partner to dialogue openly with some guidance from a professional.  It can help identify areas of weakness before they become major issues in the marriage. Ultimately, it can strengthen your overall relationship.
Because we feel so strongly about the importance of premarital counseling we are going to begin a series devoted towards it.  Each week we will highlight a major topic typically discussed in a counseling session.  Each are vital domains in a marriage.  Be sure to check back next week as we discuss our first topic: Money.

Before I Got Married, I Wish I had Known…

Wedding bands, Premarital CounselingWe all have preconceived images of what marriage looks like.  The reality, however, is often very different.  From a very early age we’re presented with picture perfect romances through movies and television.  The truth is they can’t possibly show how much work marriage requires day in and day out.  Here are a few things that might be helpful to know before getting married:
1.  It’s hard.  REALLY hard.  Most people know this going into marriage, but can’t fully comprehend it until they are in the thick of it.  That’s because before actually getting married it’s easy to naively believe marriage is hard for other people, but won’t be for you and your partner.  Because you and your partner are very in love and love conquers all.  Love is powerful, but requires work.  From both parties.
2.  Sometimes marriage is boring.  The truth is you probably won’t go to bed every night and wake up every morning with stars in your eyes.  (Sometimes you may wake up next to bad breath and stolen covers – or you may never fall asleep because of loud snoring!)  It’s hard for most people to imagine how long “til death do us part” really is.  Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine just how much monotony is in there.  As the honeymoon phase begins to fade and the realities of day to day life come into play it can be hard to accept everyday isn’t full of sparks or adventure.
3.  No matter how much you love your partner, you’re not going to have sex everyday.  In fact, several days may go by and that can be normal.  One or both partners may be tired from work or managing small children.  Maybe one partner isn’t feeling well.  The important thing is that intimacy can be maintained in other ways.  Touch of any kind can provide reassurance and keep the flame alive.  Mutual sexual satisfaction, like every other part of a marriage, requires hard work.
4.  Resentment is ugly and often hides around the corner.  Perhaps you and your partner have different views on roles and responsibilities within the marriage.  Maybe you didn’t realize how your partner felt about the issue before you got married or maybe you didn’t realize how you would feel about an issue until it actually came up.  Whatever the case may be it can be difficult to fight off resentment.  Truth is it can build up and begin to eat away at the relationship.  Again, both parties have to actively work for the marriage which means keeping resentment out.
The list could go on and on.  That’s because marriage is a lifelong journey, not a destination.  The longer you are married the more lessons you learn.

Walking Down the Aisle? Make Sure You Visit a Counselor On The Way!

Wedding bands, Premarital Counseling Deciding to get married is one of the biggest decisions a person can   make.  Congratulations for making it!  Marriage is life changing and demands a lot of attention and hard work.  Premarital counseling is an opportunity for couples to get a head start on the work ahead of them.  The goal is to decide if engagement is a good choice, inform couples about the realities of married life, teach communication and conflict resolution skills, and establish mutual goals. (  Think of it as an opportunity to openly and honestly discuss issues, feelings, and baggage (we all have it!).  Counseling should cover these specific areas: compatibility, expectations, personalities, origins of families, communication, conflict resolution, intimacy and sexuality, and long-term goals.   A variety of quizzes and assessment tools will be used to open the dialogue in areas such as interests and activities, role expectations, personal adjustment, interpersonal communication, religion and philosophy, marriage expectations, family issues, finances, children (and parenting), and sexuality.  Chances are you and your fiancé have different views about things in one or more of these areas.  That’s to be expected.  The key is to identify and communicate these differences beforehand.
Still trying to decide if premarital counseling is for you?  It’s for the young and never married, those afraid of commitment, couples that disagree on important issues (i.e. sex, work, money, parenting, religion), individuals with previously failed marriages, those who have difficulty handling conflicts, and people with a history of childhood or domestic abuse.  That just about covers everyone!
Still not entirely convinced?  Think about this.  Research shows premarital counseling reduces the incidence of divorce by 30%. (  Why not work to strengthen your marriage before it even starts!

hope & restorationWhen the dark clouds of life roll in and settle over you, it’s important to have someone who can help you tap into your inner strength so that you can survive the storm.  At The Empowerment Group, that’s exactly what we do. We welcome you to explore the possibilities that are available to you. Restore a sense of balance and direction to your life. Whether through therapy, through Family Mediation, or through relationship counseling, we can help you find a path toward resolution and relief. Empowering your life! The Empowerment Group wants to help you bring balance, peace and happiness to your life even when the storms roll in and you feel all hope is gone. We can help:
  • Mediation
  • Therapy
  • Relationships
  • Pre-Marital Counseling



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