If you are fortunate enough to have found someone who inspires you to say a big, resounding "YES!" to each other for the rest of your lives, my suggestion is you lovingly owe it to yourselves to invest as much energy towards the future of your emotional well-being together as much as you might be putting towards your wedding, retirement planning, or buying a house. Premarital counseling can be one of the wisest investments you ever make in your future happiness. When people are in the early years of a relationship, it can be hard to imagine that your love can't conquer everything life might throw at your relationship. The grim statistics that divorce hovers somewhere in the 50% range can feel it won't ever apply to you two personally.
"It is well for the heart to be naive and the mind not to be."
Perhaps you won't be that couple that divorces, but you are more likely to be that couple that drifts apart over time and never learned how to continue growing together in a joyful, open way. The good news is that the more education you have, the lower your odds are of later divorce. And the best news is that anyone and everyone can become much better at building truly lasting relationships. The better communication skills you have, the more you are willing to learn about your own blind spots, and the more open you can learn to be about what makes it difficult to have your own self for a partner can make all the difference down the road.
Here are several ways Premarital Counseling can help:
- Premarital or Couples Counseling can significantly narrow the gap between the relationship you long to have for the rest of your lives together, and the actual skills you hold to get there. Wouldn't you like to know the four most basic patterns that research shows predict divorce in over 90 percent of couples over time? Can you see the benefits of learning the winning vs. losing straegies of the "masters of marriage?" As a premarital counselor, one example I like to teach my clients is what my mentor, Terry Real, calls "the losing strategy of unbridled self-expression." What this means is that when we are feeling upset and triggered by something our partner has just said or done, we often move into the dangerous territory of feeling entitled to "offend from the victim's position." I work with couples to end the resulting downward spiral that can lead to escalating hurt, resentment, withdrawal, and despair if this doesn't change. I coach clients on learning new ways to communicate and respond when they aren't feeling heard or respected so that the losing strategies don't worsen and mushroom into other areas of their lives together.
- Premarital Counseling can show you where your blind spots- or what I think of as "inner landmines"- are. The more awareness, insight, and accountability you can grow for your emotional "hotspots" and the more you know those of your partner's areas of vulnerability, the less likely you are to find yourselves in moments where things suddenly become so heated, exasperating, or confusing that you want to run for the hills. Couples who also are willing to take some time to explore what they learned in their families and environments growing up as well as their past relationships often find that their relatiionships run much smoother and joyfully.
- Premarital Counseling or Marriage Therapy can teach you to deepen and sustain an already great relationship. Creating and sustaining a relationship are two different things. We human beings are quite good at the first phase of a relationship. Our best, most eager, wide-eyed, accepting, and optimistic self shows up. We ask a lot of questions about our partner to try and get to really know all about them. We are curious, open-hearted, and more open-minded. Learning to remain receptive and generous in our love over time is a more arduous task for most. Keeping the gates to our heart open in a safe way requires we also look at our relationship with ourselves. This is why a significant piece of my work with couples is supporting the friendship you have with your own self. The best way to deepen and sustain your partnership is to learn to treat yourself better and more lovingly than you ever imagined possible. I work with my clients on developing healthier boundaries across the board. The more critical you are with yourself, the more critical you tend to be with others. The more you hold yourself in warm self regard despite your human imperfections, the more likely you are to be understanding and less demanding of others in harmful ways
A Few Words On What To Expect from Premarital Counseling and Marriage Therapy With Me in Portland, Oregon:
The first time you come in together, I will meet with you together for 90 minutes. During this time, I will learn more about your vsion and goals for the future, your potential concerns, and areas where you two find yourselves frustrated or gridlocked. I take the time to really learn your history together and this includes your strengths every bit as much as the areas needing improvement.
At the end of our first session, I send you each home with a packet to complete separately. The information you provide here allows me to really drill down on your strengths and weaknesses in great detail, and gives me valuable information that could otherwise take months for a therapist to gather. This process alone saves much time and money.
- The second meeting is typically an indiividual meeting with each of you to learn more about your individual histories, experiences, and needs. Your partner can attend this session if you wish as it often can build empathy and deeper understanding the more you know about your partner's history. The questions I ask are likely not ones you have discussed with each other yet. However, many couples do prefer to have this be a one-on-one session and I leave that up to each partner to decide what works best for them. This can also be a time to bring up issues you may feel timid bringing up with your partner and need support with. You will bring your take-home packets with you to this second meeting but I will not review it in session.
- The third meeting we have is together again. This is what I call our "feedback session." Based on the first meeting, your individual sessions, and the time I spend outside our appointment evaluating your take home assessment packets, I give you an oral report on what I see as your unique strengths as well as the very specific areas I recommend you focus on to improve the health and happiness in your relationship for the short and long run. Many couples take a lot of notes at this session as there is a lot of valuable informaion and advice they are likely hearing for the first time.
- At this point, based on your unque goals, needs, and recommendations I have made, we get to work on helping you create and sustain a relationship that is worth being in for the rest of your lives together. As I tell every couple, what matters most is what happens outside our appointments between you two at home, and I will work very hard alongside you to build your confidence and skills that hopefully make each anniversary something to truly celebrate.
Please feel free to call or email me with any questions you may have for me as a premarital counselor. You may leave a voicemail message at (503) 450-9902 or send me an email through the "Contact Request" box on my Homepage.