Marriage is a sacred commitment that shouldn’t be entered into without intention, and premarital counseling is a valuable part of the process. Premarital counseling provides a safe place for each partner to discuss his or her feelings and delve into the parts of their personal stories contributing to the dynamic of the relationship. Barbara Wyer sat down recently to discuss areas of concern regularly explored by couples in her practice of premarital counseling in Franklin TN.
Q: How do you think couples should address their expectations about marriage?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: It’s quite common for couples to come to the marriage with high hopes and a generalized expectation that their future spouse will “make” them happy and fulfilled, without really talking about what that means day-in and day-out. I think it is important for each partner to express their ideals regarding alone time, date nights, gender roles, salary differentials, and even time spent with non-mutual friends. Premarital counseling offers a structured context in which to have those conversations.
Q: But are those things really that important to nail down before we get married?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: While those kinds of issues may seem unimportant in the beginning, compared to the love you feel for each other, once you are living with someone they can make a big difference in your “happiness quotient.”
Q: Who should make decisions regarding where we settle down or if we should move for a different job–the one with the highest salary?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: There are many factors that should be taken into account. Really, that is something you both should agree upon before settling down permanently or making a move. While employment opportunities certainly may affect where you live, other things to consider may include whether or not your family lives nearby, the quality of local schools, or even future travel plans. All of these have the potential to play a role in your lifestyle.
Q: Is there ever an easy way to talk about money without becoming stressed out?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: It may be an uncomfortable conversation but being honest about financial expectations and responsibility is one of the fundamentals influencing a relationship’s long-term success.
Q: Shouldn’t the higher earner have the final say regarding spending?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: Most couples I see prefer to make those kinds of decisions together. Other financial issues that are helpful to discuss in advance include whether or not you will have separate or joint bank accounts, who is responsible for making sure bills are paid on time, and which partner will take time off work for emergencies once you have children in school.
Q: I’m pretty sure that my husband expects his disabled sister will live with us when their mother passes. I don’t like that idea. How should I approach talking to him about this?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: The very real possibility of taking care of relatives in the future is an important issue that should be mutually agreed upon in advance, whenever possible. It sounds like your husband feels highly obligated to care for his sister, so talking it through to arrive at a compromise may be difficult. Perhaps couples counseling will be helpful as you explore your individual fears and concerns.
Q: Should the wife stay home with the kids?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: In our parents’ generation that is how gender roles typically played out. However, as more women joined the workforce, roles shifted – particularly when many women began to bring home wages competitively similar to their husband’s. A wife may feel like her career is every bit as important as staying at home to raise a family. I would suggest discussing this in depth and being fully aligned to avoid any resentment later.
Q: I’m not sure I can talk to my fiancé about sex; I feel like I want it more often than she does. Can premarital counseling help?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: Yes, premarital counseling can help you open up the conversation about expected frequency of sex, unpleasant or traumatic experiences in the past, or what aspects of sex are off limits. Sex changes throughout the relationship and counseling can help the two of you learn how to express your feelings in a non-threatening way. When you experience sexual and emotional frustrations therapy can be a safe place to work these types of issues out.
Q: What is the best way to approach conflict resolution?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: Many people learn how to deal with conflict by the way in which that was modeled for them, growing up. Sitting down together can help you understand better how each partner views disagreements and how they may react in times of distress.
Q: I’m an atheist; (future) husband is Christian. He wants to raise our children as believers but I am not comfortable with that. Can we come to an agreement?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: Spirituality is a deeply important issue for many people. If you and your fiancé are truly committed to the process, it’s possible to process through the issues are the most important to each other and learn to work through even the toughest hurdles.
Q: We are really happy together. Why should we talk about the potential for an affair now?
Barbara Wyer Premarital Counseling Franklin TN: Honestly, it is a good idea to talk about potential marriage problems before they happen. Marriages don’t just break up due to affairs that involve sexual infidelity. Emotional relationships or affairs with others outside of the marriage can threaten your marriage as well.
Barbara Wyer, MMFT, has been happily married for 25 years and is able to offer couples a unique perspective on how healthy relationships function. She is certified in PREPARE/ENRICH, a widely utilized premarital counseling tool that allows couples to explore areas of their relationship that should be addressed prior to walking down the aisle. PREPARE/ENRICH was developed based on years of research and has been refined and improved to become the best relationship assessment instrument currently available.