Should I Consider Premarital Counselling Before Tying the Knot?
by Rachel Yeoh. |
I think most people think it is a good idea, but don’t actually sign up to be counselled before saying ‘I do’ - except Muslims, as it is compulsory.
It is merely a ‘good idea’ because…
There is nothing wrong with the relationship.
Counselling is for couples with issues to iron out.
It might trigger unwanted and difficult conversations about the relationship.
Your friend’s relationship needs it more than yours.
We are already living together, getting married is just to make it official.
The above is what I can conjure up in my head. You may have other reasons, BUT, I am going to give you a few rationales on why those who are looking to get married should overcome that taboo and go for premarital counselling.
1. Helps manage expectations
Every individual has expectations; ones they are aware of and ones they are not. We have our belief systems instilled by our family, community, and the information we consume. We navigate our world through those lenses. When we get married, these belief systems merge. You may think both of you are a match made in heaven, but unfortunately, heaven is not on earth.
Before getting married (and after too), I had high expectations for my husband and myself. Expectations are great, but when they remain unmet by your partner, disappointment comes knocking. Your partner will feel like a failure, and you will feel disgruntled.
Mismatched expectations are bound to happen sooner or later, but after going through premarital counselling, we can put most of our expectations on the table, with a neutral party helping us address them.
Initially, we were sure we had spoken about anything and everything under the sun, but counselling proved us wrong because there were instances where we looked at each other and went, ‘WHAT?!?!’
2. Helps identify roles
The dynamics of each family are different. The way our parents communicate (or don’t communicate) to each other is subtly transferred to us. The role our parents play in their relationship with each other, like it or not, is a yardstick for us when we become somebody’s husband or wife.
Boyfriend and girlfriend roles are very different from husband and wife roles. Some men expect their wives to resume the roles their mothers play in their home. Some expect the opposite. The same goes for women.
When there is someone to facilitate us to view our roles as husband and wife, it makes it easier to (back to point number one) manage our expectations in the marriage.
3. Helps money management
Financial issues are the most common reason for divorce in Malaysia. I sometimes fault the education system that conveniently teaches us Additional Mathematics but not the basics of personal finance.
You see, we are all either spenders or savers. In most cases, we make choices to spend more on an item we deem worthwhile. Lovebirds usually spend money on each other. After getting married, financial priorities take a different direction. You have to make choices that involve saving money on big-ticket items (a home, children, retirement, investments) and spending on things that give you pleasure (travel, fine dining, new gaming console) and essentials (utilities, food, new furniture).
Premarital counselling asks money questions that we don’t often address, even after dating for years. It also gives you a guideline on how you can work your finances, making it transparent to both husband and wife, allowing them to work with rather than against each other.
4. Helps self-discovery
I discovered more about myself after attending premarital counselling. I was fortunate to have facilitators who believed we should not ‘lose’ ourselves when we are in a relationship, and that our partner is not our ‘better-half’ but equals.
We don’t just do personality tests for fun, but it all comes with extra probing and crisis management by the facilitators after. It encourages us to tap into incidents in our lives that moulded our thinking and assess if there should be a paradigm shift in our mindset.
5. Provides long-term perspective
I don’t think anyone goes into a marriage expecting a divorce (I can’t answer for Hollywood superstars, though). I mean, what happened to happily ever after?
Well, there is no such thing.
The ‘in-love’ phase does not last forever, therefore, premarital counselling helps both husband and wife-to-be to project their relationship forward, highlighting red flags or possible issues that might crop up in the future. Instead of just vowing to love each other for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, going for premarital counselling prepares you for it when the storms come.
Are you expecting to get hitched soon? Before you do, I would suggest attending at least a premarital counselling session. It is fun for the most part, but you do have to do a bit of thinking and mental discovery.
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