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  1. #1
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Default Pre marriage counseling

    So, getting married and all...

    One of the things I was tossing around in my head was if it was worth getting pre-marriage counseling... or what do they call it now, pre marriage education? Well, whatever name it goes by now, a lot of statistics have shown that doing so greatly decreases the chance of divorce and has an impact on the happiness/satisfaction of the marriage.


    But I would see this as a bit of a self-selection issue. Except there are certain religious denominations that generally high a higher divorce rate, except for those that do have the counseling as part of their culture... and it's fairly distinct.

    I guess I'm asking if anyone has any experience on this...and if so, was it with a psychologist/therapist (with the forms you each fill out to compare differences) or with a priest/other religious figure where it was mostly talked out?

    And of course, any other advice/comments always welcome from those poor souls already lost.

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    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Don and I went through pre-marital counseling. We were at Bible College and it was sort of expected, though I don't believe it was required. We're divorce phobic so we would have done it anyway.

    We were counseled by a couple who taught at the school. They had been pastors for many years before that. We basically went through a workbook called "Before You Say I Do." Don and I each had a workbook and we filled in our answers separately then discussed them during our sessions. I think the primary purpose was to expose any major differences that would cause problems down the road.

    I forget how many weeks we met, but in the end the wife told me that they thought we had a pretty good chance of making it.

    I think we would have been alright without it, but it gave us some reassurance and made sure we were kind of on the same page. I would recommend it. It's one of those things were it may or may not help but it can't hurt.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
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    i doubt it would hurt .. assuming both parties (both you and your fiancee) are open to the suggestions and the counselor is competent with constructive advice, then i don't see how it could be anything but beneficial ..

    it will happen sooner or later .. why not clarify it ahead of time?

    although i will say, it may bring to surface unforeseen negative conditions .. but they would have to be confronted eventually anyway .. be prepared

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    Our premarriage counseling was a complete waste. It consisted of two meetings with the pastor who was doing the ceremony, and really did not deal with any of the issues that began tearing us apart within a year or so.

    So anything we learned in our long marriage, we sweated blood to gain.

    I think you would need more "long-term" counseling to make it worthwhile, with someone who either knew you both as a couple and individuals; or taking the time to let someone hear about your relationship and the things that you both conflict on.

    Some of your practical issues have probably been discovered by you, if you have been living together.

    Personality, which you both are probably more canny about than most, is another issue -- where are the meshing points, where are the probable friction points?

    And sometimes when people marry, their expectations change unknowingly and they find themselves frustrated by things that did not bother them when they were just living together.... especially if children come into the picture.

    Still, you are both older as well as thoughtful/self-aware, so that does help a great deal.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    oh ill add another thing ..

    in my case, before marriage, the things that i had convinced myself were no big deal and easily manageable with a "little" communication, turned out to be the big ones

    so trust your guts ..

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    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafe View Post
    We were counseled by a couple who taught at the school. They had been pastors for many years before that. We basically went through a workbook called "Before You Say I Do." Don and I each had a workbook and we filled in our answers separately then discussed them during our sessions. I think the primary purpose was to expose any major differences that would cause problems down the road.
    I'm guessing that you guys found some differences... how much did you talk before getting married/filling in the books. In a lot of ways I think I could fill in the book for NP, though she might have a harder time doing mine...

    How much did the discussion help? Not that you can know what it would of been like otherwise, but did it resolve particular issues? General open communication training?


    Quote Originally Posted by alexkreuz View Post
    i doubt it would hurt .. assuming both parties (both you and your fiancee) are open to the suggestions and the counselor is competent with constructive advice, then i don't see how it could be anything but beneficial ..

    it will happen sooner or later .. why not clarify it ahead of time?

    although i will say, it may bring to surface unforeseen negative conditions .. but they would have to be confronted eventually anyway .. be prepared
    That's generally how I feel. Unfortunately there is a certain bias in that doing this is frowned upon, culturally (ie: there is something wrong with the relationship). I don't feel it strongly, but I am curious how other people see it so I can evaluate it based upon that rather than either misleading statistics or emotion...



    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Our premarriage counseling was a complete waste. It consisted of two meetings with the pastor who was doing the ceremony, and really did not deal with any of the issues that began tearing us apart within a year or so.
    Do you think it was the pastor's fault? Or is your situation different enough that it couldn't of been forseen? I'm guessing your sub-culture also does counseling quite a bit... any impression from friends/etc that it was effective?

    I think you would need more "long-term" counseling to make it worthwhile, with someone who either knew you both as a couple and individuals; or taking the time to let someone hear about your relationship and the things that you both conflict on.

    Some of your practical issues have probably been discovered by you, if you have been living together.

    Personality, which you both are probably more canny about than most, is another issue -- where are the meshing points, where are the probable friction points?
    Heh, you know me. I've probably spent the biggest slice of my life looking at relationships... but I don't have a lot of practical long term experience. That matter a lot. I'm also in the high risk group, personality wise, so I want to address that too.

    My main problem is that I keep things too close to my chest. I was thinking that any talking... forced talking... might help me open up to NP rather than the other way around. In a way, I can read but I can't talk.

    So while I've done as much as I can in terms of attitude, styles and so forth... I have this nattering thought that I should do it because we all have blind spots.

    And sometimes when people marry, their expectations change unknowingly and they find themselves frustrated by things that did not bother them when they were just living together.... especially if children come into the picture.
    That reminds me, I should start a thread for getting myself fixed

    That will always be a risk... I don't have that eternal bliss illusion at all. I just want to give the best chance possible... but with infinite things I could do, I want to make sure that I pick the right/effective option... What I'm hearing here is "Workbook good, pastor bad"

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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    there is a certain bias in that doing this is frowned upon ... My main problem is that I keep things too close to my chest. I was thinking that any talking... forced talking... might help me open up to NP rather than the other way around
    Well, I am of the bias that I'm not particularly fond of any external "counselors" getting involved in the middle of things. I'm a private person and feel like the moment an outsider is involved in personal matters, a part of the "sanctity" of the relationship is automatically forfeited ..

    You see I'm of the opinion that if two people were actively willing to share their innermost insecurities, desires, fears, etc. and were actively willing to "understand" each other and their differences, without taking offense, then a counselor wouldn't be required .. A counselor would only be required when those conditions aren't there, and hence, as you said, it would be an attempt to "force" the parties to open up ..

    But to me, I feel that if a person needs to be "forced" into understanding or sharing with another person then that can only lead to further resentment of being forced to do something one didn't want to do. If a person was "ok" with being "forced" to talk, then it, by definition, wouldn't be called force anymore, in which case, a counselor wouldn't be required.

    So I have a bias against counselors, but I do feel that if there is incredibly poor communication, then might as well since at that point you're probably flinging mudpies and bricks at each other anyway.

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    Do you think it was the pastor's fault? Or is your situation different enough that it couldn't of been forseen? I'm guessing your sub-culture also does counseling quite a bit... any impression from friends/etc that it was effective?
    I don't think it was the pastor's fault per se... except for being so steeped in "This is the way Life is [Biblically], and they both believe the right things, so everything will be fine even if it's hard." He was a "just do it" person. But life for many people needs more than constantly doing things that don't align with the inner life.

    So it was the philosophy/faith concept he came from, plus the fact that he was only able to see us twice and wasn't into the details of the relationship.

    The pastor at the church I attended recently (IxTP) hated counseling. He allowed the associate pastor (ENFP) to pick it up. The assc pastor is much more a "get in and get dirty" long-term advisor, so his counseling probably was much better.

    but I don't have a lot of practical long term experience. That matter a lot. I'm also in the high risk group, personality wise, so I want to address that too.
    Yes, you're right -- I think real-life experience was a shock to me. There are things you just do not "get" until you experience them. And IxTP does have a hard time with marriage relationally, depending on the partner.

    My main problem is that I keep things too close to my chest. I was thinking that any talking... forced talking... might help me open up to NP rather than the other way around. In a way, I can read but I can't talk.
    I think I understand that. To be honest, I am still told that I don't "talk enough." I very much will wait until an idea is formed/finished in my head (as much as I can) until I let someone else know about it; but most people in relationships seem to feel better / feel more included if they are part of the formulation process.

    That reminds me, I should start a thread for getting myself fixed
    You could just do it at home. (You just need a good pair of scissors, and some duct tape!)

    What I'm hearing here is "Workbook good, pastor bad"
    I would not say that necessarily. The most recent marriage counselor we visited was labeled as "Christian" but she was very open to seeing things from all angles and very much a "get into the details" person and was not surprised by anything. So she is attached to a belief system but I see her as very helpful. But if it's just a religious person who puts a "seal of approval" on you because your creed is "correct" or just tells you "follow these rules and all will go well," well, that's not real counseling....
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexkreuz View Post
    So I have a bias against counselors, but I do feel that if there is incredibly poor communication, then might as well since at that point you're probably flinging mudpies and bricks at each other anyway.
    Hmm, up to here, I thought I agreed with you

    I see your argument this way:

    1) If you talked things out, seeing a counselor would be no big deal, even if not helpful.

    2) If you don't talk things out, seeing a counselor is a big deal, but is even more required.

    End result: See a counselor, no matter what.

    NP and I talk a lot - a whole hell of a lot... so I don't see that as the core issue... For me it's blind spots, things I can conceive of until it's too late. By the sounds of it, Cafe's method would be what would be helpful... just talking would be useless, as per Jenn's comments...

    But I agree with your logic, though I extend it to "Can't think of everything, so this will broaden what we have talked about"...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    I'm guessing that you guys found some differences... how much did you talk before getting married/filling in the books. In a lot of ways I think I could fill in the book for NP, though she might have a harder time doing mine...
    I know it has been fifteen years but I don't remember running into any big differences.

    Since we were at a strict Bible college in a tiny town in rural North Dakota and we were broke we did a lot of talking. Both of us had also done a fair bit of looking into relationships and marriage before we ever met. We knew each other a little over six months when we started counseling, I think. We knew each other one school year when we married.

    We come from very similar backgrounds and have a lot in common, so that probably helped. I dunno.
    • both from the US Midwest (though he disparages my home area as the Eastern midwest )
    • both white/Western European ethnicity
    • both firstborn children of fairly young mothers
    • both raised in single parent households
    • less than a year apart in age
    • similar socio-eco backgrounds
    • same religious denomination
    • both introverts
    • both intuitives
    • both on the J/P border
    • both love to read
    • both have one younger sibling of the opposite gender
    • reasonably similar IQs


    They talked about some gender stuff (something along the lines of Men are from Mars) that was helpful, but other than that, it just mostly helped me, at least, feel like we weren't nuts to think we were good together and that it really just might work.

    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    How much did the discussion help? Not that you can know what it would of been like otherwise, but did it resolve particular issues? General open communication training?
    The part of the discussion that helped me the most was that the man was a big introverted geek. Way more rigid than Don so probably an ISXJ and his wife told me that sometimes you just have to take the book out of his hands and sit on his lap and that cooking, etc wasn't the big deal to men that people made it out to be.

    I don't think it really resolved any issues. Our only major issue was about having kids and poor Don caved on that one. He had caved before we went to counseling.

    We didn't have the foggiest idea what it was going to take to make it as adults as far as effort and money, but nothing could have prepared us for that.

    I don't know if that helps at all?
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

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