Mar
21
2010

Premarital Counseling

I’m getting married!

My fiancee and I just attended our first premarital counseling session the other day. We don’t have any particular problems or issues. Premarital counseling is just something that is recommended to all engaged couples. It brings up common problem areas for couples, such as finances, children, in-laws, etc. These are all topics we’ve discussed before, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to try this out.

The verdict from our first session: We are an awesome couple! We have lots of the traits of long-lasting relationships. Woo hoo!

Okay, okay, enough bragging.

The session taught us some interesting relationship concepts. They may seem obvious when you read them, but it’s fascinating to think of them within the frameworks they provide.

The Five Love Languages

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” there are five basic ways that people give and receive love:

  1. Words of Affirmation – Offering unsolicited compliments and saying affectionate things
  2. Quality Time – Sharing your time and undivided attention
  3. Receiving Gifts – Giving thoughtful, meaningful gifts
  4. Acts of Service – Helping out around the house and doing thoughtful deed
  5. Physical Touch – Holding hands, giving hugs, and offering physical affection

Each of us has a preferred way of showing our love for someone. At the same time, each of us has a different way of interpreting love from our partner. Happy couples tend to be ones that communicate their love in ways that match their partners’ preferences. Fortunately, these methods of communication can be taught and learned.

For example, if the husband tends to demonstrate love through giving gifts and the wife interprets love as words of affirmation, then the mismatch may cause the wife to think the husband does not love her.

Simultaneously, if the wife prefers to show her love with words (sometimes, but not always, the way we interpret love is the same as the way we communicate it), while the husband interprets love through physical touch, then the husband may think the wife does not love him.

This tragic mismatch can be salvaged by understanding how each person prefers to give and receive love. The husband can save his money and resolve to compliment her and say “I love you” more often. The wife can add hugs and shoulder rubs to her repertoire of love.

The Circle of Care

According to Dr. Carmen Knudson-Martin and Dr. Anne Rankin Mahoney, authors of the book, “Couples, Gender, and Power: Creating Change in Intimate Relationships,” there are four areas where gender and power issues can effect relationships:

  1. Emotional Attunement – How in tune, sympathetic, and empathic one is with the other
  2. Influence – How much one is able to change the other’s mind
  3. Vulnerability – How much one is able to show and express vulnerability with the other
  4. Relationship Responsibility – How much one takes responsibility for maintaining the health of the relationship

Typically, men are not taught to be emotionally attuned, show vulnerability, or take much responsibility in maintaining relationships. By that same token, women are typically taught to let men influence the decisions in the relationship. Although these are just stereotypes, more often than not, these gender roles persist.

Problems arise because the burden of maintaining the relationship falls upon the woman. This can lead to anger and resentment over time. Long-lasting relationships tend to have a balance of these four areas, according to Dr. Knudson-Martin and Dr. Mahoney’s research.

This means husbands should strive to understand and be sympathetic to their wives, especially when their wives just want to vent and not problem-solve (which men tend to do whenever they hear a problem). Husbands should also feel comfortable sharing their emotions and asking for help.

At the same time, wives should share in making decisions for the couple, speaking their mind with the understanding that the husband will listen and respect their opinions.

Premarital Counseling

Some of you are nodding your heads as you read this. Others are scratching your chins and going, “I don’t know about that…”

I’m no marriage expert. This is just what we’ve been told. They are interesting frameworks for long-lasting relationships and marriages, however, and definitely have merit. And I’m not just saying that because my fiancee and I share many of these traits (we are so awesome! Woo hoo!).

Okay, okay, enough with the bragging. We’ve still got more sessions to take and a lot more to learn. I should see how the rest of the premarital counseling sessions go before I boast anymore.

Turns to fiancee. Winks. Woo hoo!

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