What comes next?
The other week one of the local radio station’s morning talk program held a discussion on marriage. A young engaged woman called in. She said that she signed herself and her fiance up for premarital counseling. She did so, she claimed, because her husband-to-be doesn’t know anything about what a modern marriage ought to be like.
Her beloved was raised by his socially conservative grandmother. Now that they’re approaching their married life it came out that he believes she will do all of the work around the house and take care of the kids.
We’ve looked at gender roles in the household extensively here on families.com so I don’t want to focus on that; instead, I want to examine two other points this woman raised: signing up for premarital counseling and when in a relationship to discuss potential issues in a marriage. I don’t have the space for both today, so I’ll cover the latter in my next blog.
Growing up I always assumed every engaged couple went to premarital counseling. I thought so because my father is a pastor and it’s a requirement he makes for every single couple that wants him to marry them. I figured it wasn’t something just my father, but that most pastors, did.
As I got older I of course learned that not all weddings are performed by a pastor or held in a church, and that the practice might be limited to Christian weddings. I didn’t judge, I just stopped assuming that all marriages were preceded by premarital counseling.
Which leads me to my topic: if premarital counseling isn’t a default for your marriage, would you sign up for it anyway? The girl who called into the radio did so because she said that her fiance is a loving man, but he has outdated notions of marriage. She’s worried that it’s an emotional issue, so she thought that having this discussion would go better with a trained intermediary.
It’s hard for me to objectively decide whether or not counseling before a marriage is a good idea, because I grew up with the notion that it’s a given. But when I try to step back and think about it, it seems like it could be a good idea, but not one that’s necessary.
Blame for our nation’s high divorce rate is often blamed on the fact that couples get married too young, that they go through too much change as they age, or that they didn’t really understand what they were getting into when they tied the knot. Perhaps if more people went through premarital counseling before they got married, they’d learn more of what marriage entails, better preparing them for the reality of married life.
I’m not saying I think it ought to be a requirement. Our pastor was actually surprised at how much Jon and I had already discussed before premarital, he said we hadn’t needed it as much, so I certainly don’t think it’s a requirement for all. I just think maybe it ought to be something couples consider as one of many of the other decisions they make surrounding their upcoming marriages. It might not be necessary for some, but it could help for others. I know that there is secular counseling available, so I’m not arguing that all couples about to be married need to go before a pastor.
Do you think premarital counseling is a good idea, or an outdated tradition?
*(The above image by Graeme Weatherston is from freedigitalphotos.net).