Pre-Marital Counseling is a solution a couple should try before they decide to marry. I have been seeing a number of people who come for Couple Counseling within the first year or two of marriage. They had the wish that the things that weren’t working well during their engagement would go away after marriage and they would be able to “change” the partner. Instead they found that those things became more prominent and disturbing. In addition, other qualities that hadn’t come up during the courtship or engagement came into focus as well. Family of origin issue became increasingly important within the couple relationship and the impact of religious, cultural, communication and values differences began to take center stage.

When a couple is in the thralls of a romance, they tend not to think of or deal with differences between them, but after the marriage these difference become more important to their ongoing lives. Those couples that do realize they need to have serious discussions and work out their differences, often are able to forge a more successful working alliance for their life going forward. J and M were such a couple. They came when they started living together and realized that their wishes and timing about closeness and distance were different. M felt she needed to have J listen to her issues about work when she came home from a stressful day and started to talk with him soon after they both came home. M felt that he needed time to unwind and be alone. J felt that that meant the M “didn’t love her enough”. J felt that M’s pushing meant that she didn’t think of his needs. The disputes began to escalate and fights ensued. This couple was attributing emotional meaning to issues of personal space and stress. When they came to therapy they were able to discuss this in a safe environment and disconnect their attributions about love and commitment from their personal needs for space and time to unwind. In addition, the members of this couple came from families with different styles of relating and expressions of love and attention. These styles were being played out in their couple relationship. As this couple began to uncover their patterns of relating and appreciate some of their differences, they were able to stop their fighting and evolve a more effective communication style. This allowed them to go forward with their plans to marry and gave them the tools to discuss other important issues as they arose.

Barbara Feld

PARC partner

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