D. Charles Williams, Ph.D.
In The Tale of Two Cities, the first line in the book begins: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." What an apt description of the first year of marriage! It is an idyllic foray into "happily ever after" interrupted by disenchanting descents into despair. Why is it that before marriage, couples pledge to do whatever it takes to make the marriage work, but after the "I doís" neither is willing to budge from their respective points of view? It has been our experience with literally hundreds of couples that beginning the first year of marriage on solid ground clearly differentiates between those who will enjoy marital bliss vs. disillusionment. Premarital counseling is a proactive opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each individual and the couple before having to discover them later in the marriage. Some premarital counseling efforts are frankly ineffective, superficial, minimally educational and mere well wishes for the lucky lovebirds.
Premarital counseling that is truly effective and of practical value should include the following:
- a list of each individualís strengths,
- an honest assessment of each individualís shortcomings,
- the current problematic issues the couple has faced while dating and engaged,
- an in-depth history of both of their families of origin,
- an understanding of the past and present problems in their own parentís marriages,
- a clear description of how the couple currently solves conflicts, and
- what the mandatory expectations and "deal breakers" are in the marriage.
If these areas are thoroughly covered before the marriage, the probability of disillusionment decreases and the prospects for a healthy, happy marriage significantly improve.