The other day I wrote how the Reverend at the wedding we attended this past weekend spoke about the importance of wedding rings. Another thing he brought up was the importance of not entering into marriage without advisement.
Wayne and I reluctantly, and begrudgingly, agreed to a very short premarital counseling session. Actually, the Reverend who wed us made an exception in our case. He usually liked to meet with couples several times before the big day came.
In our case, we met once. For breakfast two mornings before we got married.
We lived out of town and Wayne’s aunt had arranged the church for us. A Presbyterian one. It was important to everyone else we got married in a church.
This was back when I was conflicted about how I felt about churches. Both Wayne’s family and mine were Catholic. Neither of us, however, went through Communion or Confirmation.
My mom fell away from the church shortly before I was born. As I was growing up she bad-mouthed it and did everything in her power to stay away. She only went back to it later in her life.
My dad returned to the church shortly after my mom and him divorced. He tried to get me into it, but I didn’t want any part of it. More importantly, my mom didn’t want me to have any part of it. Normally I would’ve rebelled to get her goat, but services intimidated me and the whole thing just seemed super odd to me. It was maybe the only thing my mom and I agreed on.
Wayne was sort of in the same boat. Both of his grandmas went to church, but neither forced it on Wayne or his brother. And his dad certainly had no interest.
I felt like we should probably belong to one, because it seemed like the thing to do. But I never found one I felt comfortable in. I also didn’t really care where we got married. The church was pretty, and it seemed to appease family. The biggest plus was it was cheap and available the day we wanted it.
Anyway, now that I’ve told you the long version of the short story of how an almost perfect heathen ended up having a church wedding, back to our premarital counseling session…
I remember thinking before we met with the Reverend, “What if he sees something in us that’s not compatible? What if he advises us not to marry?”
Instead, after talking with us for an hour, he decided we didn’t need advisement. We’d been together nine years already. We already acted like and old married couple by that point, were finishing each others sentences, had already endured –and passed– a lot of relationship tests. We’d already worked out our roles, our views about money, kids, religion, and sexual expectations, and were on our way to becoming experts at conflict resolution. He joked we could counsel others.
We spent the remainder of our morning lingering over drinks (coffee for him; juice, tea and water for Wayne and I) discussing family, sharing funny stories (us of our dog and families; him of curious incidents he’d has a man of God). It turned into a much more pleasant experience than I’d expected.
But what if you don’t get married in a church or with any kind of religious person officiating the ceremony? What if it is completely civil and secular in nature?
I’d advise anyone who’s been together two years or under to get premarital counseling. You want to make sure you’re on the same page about:
- Conflict resolution
- Communication styles
- Expectations about marriage (what do each of you want from marriage?)
- Expectations and handling of finances (who’s going to handle bills, planning for retirement and your future, taking care of savings, etc.?)
- Religion (or lack of it) within the marriage
- Whether or not you both want children, and how badly (some discover they have fertility issues and want them at any cost, whereas their partner might not be willing to go that far; others don’t want them but the partner thinks they might change their mind at some point. Be clear from the beginning!)
- Sex life
- Roles you’ll play in the marriage
But really it’s a good idea to discuss the above regardless of the length of time you’ve been together. These are important issues and it’s much better to have them worked out and an understanding about each of them before you make a commitment that might not actually be a good fit.
Did you get premarital counseling? What types of things did you discuss and work on before you married? Anything in particular, or were you like Wayne and I pretty much good to go when the time came?