Is pre-marital counselling common? Yes, because marriage is a big investment (emotionally and financially), and failure comes at a high cost. Did you know that 44% of couples who get married today agree to pre-marital counselling?
Divorce Statistics Australia:
1 in 3 marriages (33%) end in divorce
The peak of the divorce rate was at 4 years
77% of couples co-habitate before marriage
Up to 65% of second marriages end in divorce
(2016 - Bureau of Statistics)
What is the success rate? Couples who attended counselling before their wedding had a 30% higher marital success rate than those who did not.
How long does it usually take? The average time couples spend in premarital counselling before getting married is between 3 - 6 hours.
Couples learn about:
Beliefs, values and standards
Marriage roles (husband / wife role expectations)
Affection, intimacy and sex
Children and parenting
Dealing with conflict: Heart versus Ego
Each other's families
Relationship 'Deal Breakers' (expectations and boundaries)
Case Study: JUSTIN AND AESHA: A story of different values
Justin and Aesha have known each other for about 1 year and been dating for about six months. Although they come from vastly different cultures, her family is Indian and his family is Anglo-Australian, they are deeply in love and want to get married. Since they have not known each other a very long time, friends and family have suggested that a few sessions of premarriage counselling would be a good idea before they make any final commitment to each other.
As Justin and Aesha attend their first session, they are both a bit anxious. They have never attended therapy or counselling and do not know what to expect. As they meet their pre-marriage counsellor for the first time, they are happy to find that they have a good rapport with Ghita and she is easy to talk to. Justin and Aesha are particularly assured after she carefully explains how she works with couples and her policy of ‘no secrets’ during the couples counselling process.
Aesha and Justin each talk about their experience of growing up, about family expectations around spiritual and religious beliefs and their values. Although Justin has spent time with Aesha’s family, he is surprised at the degree to which Aesha feels strongly about her Hindu religious beliefs and that she wants her children to have the benefit of everyday rituals. On the other hand, when Justin thinks of his own haphazard Anglican upbringing he admits to feeling a bit intimidated.
Through a budgeting exercise, Aesha and Justin come to realise that their approach to finances is vastly different: The couple are both given $1,000 in pretend money and they have to budget and spend the funds. Aesha happily and easily spends almost all of the money with only $7 left over, while Justin finds that he wants to save the majority of the money and only spend what he has to on necessary budgetary items like housing, utilities and paying bills. The difference is both surprising and a bit startling.
Ghita realises that the value differences between her clients is quite substantial, but she uses exercises and role play activities in the third and fourth sessions to help them to reframe their differences into strengths. Ghita also helps the couple to discuss how they might each be able to compromise in relation to some of these value and cultural differences, and works with them to enhance their active listening skills so that discussing potential compromises in the future can come more easily. To this end, Ghita uses role play, verbal and written exercises as homework between sessions to enhance the skills she teaches them during counselling sessions.
Ghita also suggests that Justin and Aesha consider making an agreement regarding the religious upbringing of their children. At first, Justin and Aesha thought the suggestion was a little premature, however after some discussion, they both acknowledged that the issue of children and religion was hugely significant, especially to Aesha, and that one of the reasons they had decided to come to premarriage counselling in the first place was to address any major issues that might come up.
Consequently, a resolution about some of the big issues proved to be extremely difficult and fraught with emotion for both Aesha and Justin, and they were glad they had Ghita’s assistance to work through the problem. Ultimately, through some rather intense discussions across the last two sessions, they came to the realisation that the issue of religious upbringing was essential to Aesha, and not as essential for Justin. Yet through these discussions, Justin also discovered that if they made a decision to raise their children in the Hindu tradition, their decision would have ramifications for Justin and his family. Working with Ghita allowed Aesha and Justin to reach an honest and open awareness of each of their needs and develop true empathy for each other’s cultural needs. Counselling helped them to reach a compromise about future situations, and even more importantly, they both felt really hopeful about their future together. * Names altered.
Copyright 2019 Ghita Andersen. Photos courtesy of Freepik