In Your First Premarital Counseling Session, We Will Do A Sort Of Asset Inventory, Learning Your Strengths As A Couple
In your first session of premarital counseling with our NYC practice, we set out to accomplish a few things in order to engage and connect with you as a couple. First, your counselor will want to get to know you as a couple: How did you get together? What’s your love story? How did you decide to get married? Then, we’ll do a sort of asset inventory. We’re always interested in learning what’s working well and we’ll ask you about your sense of your strengths. We’ll also, of course, take a look at some of the hardships the relationship has been through–what sorts of tough times you have weathered together, as well as getting a better understanding of what may not be working so well. In addition, we’re also interested in what sorts of issues outside the relationship have worked well (and what haven’t), including each other’s families, employment issues, friends and community.
This makes it clear from day one that we’re not interested in defining a set of problems in premarital counseling. By talking about these assets early, it helps couples see for themselves what it is they do well and what their strengths are. This can be inspiring and makes some of the difficult conversations easier. It also keeps us focused on what’s beautiful about the relationship, even as we touch on challenging topics. It’s also an important habit for couples to have: When things aren’t going well, you can connect with what’s great about the relationship, focusing on your history and the things you’ve overcome to help you endure and draw upon when facing the tough stuff.
We Will Set An Agenda Together The First Session Of Premarital Counseling
In our NYC premarital counseling, we also set an agenda together with couples–essentially, a curriculum for the work. This step is quite collaborative since you and your partner likely have a good sense of what you want to look at. At the same time, having worked with tons of couples in both premarital counseling and couples therapy (often with couples who’ve been together for some time and have seen things go wrong) informs our sense of what’s meaningful to work on. We work to strike a balance between an agenda that leaves us with some wiggle room to shift as we make new discoveries along the way, while at the same time, allowing us to stay on track, being sure to get to everything that feels important to address before your marriage.
Part of our job, in addition to identifying issues that we’ve seen other couples struggle with or find value in, is to help couples talk about things they might otherwise avoid. While couples may be uncomfortable, our goal is to make them less so. For example, a couple might find it hard to talk about sex or anger, but it’s our role, as premarital counselors, to help give those issues attention.
We’ll Also Get A Sense Of Your Beliefs (And Fears) About Marriage And The History Of Marriage In Your Families
Another part of our work for the first session is to get a sense of each of your and your collective underlying beliefs or even, fears about marriage–e.g. marriage is constricting, I worry I will lose power, I’m concerned about losing independence or assumptions of sameness. Gender roles can be particularly important and good examples of assumptions that each partner may have that are worth making explicit.
In this regard, it can be helpful to also talk early on about the history of marriage in each of your families. Were each partner’s parents successful in marriage? What sorts of rules did their marriages operate under? How can we borrow from their success and revisit some of the rules (spoken or not) of their marriage that we may want to upgrade?
Why is exploring marriage in family-of-origin important? At Tribeca Therapy, we value helping people recognize that all of life is something that we create. There are many activities we engage in–marriage being just one–where we are vulnerable to seeing things as “just the way they are.” Exploring the origins of how we think about marriage, especially, though not limited to, gender roles, is a great way of opening this up. How we view marriage isn’t fixed–it comes from somewhere. It was influenced by our life experiences and our histories–in some ways, for the better, in other ways, for the worse, and in yet other ways, perhaps just fine, but not the way you and your partner want to do things.
The First Premarital Counseling Session (And Beyond) Aims To Help Couples See Themselves As Conscious Creators Of Their Marriage
What’s wonderful about working with couples in premarital counseling is that we can help them see themselves as the conscious creators of their marriage. Part of our goal for couples is to have you leave premarital counseling very connected to the idea that you get to create the culture of your marriage–that it is something you get to co-produce and that can evolve over your years together. Successful marriages, we believe, need to be looked at and reorganized from time to time. We help couples see that they have the power to do that.