Archive for the ‘Pre-marital counseling’ Category

What to Consider If Your Future Spouse Is A Recovering Alcoholic

Friday, January 29th, 2016

My Future Spouse Is A Recovering Alcoholic and Now In AA. I Want To Marry But What Considerations Should I Have?

The good thing about your spouse being in recovery is that he/she is in the process of getting better and healthier. You should make it your business to learn as much as you can about recovery and perhaps attend some AL – ANON meetings so you can understand the addiction world, what it means and takes to be in recovery and your role in living with someone who tries to stay abstinent from alcohol “one day at a time”.

It is also important to know what your spouse is talking about when they go to “meetings”, which most recovering alcoholics do. It is significant part of their world and you should know about it as you would want to about any other important part of their life. I think it is very important to understand all the aspects of dealing with this life long process and sometimes daily struggle.

Another issue you need to discuss with your future spouse is what if any support he/she needs from you in the process of their recovery and day to day life. Can you have alcohol in your house, are they OK with you drinking alcohol in front of them, do you serve drinks in social situations in your home. This greatly varies with people but it is important to understand the needs and reality of your partner and also know that the “rules” may change, depending how your partner’s recovery is unfolding.

It helps to look at this as if your partner has an illness or a vulnerability and to appreciate how difficult their road to recovery may have been or possibly continues to be.

It is a good idea to know and understand your future spouse’s drinking history, what made her or him decide to stop as well as how they stopped, what treatment in any they received, etc.

Recovery from alcohol or drugs is not an event, but a life long process in which you will have a part and will have to learn about and understand. If your future spouse is in therapy, maybe you can have a session or two, with him or her and the therapist together, to understand better about their life and struggles.

What Are Some Of The Questions I Should Ask My Partner Before We Get Engaged And Married?

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Getting engaged and subsequently married is one of the most important decisions one makes in life. Your relationship with your spouse is like a music to the dance of your life. If your relationship is loving, supportive, caring, romantic and if you and your spouse feel connected, the entire tone of your life in general with be healthy and will propel you to thrive and feel good. It will make you the best version of you. Even if there are occasional wrinkles.

If the relationship is generally solid and loving, you, together, as a team will deal with life’s adversities or conflicts which are inevitable in every relationship, even a good one.

Before the engagement and marriage, it is important to address the following issues:

  • Talk about how you see your marriage, what is the vision you both have for your life together.
  • Discuss your similarities and differences in every area. It is good to know how you see your partner’s strengths and weaknesses and how these have and will continue to play out in your life together.
  • Talk about what you like/love about each other and what doesn’t quite fit and how you may be able to deal with this in years to come.
  • If there are religious differences, discuss in detail how you plan to deal with those, especially if you plan to have children.
  • It is good to identify characteristics of your parents’ marriages and how this may have influenced you in your views on what marriage looks like for you. (This may be better accomplished in pre-marital counseling).
  • The subject of children, including the number and timing is VERY important as well as what is important to you in their upbringing and education.
  • It is important to discuss how finances will be handled, how they have been dealt with up to now if you have been living together or how this may be different or same after marriage.
  • For couples getting engaged, PLEASE discuss how you see your wedding and how this vision will be translated into reality, meaning finances, influence of each family of origin, the kind of wedding you would like to have. This, often, is an experience that leads to family conflict and disillusionment between partners. Sometimes it leads to engagement and wedding being called off. Wedding is your first project as partners and you have to remember that you are now partners and have to be a team. It is very important not to get caught up in the minutiae of details of wedding planning and not loose sight of what makes you a couple and keep connection and caring as most important priorities.
  • Other topics include where to live, career goals and plans, especially after having a child, leisure and social life.

We Have Different Religions and Cultural Backgrounds – Should We Still Get Married?

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Difference in religions and cultural background presents a great challenge for couples contemplating marriage. It has been my personal and professional experience that all things being equal, having those be same or similar is a major plus.

Time and time again, I see in my office tremendous conflict, leading to unhappiness and sometimes, rupture, when people feel very strongly about their religions, especially, those that seem less compatible. Or there is no understanding or difficulty in accepting their partner’s cultural background. Often, these differences create conflict with family of origin and in some more severe cases, ostracism.

There are those from certain cultures or religious affiliation that do not want “outsiders” as part of their future family. Those contemplating marriage in these cases have to be prepared for what may happen and how this may or will affect their future marriage.

Still, many couples decide to marry despite these differences. And sometimes they have good marriages. Here are some suggestions based on my experience as a Couples Therapist:

  • Please discuss and thoroughly understand the religion and culture of your future partner. Understand their impact on your sensibilities and day to day life.
  • Decide if you will stay with your religion or if you will take on that of your partner. If you decide to convert, make sure you are truly OK with this and will not resent or hold it against your partner or in-laws. If you decide to stay with your respective religious affiliations, decide and discuss how you are going to deal with holidays, customs, worship, and most importantly raising a family. This has to be discussed and agreed upon in detail and both parties have to be committed to decisions that are made. The worst thing to do is to think that you will figure it out as you go along.
  • Another major decision is how to deal with cultural issues in wedding planning and feelings of families of origin and community. Most of the time, in my experience, if there are different religions and cultural backgrounds, accommodations are made for both and sometimes, there are two weddings. Sometimes, there is one wedding incorporating both religions and customs.
  • The most important thing is that should you decide to go ahead and get married, you have to be a team and try to make your own decisions together. All efforts need to be made to nurture relationship and connection with families of origin, but at the end of the day, it’s your partner, who is most important.

How To Make The Most Of Your Pre-Marital Counseling Sessions?

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

In my experience, pre-marital counseling sessions are a combination of identifying and hopefully working on existing relationship issues, dysfunctional communication patterns as well as discussing major topics that often surface in every marriage. Some of these include the timing and number of children, beliefs about childrearing, where to live, finances, relationship with families of origin, career goals, social life, etc.

To get the most out of these sessions, it is important to come prepared for the sessions, in terms of identifying what needs to be dealt with and some open minded and honest soul searching about thoughts  and feelings about  issues at hand as well as willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable in sessions.

As in any therapy, self examination and “homework”, which include discussions and   thinking about the sessions, what has come up during the sessions as well as willingness to make changes are critical. Presence of an experienced therapist in these sessions, hopefully, creates an atmosphere of safety to go into some uncharted territories.

Much of our template for married life comes from observing and taking in the relationship between our parents as we were growing up. Much of pre-marital counseling is exploration, understanding, teasing out and sharing of messages and imprints from our parental relationships which include romance and sex, finances as well as many other aspects of married life. There are many subliminal and straight forward messages we get from observing, participating and growing up in our family of origin. It is very important to understand the messages and images we all get from living inside our families, discuss and explore how each person sees what a marriage is supposed to look like and identify areas of potential conflict and honestly talk about it and distill what each person wants and expects.

The point is not necessarily to reach a compromise but to have an understanding, empathy and appreciation of your potential partner’s reality and desires.

How Do You Know If Pre-marital Counseling Is Right For You?

Monday, October 26th, 2015

People call my office and frequently say something like this: “My fiancée and I are getting married in a few months, we are very happy and everything is great. Do you think we can benefit from having a few pre-marital counseling sessions?”

I am usually stumped at this question. I don’t know what is really being asked of me. If everything is great, and there are no issues, why wonder about this? If there are things of concern that may be should be talked about, then why ask?

Part of the issue here is that this call comes in when there are old conflicts that have either gotten worse or just became more apparent now and the couple is boxed in with all the wedding plans and one of both are conflicted about the predicament. Is it better to deal with stuff and figure out what is going on or is it better “not to rock the boat” and see what happens, maybe it will all get better on the honeymoon or after the wedding when all the stress is over.

Not to be vague about this. I think every couple could benefit from some pre-marital counseling sessions even if there aren’t apparent conflicts or disagreements at this moment, just to talk about their vision for the married life, finances, kids, families, career, leisure, etc. So a few counseling sessions won’t be harmful and will always be helpful in some way.

However, if there are persistent conflicts or doubts that are getting worse with time and the wedding planning has brought out some parts of a potential spouse or his/her family, that are difficult to deal with or accept, I believe it is prudent to dive in and discuss these issues and not wait to see that they magically disappear because the wedding is perfect!

If you are wondering if pre-marital counseling can be beneficial for you, the answer is -YES. It is best not to put if off but to see what is going on between you that worries you or makes you doubt your decision to marry. (And doubt does not necessarily mean you should not marry this person).

Pre-Marital Counseling: Why It Is a Must Before “I Do”

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Based on my experience as a marriage and couples therapist, I think most couples planning to tie the knot can benefit from some form of pre-marital counseling. There are several reasons to consider this. Some couples call pre-marital counseling actual couples therapy. They experience repeated conflicts they are not able to resolve and the idea of couples’ therapy “before even being married” is just too disturbing. My answer to them is, “Good for you to realize this and not wait”. In these cases, pre-marital counseling is really no different from couples therapy or marriage counseling and the couple is simply getting a head start on tackling issues that can potentially ruin their marriage later. I applaud these couples in their wisdom and care about their relationship. If calling this “pre-marital counseling” makes them feel better, no problem.

Some come in for pre-marital counseling, not to deal with issues, but because they wish to discuss in a safe atmosphere common realities of married life, such as timing and number of children, work and career after children, finances, relationships with families of origins and friends, work/leisure balance amongst other things. In such cases, the counseling is more structured and each topic is discussed, differences are identified and there is a discussion and decisions made for mutually acceptable solutions. These sessions are very useful and productive in averting future discord, leading to anger, resentments and disconnection.

Sometimes, pre-marital counseling is a combination of both of these factors. Another common and related reason for therapy before marriage is that oftentimes unexpected problems arise during wedding planning. I have had several couples who came into my office because they realized during their engagement and wedding planning something about each other’s values or sensibilities they did not know before, or some issues happened between families that were especially disturbing. I have experienced weddings cancelled or postponed during these times and in these situations.

So, as you can see, I am all for pre-marital counseling or some discussion with a neutral party leading to marriage. Whether done by priest, rabbi or a therapist though all very different agendas and processes, it is healthy to address present or future potential universal marriage issues.