As many of you know Nan and I have been teaching pre-married/pre-engaged classes twice a year at our church since 1997 and I suspect that many that are reading our blog have probably been through the class. As we contemplate each new class coming up we spend time discussing what we should add or subtract from the class. We ask questions like: “Is it too basic or too complicated?” “Are we covering the right subjects?” “Is there too much content and not enough process?” “Should the class time be longer or should we add more sessions?”
All of these are good questions of course, and we will continue to ask them of ourselves, but one question just came up that had me thinking. Is the timing of the class in a couple’s relationship optimal? For the subjects that we deal with in the class I think the answer is probably “Yes.” The basics are important.
But perhaps for private couples’ counseling the answer to that question might be more complicated.
- You’ve taken the class but you are still trying to decide whether this is the right person for you?
- There are some unresolved issues that are hard to talk about together?
- The wedding preparation is complicated because of family?
These are good reasons to seek counseling before marriage. But perhaps there are some good reasons to either delay individual couples’ counseling until later, or expect to add some sessions as a post wedding follow-up.
Singles have been given various messages about the first year of marriage:
“The first year of marriage is bliss!”
“The first year of marriage is horrible!”
“Enjoy it while you can.”
The truth is that the first year of marriage is usually the adjustment year. As one of my newly married friends said:
“I wake up and there is a man in my bed.”
This first year is when the reality hits that you can no longer go home to get some emotional distance from your partner when needed, and where you have to resolve issues in “real time”. It is the time when you become more aware of how different you really are, and as a result new problems begin to crop up, sometimes with intensity. And this is when a couple needs to hear that what they are facing is normal and that they did not marry the wrong person.
So we are thinking that perhaps six months after the wedding is a great time to get into couples’ counseling.
There are a lot of changes that happen during the first year – we probably move into a new house or apartment, see less of our family, and we may begin to spend more time with couple friends and less with our single ones. These changes, although good, can cause us some stress as we learn to adapt to the new normal.
Working on a marriage while it is brand new is probably the best time. The motivation is high and our spirits are open and hopeful. We can develop good habits and avoid having to go back and do serious repair work down the line.
Any thoughts from those who have been there and are looking back?