What I learned in pre-marital counseling

Last Friday was a big day for Marc and I… we finished our pre-marital counseling!

Gulp.

It truly is becoming more and more real that our wedding is just around the corner. I’m so excited to share our day’s adventures with you, when the day arrives! (stay tuned for that update after July 21st!)

I wanted to specifically talk about our pre-marital counseling, because it was not only an opportunity to learn more about Marc, but to also learn more about myself, and myself in this relationship.

Before our sessions began, I honestly felt like I knew who he was deep down to the core, as we’ve ventured through this relationship so far. I felt like we both had a deep understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And did our best to support and balance each other through it.

And our pastor agreed that yes, on some levels, we did understand each other more than most couples at our stage.

But then each session came with her perspective. Her sincere, honest, and heartfelt perspective.

I was totally not expecting that.

I mean sure, I knew she would give us great advice, and give us all the steps to aim for a successful marriage and partnership, but to say she only provided just that would be giving her disservice.

One of my pastor’s strengths is being able to look at something or someone, and understand it at a cellular level. She has deep perception. She’s able to look at something for what it is. She understands what it needs to thrive and grow.

Her ability to pull stuff out of me, that I didn’t even know existed, was an experience in itself.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I believe Marc’s experience was just as important to him.

I believe the point of pre-marital counseling is to prepare us for marriage and to walk us through what we should expect. But what it did for us is beyond total comprehension.

I want to share with you a couple of the biggest ‘aha’ moments of our pre-marital counseling journey….

Why we are the way we are.

I know that many of us believe that after you’re dating someone for 6+ months, their true colors start to show up. Because, you know, who can really be someone they’re not for that long? I would now say this is a partially true statement.

As we grow in our relationships, we create our own ‘story’ of who we think that person is, and we continue our thought patterns to match it.

It’s really just our own perspective.

But the thing we’re missing when we do that, however, is we’re not looking for the backstory as to why someone is the way they are.

We had an assignment to write out our family tree. (insert highly sarcastic “yay” from me)

Marc’s family tree was pretty ‘normal’, to put it one way. Most of his family stayed married. It took him less than an hour to input, organize, and print it. His family tree fit nicely on one piece of paper.

And my family tree…. well, it’s a mess. A beautifully chaotic, functioning, dysfunctional mess.

Multiple generations of divorce, re-marriages, step children, half siblings. It took me HOURS to input, organize, and multiple attempts to print. My family tree fit on 5 pieces of paper, barely. (I even had to leave some family members off because they didn’t fit!)

What I learned from this was that our families and our childhood lives were very different. He was raised by both parents, grew up in a very small town, had a pretty normal life to say the least.

My parents got divorced when I was two. And I had a pretty crazy, inconsistent childhood. This will definitely be a post another day.

I’m not saying either childhood was better than the other. But what I’m saying is that we grew up very differently, so it has also made us into different adults, in many ways.

When I met Marc, I knew his parents were still married and his life growing up was pretty normal, but actually seeing it down on paper and having him explain the relationships of the family, gave me that much more perspective to who he is and why.

Another part of this journey that put things into perspective was when we were asked how our parents did certain things growing up; who did what chore, what values each had, and who we were most like.

His mom did most the grocery shopping and cooking. So when I asked him to help with some of those things, that’s probably the reason there was a little pushback 😉

By no means was he expecting me to do all the shopping / cooking, but a big part of his childhood, he saw his mom in the kitchen. That was his norm. So I can’t blame him for thinking it’d be that way in ours.

Same goes for the outside and house project work. When my mom got remarried, my step dad did most of those things, so naturally, I would assume that Marc would take care of those things.

But just because our parents did things one way, it doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll be. But it does mean that there’s new routines and systems that we all need to learn, together.

I know there’s a lot more to learn, but this allowed me to the see foundation of where Marc came from. To really appreciate his childhood story. And understand the values he’s learned and strives for.

Communication

This was a huge, HUGE, eye opening section. And probably the most important. We know that most marriages and relationships fail due to this incredibly important, often missed aspect; communication.

Most of us have heard about the 5 Love Languages. But if you haven’t…
Here is a very simple breakdown of what they are:

Words of Affirmation: this could be compliments on how you look, or how well you did something, saying thank you, etc.
Quality Time: the time you spend alone with someone – this could mean no phones at the dinner table, playing board games together instead of watching tv, whatever it looks like to you.
Physical Touch: this doesn’t always mean sexually. It could mean holding hands, back rubs, sitting next to each other on the couch.
Acts of Service: it could be doing the dishes (if it’s not normally your chore), washing your car, doing something without the other person having to ask, etc.
Gifts: pretty self explanatory 😉 it can be as small as your favorite candy bar, or as big as diamond earrings you’ve been oohing and ahhing over. They’re usually very thoughtful, in nature.

So, the pretty cool thing is that Marc and I have the same love languages, in the same order. (Our order is actually how I listed it out too!)

BUT what I discovered in this journey, is that quality time to Marc actually means something different than my description. His idea of it is having quality alone time with me, BUT it also means having quality time alone. Just himself.

With a crazy, hyper 7 year old, a chatty fiancée, and an attention seeking dog around the house, ‘alone time’ isn’t really a word we know. So to Marc, having time to refresh, go for a motorcycle ride, or just sit and do nothing, is a big need.

Although we have the same languages, it doesn’t mean he knows how to speak mine fluently, and vice versa. Because we all have a different understandings and expectations for each category, it’s so important to communicate this with your partner.

I’m so guilty of this, but ladies, they do NOT know what we’re thinking. They do not know what we want. So we have to use our words and communicate what we need from our partner in each of these categories.

And really, we just gotta cut each other some slack. For some, learning their partner’s love languages is easy peasy, and with others it will take some time and practice and reminding. It’s okay.

As long as there’s effort on both ends, that’s the most important part.

So there’s also a flip side.

Did you know there’s APOLOGY languages? Much like love languages, there are different ways we want and expect to be apologized to. This was a TOTAL revelation to me.

This is what they are in nutshell:

Expressing Regret: Saying sorry. It zeros in on the emotional hurt. There is no need for explanation or “pay back” provided the apology has truly come from the heart.
Accept Responsibility: Admitting you were wrong. If the apology neglects accepting responsibility for your actions, many people will not feel as though the apology was meaningful and sincere.
Genuinely Repent: Convincing them how sorry you truly are. It’s also showcases the desire for you to make a plan to change.
Make Restitution: No matter how often you say “I’m sorry”, or “I was wrong”, your partner will never find the apology sincere. You must show strong efforts for making amends.
Request Forgiveness: You are leaving the final decision up to your partner – to forgive or not forgive.

Again, Marc and I had the exact same order on these (how I listed above), but it can mean so many different things to each of us. So taking the time to understand what each other needs and expects, is a vital step in great communication.

Of course, I’m not expecting to have a perfect marriage. Marriage needs conflict. But it needs to be healthy conflict, full of communication and willingness to meet in the middle and see it from the other point of view.

These are just a few aspects of communication we covered, but I felt these stood out the most for an ‘aha’ worthy post.

I know Marc and I aren’t perfect at communication or our relationship in general, but what I am hopeful for is that because of the things we’ve learned, that we can keep practicing and getting better at them every single day.

I’m so thankful and blessed we were able to go through this journey with our pastor. She was an incredible blessing to our relationship and I look forward to having her join us on our special day.

If you’re in a relationship, engaged or even if you’re married, seeking wisdom from people other than our normal crowd (parents, friends, etc) is a rewarding experience. Even if it’s from a counselor or therapist, removing the bias from the picture, is a great way to learning more about your partner from someone else’s perspective.

Thanks so much for stopping by today! I would love to hear what your pre-marital counseling experience was like, if you had one. Or any advice you’d love to share 🙂

Feel free to drop a comment below!

Love and partnerships,

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