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Premarital Counseling

Premarital Counseling

Here’s the scenario:

“You are a counselor who specializes in premarital counseling for couples. A couple, who are planning to get married, comes to see you. Both partners are in their late 20s.

Neither of them has been married before, and they have been together for five years. He has a house that he has been paying on for 6 years. They will live in this house when they are married. He also owns his own car and a truck. She owns her own small business, which she started before she met him. She also owns her own car. They both have individual pension plans. Shortly before the wedding, he suggested that they draw up a prenuptial agreement so that, in the event of a divorce, a property settlement would be easier. He wants the contract to specify that what each owned prior to the marriage would remain his or her individual property in the event of a divorce. They do not agree on the contents of the document. She doesn’t even think that they need a contract. She also believes that having children might alter their living and financial conditions.

What areas would you address in the premarital counseling? What potential issues of conflict might arise in this couple? Do you think these two are at a good time in their life to marry? What are their prospects for a long, successful marriage? What more might you want to know about them before making predictions about their marital success?”

If I am a counselor in a premarital specialty, I would certainly obtain as much information about this couple’s background as possible in order to facilitate them. They are in their late 20’s, both have pre-marital assets, and never been married, have no children.  They have both set up pension plans and seem to have a firm grasp on finances.  He owns a home, has vehicles, and she owns a small business and a vehicle. I would probably want to know more about their debts in order to properly evaluate the situation to give advice.  Also, what their religious affiliations are, if any, and what type of backgrounds they come from.  Are they children of divorce? Are there families wealthy?  What do they value the most?

They are trying to decide whether or not to make a prenuptial agreement, and they will need to understand what this type of contract can and cannot do.  A young couple such as this may neglect to adequately prepare themselves for the responsibilities that come with a marriage and the expectations of their future spouse. I find it a good sign that they were open to counseling and came to see me.  It tells me that they want to be married and do understand or at least will understand the responsibility and commitment involved with a marriage. This couple will be better prepared for the transition and transformation of their lives.  I see this as the bride and groom aiming to be the best spouses they can be.  In a premarital counseling session, the bride and groom will be discussing their personal expectations for each other to include their financial practices- such as current debt, budgeting, and who will be responsible for handling the money. With that, let’s say that the groom brought up the issue of the “Pre-nup.” The bride doesn’t feel such a document is necessary and believes that having children may further change their finances.   A potential conflict I can see arising out of this couple would be revolving around financial stress, since before they become married; it has already been a point of stress.  I would counsel them on plans for children.  Do they both want children or is it just one of them.  If so how can they compromise and can they deal with the situation if they can’t compromise.  The same goes for finances.  I would counsel them to come to a middle ground.  Evaluate their debts and assets very closely and put all their feelings on the table.  Does she feel he isn’t “all in” on the marriage since he wants a prenuptial agreement?   Are there trust issues?  I would want to find out their definition of marriage and see if they if they value marriage as a lifelong commitment or not.  Personally, I would lean on the side of “he doesn’t trust me” and “he doesn’t plan on staying with me for life” if he wants a pre-nup.  However, as a counselor, I would have to remain neutral on my feelings and counsel based upon my knowledge of this couple. I think this couple has the potential to have a long successful marriage, however, as stated before; it really depends on how they value marriage.   If they are both “all in” and value the sanctity of marriage, are able to compromise, and complete successful counseling, then yes, they have a strong chance of a lifelong happy marriage. If not, it is anyone’s guess, because again, it advantageous to them that they are in counseling prior to marriage.

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