Before I begin this second blog on “why people care about marriage” let me reiterate I am “Just a normal person.” I am not a counselor, I am not a marriage educator (well, I guess I’m becoming one with this website, but it’s not my primary identity!). I am just a regular Jane who dated, hoping for the right guy, found him, planned a wedding and learned a ton along the road to happily ever after.
I will also admit that I don’t know if I would have done premarital counseling if 1) my dad didn’t have some recommendations for me, 2) my dad wasn’t my dad. I knew such a thing existed but I didn’t know where to go and I certaintly didn’t feel like shelling out big bucks for anything. (It’s expensive to get married!) We met with our minister and that was a good experience and who knows, perhaps that is all we could have had…
What we did do was meet with a counselor about 3 times and used the counselor version of our Couple Checkup, an online, sit in your pj’s version for only $29.95 (www.thefirstdance.com/couple-checkup.php) I’m really excited we have this option out there for couples, ESPECIALLY those for whom the groom (or bride…) would refuse to ever step food in a “counselors office.” We got free counseling sessions through a counselor connected to a church in town.
OK, back to why people are so into premarital counseling and marriage. For those of us who have made the jump from dating, engagement to marriage, we have often been thrown into it without any preparation. Unfortunately marriage is still considered a very private matter in America. Nobody talks about their problems (or perhaps you hear the problems, over lunch, with coworkers, with a nasty undertone and of course just one side of the story!) Even worse is nobody talks about their HEALTHY, HAPPY MARRIAGE. This is actually more damaging because those who haven’t witnessed a healthy marriage between their parents are sorely lacking in role models.
What does it mean then if we don’t hear about the happy marriages? Why don’t people share their good stories? The reality in our culture is to be happy and share it can seem one-upping someone else, can seem like you are “just plain naive!” or can just be socially ackward. What do you say when someone says their husband is SUCH a great man… “Um, ok, great?” or “um, good for you?”
Want to know a secret? From the work of John Gottman we know:
All married people have fights that will never end, no matter how long they are married. All couples have fights that are capable of being solved, with the right skills. (I think he might call them situational versus continuous.) The problem is not having fights that lead to divorce, it is HOW THEY FIGHT. Put another way, married and divorce-bound couples, if they could witness the other group, would notice everyone fighting about the same general things. One group would be surprised at the other for the way they treat their spouse, their tone of voice and the way they go about their fighting.