By BARTON GOLDSMITH
It's June and wedding season is upon us again. Whenever I attend a ceremony, I wonder if the couple have really talked about what their lives together will be like. When wrapped up in the warm bliss of love, couples sometimes forget to take a long hard look at the practical side of marriage.
Most couples spend more time picking out a new car than they do preparing themselves for the biggest commitment of their lives. Marriage is not to be taken lightly. It is a very serious decision, and you need to know everything you can about how you both view life before you decide to spend the rest of it together.
I highly recommend premarital counseling. It will answer many questions and help you avoid potential pitfalls. You know how much you love your partner and how much you enjoy each other's company, but have you discussed the important things, like kids, in-laws and where you will retire? Unfortunately, most couples don't, and that is how marital dreams can become nightmares.
Premarital counseling can help you get to know each other and yourself at a deeper level. What's important to both of you will come to the surface and you will learn to talk about your differences in a positive way.
Finding the right counselor or mentor is important. You can choose among many qualified marriage and family therapists who are trained in this area, or you can pick someone you know and respect to act as a guide as you take this time to learn more about each other in a nonthreatening way. There are some good programs available on the Internet as well.
Counseling can help you learn how to ask questions and get your needs met, without putting each other on the defensive. You should discuss how you will live, where you spend holidays and what really matters most to both of you. Counseling can also help you avoid potential problems. If you discover that you don't agree on how you want to live together, you can overcome this problem without becoming disagreeable or surprising each other a year or two into your marriage.
You will learn to create a "we" from an "I" and how to best make practical decisions about your future together.
Premarital counseling also helps you understand the business side of your relationship. Divorce most often occurs over financial issues, so you have to get together on how you will handle money matters. Most couples think that it will just all work out, and sometimes that happens, but what if one of you were to lose your job or would need to move to another town to keep the one you have? These are important things to look at before they happen so that you know where you stand and have agreed on how to handle these types of issues if and when they arise.
One more reason to look into premarital counseling is that divorce is a lot more expensive than counseling. Think of it as an investment in your future happiness.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of "100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence -- Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too." Email him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com)