Premarital Counseling – Exploring Beliefs and Values

Written by Michele Dial, M.Ed, LPC

 

Premarital counseling is not as common as you may think . . . or as common as may be warranted, considering today’s divorce rate. In my counseling experience, I see far more couples in distress, often on the verge of divorce, than I see couples preparing for a long healthy relationship together. Wouldn’t it be nice if the natural flow of a marriage remained as blissful as the early phases of love? It’s easy to imagine that if our partner is a good fit for us now, surely we’ll be just fine.

 

The reality is that, while you and your partner may continue to be a “good fit,” life will inevitably throw you curve balls during which you may find that your automatic responses to curve balls are not aligned. Building a strong foundation that helps you both understand one another’s beliefs, values, and expectations can prepare you to work through these curve balls and come out stronger on the other side.

 

Whether you are engaged, newlyweds, or well established in your marriage, it’s helpful to have insight into each other’s inner world. Whatever phase of relationship you’re in, take this quiz to see how your beliefs align with your partner’s.

 

1.       Marriage Expectations

a.     Till death do us part

b.    I plan on the long haul, but we have options if it something terrible happens

c.     We should only stay in this relationship as long as we are happy

2.       Communication

a.     I try not to say things that will make my partner mad

b.    Sometimes I’m not sure my partner understands what I'm trying to say

c.     We have a hard time listening to each other on hot-button issues

d.    I feel comfortable expressing my feelings and being vulnerable with my partner

3.       Trust

a.     I trust wholeheartedly until you do something to break my trust

b.    You have to earn my trust; I don’t give it out to just anyone

4.       Fidelity

a.     Don’t say or do anything away from me that you can’t do in my presence

b.    I don’t mind a little flirting, but no touching

c.     We can have an open relationship as long as we agree on the boundaries

d.    My idea of fidelity is not described here

5.       Work

a.     Both partners should work – I believe in shared responsibility

b.    I’m okay being the breadwinner if partner wants to pursue non-income interests

c.     I prefer not to work outside the home once I’m married

d.    We should both work until we have children

6.    Budgeting

a.     I‘m a saver – you never know when you might need it

b.    I like to live in the moment and enjoy the fruits of my labor – you can’t take it with you

7.    Finances

a.     I prefer to manage bills, bank accounts, etc.

b.    I prefer my partner to manage the bills, bank accounts, etc.

c.     We should manage our finances as a team

8.       Family of Origin

a.     I like to see my parents and siblings on a weekly basis

b.    A little bit of family time goes a LONG way

c.     I see my family on holidays

9.    Future Family

a.     I want to have biological children with my partner

b.    I’d like to adopt to share our love and resources with a child in need

c.     If we can’t have children naturally, I’d like to explore every option available to us to become parents

d.    I don’t want children

10.   Spiritual Beliefs and Practices

a.     My faith is the foundation of wellbeing – I practice my faith regularly

b.    I believe in a higher power, but I’m not actively involved in practices

c.     I believe in the goodness of humanity; no need for a higher power

d.    Spirituality is not an integral part of my life

11.   Conflict Resolution

a.     I don’t like to fight; I prefer to avoid confrontation to keep the peace

b.    Arguments are uncomfortable, but it’s important to work out our differences

c.     Fighting it out is the only way to deal with our issues – I won’t stop till we reach a resolution

d.    My partner and I don’t argue

12.   Sexuality / Intimacy / Affection

a.     Sex is the key to a healthy romantic relationship – it’s how I show love

b.    Sex is an important component of the big picture of our relationship; it deserve our time and attention

c.     Sex is not important to me; I show my love in other ways

d.    I need physical touch to feel loved

e.     I do not feel comfortable with sexual intimacy

f.      My views on sex and intimacy are not reflected here

13.   Leisure Time (circle all that apply)

a.     I need to decompress by myself at the end of a long day at work

b.    When we’re not working, I like to spend the majority of my time with my partner

c.     I have several hobbies and lots of good friends; I love my partner, but I definitely need “me” time

d.    I like to take at least one to two big vacations each year

e.     I like to stay close to home and relax in my free time

14.   Roles, Responsibilities, and Decision Making

a.     I’ll take care of the inside of the house; my partner can take care of the outside

b.    I’ll take care of the outside of the house; my partner can take care of the inside

c.     I prefer to work together on both the inside and outside care of our home

d.    I don’t do work – let’s hire people

15.   Goals and Dreams

a.     I have big dreams for myself; I hope my partner won’t stand in the way of them

b.    I believe partners should create shared dreams

c.     Both A and B are important to me

 

Are you surprised by yours or your partner’s responses? Are you more aligned or less aligned than you expected? This quiz is a snapshot of some key issues that arise in long-term relationships. It is by no means a predictor of the overall health of your relationship. It is simply a guide for opening discussions and gaining a deeper understanding of each other. If you’ve uncovered some areas of sensitivity, it may be wise to find a professional marriage counselor to help you navigate these conversations and build a stronger foundation of insight and trust.

 

Ignorance is NOT bliss, but knowing oneself and one’s partner on a deeper level can be.