Sure, you and your mate plan to live a long and healthy life together in wedded bliss. But are you equipped with the skills and tools needed to keep the spark ignited long after the wedding ceremony and wedding ceremony are over? Here, we talk with renowned marriage and family therapist counselor Paula Pile as she debunks the myths of premarital counseling and shares her secrets to lasting relationship.
Perfect Wedding Guide: What are premarital counseling and education? How are they different from therapy?
Paula Pile: Premarital Education is designed to give couples the skills that they need to have a successful marriage. Premarital counseling is similar except that it is offered usually with just one couple. Sometimes couples will go from pre- wedding ceremony education to counseling. They usually do this when after having taken the seminar they find one or two issues that they want to deal with that they believe that are unique to them. What those issues might be include such things as dealing with spiritual differences or blended family issues. Premarital therapy focuses on problems that the couples are having. Most couples do not need therapy. Premarital therapy is always available, if the couples need more in depth help than the educational seminars or counseling offer.
PWG: If the couple is happy why would they need to take a course or a seminar?
PP: Premarital courses give couples the skills that they need to navigate the rough waters. Planning a wedding ceremony and learning to deal with marriage stresses is a part of some of the best courses. Most couples get engaged when they are still in the infatuation or romantic love stages of a relationship. Their bodies are producing a lot of hormones that cause them to bond. These endorphins will not continue forever, and in fact last less than two years, so often after the excitement of the wedding ceremony is over they find themselves starting to struggle.
PWG: Weddings are expensive, this is an expense that most couples have not planned for is it worth it?
PP: A study was published in 2006 by Scott Stanley, P.R. Amato, and Howard Markham out of the University of Denver. They found that premarital education reduces the divorce rate of participants by thirty percent. These findings are significant, given that close to fifty percent of couples who marry will divorce. If you think about it, if your relationship works you will spend more time with your spouse than working at your paid employment. Most people would not enter in to a career without any instruction or preparation. One thing that couples need to think about is that there is no correlation between the amount of money spent on the wedding ceremony and marital happiness.
PWG: You helped to develop a course for premarital couples, what made you decide to do to put your time and energies in to that?
PP: I have been working with couples for over twenty five years and too often I see couples who if they had gone in to marriage with the skills offered in premarital education courses or in premarital counseling before the wedding ceremony, their marriages would not be at a crisis point. My husband and I believe that premarital education and or counseling are so important that we made it a prerequisite for our daughter before she would receive any financial assistance for her wedding.
PWG: What kind of things do participants learn in your premarital course, Start Right Stay Connected?
PP: Participants learn a variety of skills as well as become educated about the struggles that couples go through and how to prevent them. I cover things like how to deal with parents and each other in the wedding planning process as well as other issues that come up around planning the wedding. We discuss how to prevent affairs. We teach a powerful communication tool called Imago dialogue. Dialogue is great for dealing with hot button topics such as dealing with each other’s parents and spending money for the wedding ceremony. We also have couple’s develop a relationship vision. Couples learn new ways to appreciate each other as well as healthy ways to deal with differences.
PWG: If you had just one tip that you would give couples contemplating marriage or wedding ceremony what would it be?
PP: Think about the way that you treat your partner—are you treating them the way that you want to be treated? If the answer is no, then make the changes in yourself that are necessary for your answer to be yes.
Paula Pile, MA, LMFT, LPA, is a premarital education and premarital therapy expert who loves and practices in Greensboro, N.C. She was one of the developers of the Imago Relationships International course, Stay Right Stay Connected, and has been assisting couples for over 25 years. For more about her and her services go to www.paulapile.com