Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On premarital counseling

James and I had our first (of three) session of premarital counseling today. We're getting married in Goshen, by James' pastor in college, but we're not actually going to be in IN again until August, so we're doing our counseling with Vern, one of the pastors at FMC here in Denver. Initially, I was apprehensive. When we met with him, he told us that he uses a family systems model for premarital counseling, which involves each of us laying out our family tree for Vern, and then basing our discussion topics out of information from our family tree. I was expecting that we'd meet several times and talk about subjects like having kids, finances, communication, etc, and wasn't really sure what to expect from the model he proposed.

I went first (we'll devote a session to each of us, and then do a wrap up session), which meant that I did most of the talking. After getting the basics down, Vern asked open ended questions that got me talking about how divorce and conflict (and other topics) is handled in my mom's and dad's families, and how that has impacted my nuclear family's life and my relationship with James. I think this is going to be a useful tool and a good vehicle for discussing those topics above that I was concerned about covering.

I want to also talk about my general thoughts about premarital counseling. I believe that almost every Mennonite church (at least all of the ones I'm affiliated with) requires premarital counseling in order for a couple to get married at their church. I fully support this decision. I think it's important to begin a pattern of a) talking about things and b) talking to others outside the relationship. I had a spiritual director for several years in college who was incredibly helpful to me. When I was doubting things about my relationships with others, when I was wondering if my cynical thoughts about religion were unhealthy, etc, I had a safe space to discuss those questions and issues with a person who was trained to work with me. Having had a spiritual director, I really value conversation with mentors who have been through similar struggles. When I have a really big problem, it's natural for me to find help from another person outside the issue. Now that I'm getting married, I have a safe space to talk about this relationship, and find ways to strengthen our communication patterns. I have hopes that participating in premarital counseling will increase James' and my readiness to find support outside our relationship when we need it. I want it to be natural and possible for us to continue consulting with those more experienced than us. 

All this to say that I value conversation, collaboration, and thoughtful guidance from those more experienced than I. Signing off for now....


  1. I agree with you about the importance of having mentoring relationships with people that create a safe space to talk about things. While I have both a mentor and a small group I know I get a lot of that type of support from my girl friends.
    Anyways all the best to you and James, so excited for you both!

  2. Same here!
    I completely agree with you. I personally know, how much difference can premarital counseling actually make in one's life. It really works like magic. It did for me! :)