Begin with forever in mind: Pre-marriage counselling
It's usually the happiest time in a couple's life when I meet them for a coffee to talk about their wedding. As we get to know one another, we talk about what the day looks like, who needs to stay clear of the microphone, chat about the paperwork and go over the options of pre, during and post-marital counselling services but often it's brushed aside because like I said, they're over the moon to plan a wedding and get married. They're perfectly happy, right?
Pre-marriage counselling arms you with the tools for a long and trusted relationship. Starting with opening up your vulnerabilities and building a deeper understanding of one another to improve the way you communicate and work together. Remove any preconceived ideas you may have of having to see a couples counsellor. This isn't How to lose a guy in 10 days.
Melbourne based couples counsellor, Natalie Claire King eloquently outlines the benefits of pre-marriage counselling and the technique she works with, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), to help couples feel secure moving into the next chapter of their lives.
What is involved in being an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist (EFT)?
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is a form of therapy that prioritises emotion in informing us about our deepest needs and values. As a trained EFT therapist, I use this evidence-based model with couples to help them express, explore and understand their reactions, behaviours and thoughts; all with a view to helping them to connect with their deepest needs and with the person who matters to them most.
Instead of simply working on communication skills that can sometimes feel like a “bandaid” to the situation, EFT aims to help couples see the ways they get stuck in conflict and exit this by sending clearer messages about emotional needs in ways that do not trigger the defences and fears of their partner.
EFT goes to the heart of the matter by uncovering the deeper needs and fears that often go unheard and by helping partners express these to one another. This is how they create a relationship where connection, safety and security can flourish.
Why do you love what you do?
There are many reasons I love working with couples. I feel especially privileged to be invited into the intricacies of each unique relationship and am always moved by the depth of emotion and resilience I see in each individual. I truly love helping couples either tune-up or transform their relationship. It is touching when clients see the vulnerability behind their partner’s surface signals, and the way this moves closer to their partner.
What tools or techniques do you provide for couples in pre-marriage counselling sessions that they can take away for everyday use?
Pre-marriage counselling is aimed at strengthening a relationship and giving couples the tools to navigate future challenges as they transition together to a new stage of life. Undertaking counselling before a crisis happens is the best thing a couple can do to future proof their relationship. Couples will come out feeling more confident to deal with challenges, have a deeper understanding about their relationship and how to approach sensitive topics together.
Sessions are focused around a couple’s strength and growth areas, typically exploring communication, conflict resolution, financial management and sexual relationship. We go through each area, doing exercises through an EFT lens, where couples experience a new way of talking about these sensitive topics that they’ll be able to incorporate into their everyday lives together.
For some, there is a lot of build-up to the wedding day and pressure to create a perfect moment. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with subsequent anxiety or nerves?
Talk about it together. You need each other in those moments of stress, to help each other cope and co-regulate. When you can find a way to talk it out and understand what goes on for each of you when anxiety hits, you create a sacred space for you both to feel heard and held by one other. Seize these moments as opportunities to face the nerves together, be each other’s shield when it all gets too overwhelming, and it will inevitably bring you closer. Connection, especially with a loved one, is the best antidote to anxiety.
Discussing money can be uncomfortable for many people, even couples in long-term relationships. How can couples comfortably discuss financial issues?
This is a topic we look at in pre-marriage counselling and it can understandably bring up some big feelings. Money operates metaphorically in our lives, representing security, nurturance, opportunity, trust, and the relationship between dependence and independence. It’s no surprise that money is a major cause of conflict and a multilayered problem for many couples. In order to discuss this topic comfortably, it can help to first start talking about what money means to each of you. Our early experiences help shape our values about money and when we become aware of these, as well as share them with our partner, we can gain a greater understanding about our habits and how to change these for the better.
If couples have different expectations and timelines for what happens after they tie the knot, for example starting a family, how can they find a middle ground?
Different expectations and timelines on life-changing events, like starting a family, living overseas together or returning to study, are best discussed before you make the decision to commit to each other for the long-term. But I get it, sometimes things just don’t happen like that. So, in order to find some middle ground on these big topics, it’s going to take patience, understanding and a willingness to find a solution that works for both of you. And, it might be useful to seek support from a couples therapist to help you navigate these difficult conversations.
Why do you think people say that communication is the most important element for a successful relationship?
Because as much as we’d like to think it’s possible, we cannot read our partner’s minds. A lot of the time the reason behind the way they react is very different to what we’ve assumed or how we’ve interpreted their behaviour. It’s not just communicating itself that is important, as much as sharing the fears and vulnerabilities that drive our reactions that is key to building a successful relationship.
I'd like to extend my thanks to Natalie for sharing her words of wisdom on the importance of pre-marriage counselling.
If you would like to know more about Natalie's services, visit her website: https://www.natalieclaireking.com/