Is there important stuff you need to talk about together before getting married? So much focus these days seems to go on the wedding with planning for the dress, the cake, the guest list, the honeymoon … but in reality it is the rest of your lives together that you should be planning and preparing for. Premarital counselling is used to help couples prepare for marriage, as you attend a number of counselling sessions together to discuss your future life as well as develop relationship skills.
Research suggests that premarital counselling can improve your chances of making your marriage last by about 30% (source) and with divorce rates as high as they are, this is certainly something to consider. While it is more normal for couples who are religious or seeking a religious ceremony to be offered premarital counselling, every couple can be helped to pick up on the potential problems in the relationship before they become serious pitfalls.
When you enter into a relationship with someone, each person brings their own values, opinions and expectations, and once you get past that initial phase of loving everything about each other, those differences will start to surface, and that is where counselling can help you to move to the next step.
So what kind of topics do you typically discuss in premarital counselling? Some areas include:
If you are in a relationship and think any of these topics could potentially be difficult, counselling can help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.
This week I take a look at shyness. Research suggests about 90% of us say we have felt shy at some point, such as when we have to walk into a room full of people we don’t know, but many of us have figured out a defense system such as laughing or talking a lot. For some people this shyness develops into a more problematic situation and about 13% of the population could be diagnosed as having social anxiety, where our apprehension of being around others starts to inhibit areas of our life. It is a bit like imagining we each have a shyness thermostat inside us that leads us to interpret social situations with differing levels of fear, ranging from minimal to overwhelming.
Symptoms of higher levels of shyness or social anxiety include: blushing, sweating, shaking, racing heart, avoidance, apprehension of being around other people, self-consciousness, avoiding eye contact, appearing quiet and isolated at social occasions (which can also make you appear superior or you can be labelled anti-social), fear of being embarrassed or rejected, and in general being there without really being there.
Over time, if the anxiety continues we become conditioned to associate others with our fearful reaction and unpleasant feelings, and because we anticipate a poor outcome we avoid what we assume will be a loss in terms of creating relationships. This distancing from people before we even give them a chance means that we lose the opportunity to seek pleasure from a sense of affiliation as well as the chance of closeness with people who could become more important to us.
Imagine a teenage boy who is starting to have opportunities to interact with girls, and feeling a great deal of anxiety to the point where he freezes whenever he is around them. He then starts to avoid girls so he can feel less anxious, but over time as he compares himself to other boys this feeds into his sense of self, and his internal thoughts are that he is ineffective and unmanly. Eventually he pushes himself to go to a party and has a few drinks to try and calm himself down, but when a girl tries to talk to him he feels overwhelmed and leaves in a hurry. Word gets around his social circle that he is weird or possibly gay, which leads to him becoming even more isolated and then he starts showing signs of being depressed. It can be too easy to spiral into a self-defeating situation.
It is important to remember that humans are inherently social animals; we evolved to thrive on having a relational group to exist within, and if you do therefore find yourself becoming isolated in a way that leads to you to feel unhappy then here are 10 tips to help you:
Lastly, remember that while Facebook makes it seem as though everyone except you has hundreds of friends, in reality most people have just a couple of people they can call true friends, and it is those connections that count. Focus on being more socially comfortable and eventually you will make the acquaintances that lead to real friendship.
If you are facing a challenge in your life because of social anxiety and can’t see a way forward, then counselling can be helpful in providing support and a non-judgmental space to learn to find balance and confidence. For more in-depth help and counselling, consider contacting me in person. I also invite questions to be answered on my blog.
This week, I heard from someone who is struggling with some aspects of living far away from family.
Saying Goodbye Never Gets Easier
Dear Dr Jules,
It is the end of the summer holiday and I feel so sad. My family have all returned to the UK after a lovely visit. I know they have their own lives and that I cannot afford to join them, but I can't stand the pain each time we part.
I feel your pain on this one. I lived in America for fifteen years and only got to see my family during the summer holidays when we would fly back to Europe. The first time we said goodbye it was unbearable and I thought it would get easier, but it never did. Eventually I gave up a good career and moved to France so I could be around family again, and yet each time I approach the train station that we used to leave from I still feel that panic rising along with the memories of all the separations.
Family is so important to you and that is a gift you must not underestimate. Here are some tips I learned along the way that might help you to cope with the separation a little more easily:
Saying goodbye is never easy but it is survivable. If you ultimately decide that the pull of family is too great, then that may one day be something you all need to discuss as a family. In the meantime, enjoy the moments you have together and the memories you are making, they are something to treasure.
If you are feeling that you are struggling to cope or gain perspective, then counselling can be helpful in providing support and a non-judgmental space to work through your problems. For more in-depth help and counselling, consider contacting Dr Jules in person
This article was also posted at English Informer In France.