A Pre-Marital Counseling Alternative

pre-marital counseling alternativeYou might be wondering why I’m thinking about pre-marital counseling when I usually write about work, faith, finding your calling etc. Well, this past weekend, we had a wonderful family wedding. The bride and groom were getting married outside of the state they lived in, and had met with the pastor who was officiating the wedding only about a week beforehand.

It reminded me of when John and I got married (eight years ago, yesterday!). We were attending one church near our university, were going to be married at his parent’s church in Seattle and neither pastor was going to officiate our ceremony. Our officiant was going to be my grandpa, who would be flying in from Canada the week of the wedding. What to do? We were lucky enough to get to attend a pre-marital counseling class through our college church as there happened to be several other engaged couples at the same time.

These days, we have many friends and family members who have been engaged long-distance, don’t have home churches, or don’t know any pastors and are planning to have a friend officiate their wedding. Where are they going for pre-marital counseling? We spend so much time preparing for a wedding that it’s easy to miss out on making the time to prepare for marriage in a formal way.

All of this got me thinking about . . .

A Pre-Marital Counseling Alternative

If you’re engaged and you want to build a strong marriage from the start, you should definitely be doing some kind of marriage preparation but maybe it doesn’t have to look like “traditional” pre-marital counseling. I’ve thought for a long time that the Birkman Method is a seriously great tool for couples. Why not use it as an alternative to “in-house” pre-marital counseling with a pastor?

While the language in the Birkman reports is primarily workplace-focused, most of the information easily translates into your home environment and your close personal relationships. Much of the information will be things you have already discovered or are in the process of figuring out. The Birkman can help you speed up that discovery process and also give a name to things you might sense but be unable to articulate.

One of the best things about the Birkman Method is how much it emphasizes the positive aspects of personality differences. The neutral language gives you a perfect platform to discuss behavior differences without attacking and accusing or feeling defensive and sensitive. The graphs are a visual reminder that both ends of the spectrum on any one component (say “prefers to work alone” vs “life of the party”) bring great strengths to the table, while the needs graphs give you a quick grasp of what’s necessary to work together most effectively.

The other great thing about the Birkman reports is that it does scientifically measure your needs – an area of life that we often have a difficult time discussing well with others. Sometimes it’s hard for us to articulate what we need. Sometimes we’re not even sure what we need. Sometimes we may feel that our needs are not valid. The information in your Birkman reports lends a conversation about needs some objectivity.

A quick Google search in the Seattle area showed me that there are a other pre-marital counseling alternative out there. We’re blessed to have John Gottman running marriage workshops (I wish I could go to that – I bet it’s fascinating!). You can also find regular counselors who specialize in pre-marital work. But you should definitely consider the Birkman Method if you’re dealing with any of the following issues:

  • long-distance
  • lack of time before the wedding
  • not having a home church/pastor you know well
  • not being comfortable with faith-based counseling options
  • not being able to afford a therapist’s session fee

So stay tuned, because I’m working hard on a discussion guide that can accompany your reports so you can turn pre-marital counseling into a series of great date night conversations. I will have more information about that for you soon!

If you want to contribute ideas to my project, please leave comments with your thoughts on a pre-marital counseling alternative, what you wish you had had or could find, how you went about the process of preparing for marriage etc. I would love your input!

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