“I now pronounce you husband and wife!”

From the desk of Greg Giesen, founder of the Zen Leadership Institute

I’ve officiated eight weddings in the last three years—mostly family and friends. For me, it’s quite the honor to serve in such a capacity for a day that will last a lifetime in the memories of many.

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If you are—or have been—married, do you remember the person who married you? I bet you do. This is also why I don’t take the role lightly. It’s too important of an event to just show up. I need to bring my “A-game” every time.

There’s just one problem.

I have no idea if these marriages will work. My role all along has been to marry the couples—not counsel them.

This leads me to an honest omission: Had I undergone pre-marital counseling with my past wife, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten married. Too much? Too soon?

Like many couples, my wife and I got married in bliss with the intent of living happily ever after. In fact, the infatuation phase for me lasted well into the first year of marriage—which, if you know me—you know that’s a long time. And, like many couples, we really didn’t fight or argue much before we got married. I attribute this to a few reasons:

  1. Our relationship was greater than the problems we faced, making it easy to come to agreement and compromise.
  2. With the wedding looming off in the distance, we were motivated to avoid any kind of conflict that could threaten our special day.
  3. We didn’t do pre-wedding counseling and/or any kind of relationship work. As a result, we weren’t prepared for all of the relationship issues and challenges that were soon to emerge in our marriage.

But I don’t think we’re the only ones! Actually, I know we’re not the only ones.

Last night I met a friend for a drink (actually it was bachelorette #3 from Monday’s show…shhh!) and she also performs weddings. However, as a licensed therapist, she will only marry a couple “after” they’ve done a pre-marriage counseling program with her.

I like that idea.

Did you know that in Colorado a couple can marry themselves instantly the moment they turn in their wedding application? True. All they have to do is put a check mark in a particular box and sign under it and Ta-Da!—they’re married.

Couple on Beach

 Something seems wrong about that.

Have you ever gotten divorced? Not exactly as simple a process, is it? Why is it so easy to get married and yet so difficult to get divorced? Shouldn’t both processes be equal? If pre-counseling were to be mandatory before getting married, do you think we’d have as many divorces?

I think not.

Why is that, you ask?

I think most couples have not done near enough work on their relationship before they get married. Like me, they figure they’ll simply handle whatever arises when it arises. Talk about throwing dice out on the craps table.

The ability to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and problem-solve are essential elements to any relationship. If a couple has not practiced these skill sets together over their own issues, how are they supposed to master them later?

I recall learning some things about my wife’s background during the divorce proceedings that I didn’t even know about while we were married. How did that happen?

If we really want to cut down the divorce rate in this country, more work needs to be done upfront before a couple ever gets married. Waiting until problems arise is not a healthy strategy for a long-term relationship. In short, I now believe pre-marriage counseling needs to be a mandatory requirement before a couple can get married. It’s a win-win if you think about it. Even if a couple decides not to marry, isn’t it better to find out before they get married?

stuart

 I think so!

Note to self: Make sure couples I marry from this point forward do counseling before the wedding. 

Geese

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  1. I have worked as a divorce and family law attorney (and mediator) for almost 15 years, and I totally agree with your comments. Not enough work is done pre-marriage to understand the how the person you are marrying will handle the inevitable challenges. Even if people who are engaged are not planning on signing a prenup, I think the process is incredibly important because it forces them to ask financial questions many people typically avoid.

    • Volha Mnatsakanyan
    • September 24th, 2013

    Greg, you did our wedding so well and it was the best day of my life. So, I can tell you that marring Alex was the best thing I have done with my life. Just wanted to let you know that at least one of the weddings that you did will be successful “happily ever after ” 🙂 We promise.

    • Tony Vukovics
    • September 28th, 2013

    As a coach who trains athletes for marathons and triathlons, I prepare comprehensive training plans to get them ready physically and mentally for their race day. Interestingly, Greg illustrates that we fail to take the same preparation in what is arguably a more important goal. Thousands of people run marathons each year and spend numerous hours on the road and in the gym training for the big day. They condition the body so they don’t suffer the race. I call this, “planning for the worse, in order to perform the best.” Greg, I agree that we never plan the hard times in marriage and when they arrive, we are often not prepared to overcome. Counseling is essential.

  2. Great and meaningful responses! Thank you!

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