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by Sandra L. Ceren
Loving Healing Press, 2008
Review by Michael J Salmon, Ph.D on Nov 18th 2008

Essentials of Premarital Counseling

The institution of marriage is in serious trouble. While most indicators suggest that the divorce rate has stabilized or even fallen in the last few years, the rate for first marriage appears to be in a freefall decline. Both men and women are delaying nuptials, not simply because they wish to establish themselves in a profession prior to making the commitment, but they are putting off marriage out of fear that taking their vows is increasingly meaningless; divorce is too likely an outcome and recent research is reporting higher rates of infidelity. Concerns that the person chosen to be a spouse will not be the one to meet their needs for the long term abound among those of marriageable age. Marital therapists are reporting that conflicts in marriage are so worrying to some young women and men that they would rather not even consider getting married.  The concept of love in marriage is also strained as some report that it is an entity that is historically a relatively new one. According to historian Stephanie Coontz, marrying for love was unheard of as recently as just a century ago.  Marriages were for convenience and had more to do with survival than quality of life.  Members of this generation, who practice what has been referred to as highly narcisstic behaviors may, by their approach to life, be contributing to the erosion of marriage rates. Individuals who are focused more on themselves lack the insight necessary to respond to someone else's needs. Greater insight may assist in confronting this problem by providing those who wish the knowledge and awareness to overcome their insecurity in addressing their fears of not finding the person to grow with. But, this is a two way street that requires both parties to develop the skills. Therapists need tools to help them work with clients who have difficulty navigating these commitment fears and developing a sense of security that they have chosen the right person to marry, a person they can understand, who will be responsive to them, and whom they will grow with emotionally.

Recent research has begun to show patterns that may be useful for therapists to understand and implement in their work with those tentatively approaching marriage. Personality factors, family background and problem solving skills all play a role in compatibility. Understanding that research and translating it into a clinically useful methodology requires a background and sensitivity that is all too rare. It is for this reason that this text is such a gem. Ceren has used her methodological knowledge, clinical insight and well known writing skills to develop a premarital counseling workbook that translates the research and clinical background into this highly accessible text.

When a protocol does not exist there is a feeling that clinicians develop, somewhat akin to groping in the dark. Some have argued that there is no need for premarital counseling for if the couple is compatible why the need for counseling? Conversely, if they are incompatible, why counsel them to try to force compatibility? But, these arguments miss the issue, which is that compatibility may exist, but fears and insecurities about marriage and relationships abound. Ceren, employing anecdotes, quizzes and questionnaires has developed a highly efficient technique to help people gain insight into their own personality and determine compatibility. There are a series of common frustrations and difficulties that couples are known to experience and Ceren addresses them. Couples are instructed to understand the approaches they use to tackle issues as well as the approaches used by their fiancé. Understanding that there is never complete agreement, Ceren expounds on the concept that she refers to as "The art of gracious compromise." This technique, also referred to, as how to get along in relationships, should be required reading for all those interested in better relationships.

If you are a therapist who works with individuals about to be married, or even individuals at any stage of marriage, you would do well to read and follow and even recommend this text to your clients. It is easy to understand, easy to use and a most helpful reader.

© 2008 Michael J Salmon

Michael J Salmon, Ph.D., Adult Developmental Center, Hewlett, N.Y.

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