Tuesday, March 16, 2010

we've got mad skills

In the months since our engagement, I have been given the advice "participate in some form of pre-marital counseling before the wedding, it'll be worth it" many times. A couple of times this advice came from people we know and mostly it came from the dozens of wedding blogs I peruse daily.

As I've already discussed here, our relationship is far from perfect. I'm impatient, he forgets everything and we're both really stubborn. So we bicker. A lot. And we argue. Not habitually, but it happens. We could both learn to communicate better, listen to one another more, and fight more fairly. Obviously, our relationship could use a little tweeking. We ended up attending a few counseling sessions through a local organization and they were definitely helpful to us. I think it helped us realized that there were more levels to many of our common conflicts than we had originally thought and it got us talking more. Honestly, I think some of our best conversations happened after those counseling sessions.

That being said, at $100 per session, we were only able to attend 3 at the time and with school/wedding expenses piling up, we can't afford to spend that kind of money right now, no matter how well spent those dollars would be. So we're on the hunt for something more affordable in our area, but in the mean time, I didn't want those awesome conversations to stop. I'm terrible at bottling feelings and when I do, they only get much worse. Unfortunately, I find it exceedingly difficult to start those important conversations which is why I loved the counseling sessions so much because were great a great forum in which we could talk about anything and everything.

Thankfully, I think we found the next best thing... a couples counseling book.

I've always been skeptical of the self-help book industry. I'm sure there's tons of really useful books out there, but gems like "He's Just Not That Into You" have overwhelmed the industry for years and I've been put off ever since. But after doing extensive research into pre-marital books, it seems that many of the best don't always apply to engaged couples, but center rather on improving the couple as a whole, whether they're in a relationship, engaged, or already married. Plus, finding a secular couples book in a plethora of books which are affiliated with some major religion was a battle in and of itself. Anything with the word "soul-mate" was immediately taken off the list, as was anything that hasn't released a new edition since 1980 (there's a lot of those out there, by the way). We wanted something practical; something we could really apply to our conversations and disagreements; something that would help our relationship work better; something that would improve our skills as a couple.

Well, lo and beyond. We found Couples Skills: Making Your Relationship Work.

We could not have been more lucky. After glancing through it in the book store for about 30 seconds, we knew it was for us. It's got everything we needed. It starts off with the most basic skills of listening and expressing feelings. Moves into problem solving and dealing with anger. And goes even further into issue like "separating your partner from your parents" and "identifying your couple system". To take a peek, click here.

Some of it is a little cheesy, the exercises and example seem artificial (in fact, the book recognizes this by saying "this exercise may seem artificial" but it's opened up conversations... some good, some bad, but conversation nonetheless. It's practical, applicable and has definitely improved how we communicate our needs and listen to one another. Um, did I mention we're only on the third chapter? Here's to hoping it can only get better from here. While I hesitate to give a full-hearted recommendation given that we are only on the third chapter, I'd say that, at least so far, the book seems to be living up to its expectations.

Alright, spill the beans. Anybody have some other good couples (preferably secular) books to recommend?


Stacy Marie said...

THANK YOU for this post. My fiance has his master's degree in counseling and he knows all the stats on why-marriage-counseling-is-ridiculous and has been very opposed to it. A book that we can work through ourselves is just what I've been looking for (we worked through 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged) before we got engaged and it was really helpful to us, though we did skip all the Jesus stuff. And online marriage counseling classes cost a fortune, and with our student loans...just not an option. So this is so, so perfect for us and I am super pumped.

I started Gottman's "The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work" but it seemed to me to be more for couples in trouble, so I didn't read it. It was good about emphasizing that fighting is healthy as long as you do it respectfully. Also, I really enjoyed "The 5 Love Languages."

thehickbride said...

Awesome! We've been looking for a good book, we've had a few duds. Thanks! =)

dognbird said...

No book reco to share but did want to say I really enjoyed this honest post. Getting addicted to your blog!

Miss C said...

I am really looking forward to doing pre-wedding counseling.

Want to hear something funny? In the first Cosmo Bride I bought (before we were officially engaged... but we thought we might have to get married so the Groomie could stay in Australia) there was an article on 20 things you should discuss before you get married. We stayed up drinking wine in bed and talked through all of the topics until like 3am. It was probably the best conversation we've ever had about the future (as in the most useful).

We talked about things like what would happen when our parents get old and need to be taken care of, and how we define success. Really interesting stuff.

Probably the one time in my life that Cosmo has been helpful ;)

Miss C said...

PS- Your ticker is at 100 days! Wow!

julie/smartassbride said...

we've (ok, mostly me) been fretting over not having $$$ for premarital counseling and thinking about getting a book. i'll take a look at your recommendation next time i go to the bookstore. i was also looking at "The Ten Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married" by Guy Grenier, but then i never bought it. anyone tried that one?

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