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Other HPS and HP Duties: Counseling – Part II - Pre-Nuptial Counseling
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Author: Meph [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: November 16th. 2008
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This article is the second of a two parts series on training HPS and HP to be as counselors for their coven. The first part introduced why counseling in needed, how to start training, and provides suggestions and resources to use during training. This second part covers one very common but under discussed form of counseling – pre-nuptial counseling.
If you haven’t already, please read the first part of this series (Other HPS and HP Duties: Counseling – Part I – Introduction) to gain a better understanding of the framework within which counseling in a coven takes place.
One of the most common requests to clergy is to perform a handfasting. Before we will consider such a request, we require our coveners to go through two sets of pre-nuptial counseling – one with us and one with a professional counselor. I’m providing more information on this type of counseling here because it is the most structured kind we offer and is rarely discussed elsewhere.
Our pre-nuptial counseling is a series of twelve 2-3 hour sessions two weeks apart. Yep, that’s a six-month commitment on both parties part, which is fairly substantial. But there’s a whole lot of very deep soul-searching and question answering and cognitive-based work that the couple has to go through; they need time to do so. Sometimes we get push-back; the couple doesn’t want to commit that much time. We merely point out we believe we accept some karmic responsibility for a couple and we’re not going to accept it without performing reasonable due diligence first. And if they really believe they are going to be living together ‘happily ever after’, then six months shouldn’t be that much of a commitment. Also, studies in the US and Germany have show pre-nuptial counseling can increase the likelihood a couple will still be together at the five year mark by up to 30% (if the pre-nuptial counseling is skills-based) .
Goals of our pre-nuptial counseling are threefold:
- to set reasonable expectations of what a marriage is; i.e., it’s not ‘blissfully happy ever after the wedding day with no work needed’ but rather entering into a long-term commitment to a two-way relationship that needs ongoing attention and nurturing
- to provide the couple with tools to teach them better communication skills (and practice in using those tools) so they can better communicate with each other and to better work through problems and issues when they arise (and letting them know it’s OK when problems arise)
- to make sure they have discussed all the major issues that need to be agreed on before a couple gets married (the classic example – “But I though you wanted kids!”)
We require they purchase and use three books during their counseling:
- 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married, Monica Mendez Leahy
- Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, 20th Anniversary Edition, Harville Hendrix
- Getting the Love You Want Workbook: The New Couples' Study Guide, Harville Hendrix (we generally suggest they purchase two copies of this one so they can fill in their answers independently and then compare them) .
When we say ‘skills-based’, it means teaching specific skills – usually communications based - to both parties and having them practice and learn to use those skills with each other. Too frequently marriages flounder because the couple goes into it with unrealistic expectations, too little knowledge of each other, a lack of shared goals, and no tools to handle conflict when it happens – and it will. Teaching these skills greatly enhances the couple’s chances of success.
For each session, they have the assignment/homework of going through the next assigned section in each book and bringing back their answers (in writing, not just verbal) . For the most part, it’s our job to make sure the couple has done the requested work and talked about and agreed on an answer – not for us to tell the couple what is ‘right’ or not for them (although we have to run a fine line here between providing advice on what we believe is critical whilst ignoring our personal preferences or opinions) .
It is not unusual to run into some significant issues from previous relationships, prior marriage models, or childhood issues. The counselors need to be up to recognizing these issues when they arise and dealing with them. The counselors must also know when they are in territory they can, as amateurs, handle and when they are in over their head and need to do a referral to a professional. Which, since they're supposed to be seeing a professional counselor at the same time, typically means telling them "Why don't you discuss this issue with your other counselor."
Pre-Nuptial Counseling – The Dark Side
We’ve had couples break up during counseling and we got criticized for it. We responded that the likelihood of those couples working out in a marriage was vanishingly slim and better they break up before marriage than a nasty divorce after. Not every couple is destined for a long and happy marriage. Far better they discover this before they marry than after. And for some couples, the edge that pre-nuptial counseling gives them may mean the difference between a successful marriage and a failed one.
Counseling in Your Coven
Counseling may only take a small portion of your time as a HPS and HP, but it is likely to have far more impact on both your coveners and on your coven overall than how well you performed at your last rit. Covens are composed of people and relationships; trying to keep both healthy is just as critical (if not more so) to a functional coven as how well your rituals are run. Are you going to be prepared as an HPS/HP to help keep it healthy?
1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married, Monica Mendez Leahy, McGraw-Hill, 2004.
Getting the Love You Want Workbook: The New Couples' Study Guide, Harville Hendrix, Atria, 2004.
Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, 20th Anniversary Edition, Harville Hendrix, Holt, 2007.
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