Dear Surly Amy,
I’ve been with my boyfriend for several years now and we’re at the point where the topic of engagement/marriage is coming up. We’re interested in going through pre-marriage counseling. This sounds simple enough but the problem is all the programs I’ve heard about have been religiously affiliated (we’re both atheists) or set off my bullshit meter. Examples of things that set off my bullshit meter include discussion of past lives, advertisements for more seminars costing $$$, anti-science rhetoric, anti-psychology rhetoric, and citing Deepak Chopra. We don’t want something that promotes misogyny OR misandry either, which is harder than I realized. Any suggestions on finding pre-marriage counseling that is atheist and skeptic friendly?
Healing Crystals do not a strong marriage make
Dear Healing Crystals do not a strong marriage make,
The best advice that I can give is to call and actually tell the person your requirements before making your initial appointment. You can also ask around at your local skeptic group (if you have one) and see if anyone there can recommend a counselor in your area that they have used with some success. I asked the Skepchicks behind the scenes and Kammy responded with this:
If people are interested in pre-marriage counseling, why not try going to an actual marriage counselor? A few years ago when Greg and I needed a neutral space to talk some things through, we had one and she was great. She had experience with all the ways couples don’t communicate well and great advice. We called a few and asked them questions til we found a good fit. We specified things like that they had to be secular, progressive and sex positive. It was a great experience and very valuable for us. We plan on going in for a tune-up every 5 years or so.
Kammy makes a great point that a lot of pre-marriage counselors have probably historically made their money off of a network of primarily religious customers since the tradition of marriage itself is heavily steeped in religion. Where as many people who seek actual current marriage counseling do so for a wide variety of reasons and a therapist or counselor who deals with the difficulties of keeping relationships working might be more likely to come from a rational perspective and less from a spiritual one. Still, I am sure you are going to need to do some pre-screening of your own. Just remember to be honest and upfront about what you are looking for in your counseling. Just because your needs may be in the minority in the current marketplace that does not mean they are any less important.
If anyone has any resources for secular marriage counselors please leave them in the comments.
Thanks for writing in. I hope this helped.
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