Premarital Counseling is Insurance Policy for Same-Sex Marriages

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A new 'Summer of Love' is expected this summer as thousands of same sex couples get married. San Francisco therapist Michael Halyard says premarital therapy can serve as an insurance policy to protect these marriages.

Gay couples are increasingly having children and raising families, by adoption and other means. If one partner wants three kids and the other wants none, there has to be some negotiation

With the coming California "Summer of Love," gay couples are encouraged to consider premarital counseling as part of their wedding plans.

"Premarital counseling can serve as an insurance policy to help gay couples stay together," says San Francisco Marriage and Family Therapist Michael Halyard.

Thousands of lesbian and gay couples are expected to get married beginning June 16th, thanks to the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

"The idea behind premarital counseling is to strengthen the marriage prior to the wedding--so the relationship can withstand the challenges that inevitably come up," explains Halyard. He says counseling can also help couples improve communication, deepen intimacy, and improve patterns of relating.

Halyard specializes in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues in his San Francisco private practice, and is the former Vice President for Gaylesta, the LGBT therapist organization for the San Francisco Bay Area. He also runs the website SFtherapy.com.

"Premarital counseling is often required by churches and synagogues--as part of their wedding packages--but the counseling is a good idea for all couples, even those who have been together a long time. For some couples, marriage may not change anything. But for others, it changes everything. Premarital counseling can help couples to determine what marriage will mean for the couple's relationship," explains Halyard.

Some same-sex couples are planning extravagant weddings but Halyard warns not to ignore the relationship itself. "If couples designate just a fraction of their wedding budget on premarital counseling, it could go a long way to ensure them living 'happily ever after,' and is money well spent," says Halyard.

Counseling can also provide a safe place to discuss difficult issues--shining a light on blind spots that might be a source of conflict in the future. "Gay couples are increasingly having children and raising families, by adoption and other means. If one partner wants three kids and the other wants none, there has to be some negotiation," explains Halyard.

"Many couples planning to get married this summer have been together for many years or even decades and already know what they're getting into to. But others have been together for relatively short periods of time and may not truly know their partners. For them, premarital counseling is indispensable," adds Halyard.

"Gay men and lesbians are known for rushing into commitments. Getting married for political reasons is not a recipe for longevity. It's important to know yourself, know your partner, and be realistic about how serious marriage is. Don't forget that marriage is a huge commitment--it's a whole lot easier to get into then get out of," cautions Halyard.

Premarital counseling can also help couples establish healthy patterns of communication that can last a lifetime. "Relationship skills are learned, and often we are pre-programmed by our families of origin how to relate, without consciously making choices about our behavior. Premarital counseling can teach couples to take an active role in healing their spouses, rather than re-injuring them in unconscious patterns," explains Halyard.

Even though the recently expanded rights under the domestic partnership laws have gotten closer to marriage, Halyard says same-sex marriage changes everything for lesbians and gay men.

"In California, we are finally equal in all areas of the law and that cannot be understated. I believe this will have a healing effect on gay and lesbian people, many of whom have felt marginalized by society all their lives," predicts Halyard.

About Michael Halyard. Michael Halyard, MS, MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and specializes in LGBT issues in his private practice. He is a former Vice President of Gaylesta, the LGBT psychotherapist organization for the San Francisco Bay Area. He also runs the web site SFtherapy.com.

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