Therapist Urges Premarital Counseling for Same-Sex Couples

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San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard recommends premarital counseling for same-sex couples now that the right to marry has been restored to lesbian and gay couples in California.

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.

It’s been three months now since the historic United States Supreme Court decision restored the right to marry to California same-sex couples-- striking down both Proposition 8 and the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). As lesbian and gay couples plan their weddings, San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard urges couples to include premarital counseling in their wedding plans.

“Premarital counseling helps couples prepare for marriage by strengthening the marriage prior to the wedding--so the relationship can withstand the challenges that inevitably come up,” says Halyard.

Premarital counseling helps partners improve their communication, establish realistic expectations for their marriage, and develop conflict-resolution skills.

"Relationship skills are learned, and often we are pre-programmed by our family of origin how to relate, without consciously making choices about our behavior. Counseling can make our behavior conscious, and helps us choose to relate in healthier ways with our partner,” says Halyard.

Halyard is a San Francisco gay counselor and can be found on the websites http://www.sftherapy.com/ and http://www.sanfrancisco-psychotherapy.com.

"Many couples planning to get married 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.

During the counseling, couples have a chance to talk about a number of important subjects, which can range from expectations about affection and sex, to how the couple plans to manage their finances.

“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 two kids and the other wants none, there has to be some negotiation," explains Halyard.

Some same-sex couples are expected to spend lavishly on their 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.' 'Happily ever after' means partners taking an active role in healing their spouses, rather than re-injuring them in unconscious patterns," explains Halyard.

"Think of premarital counseling as an insurance policy to help gay couples stay together," adds Halyard.

Although the recently expanded rights under the domestic partnership laws have gotten closer to marriage, Halyard says marriage equality is a game-changer for lesbians and gay men.

"At least in California and for federal purposes, we are finally equal in all areas of the law--and that cannot be understated. I believe this will continue to have a healing effect on gay and lesbian people who have felt marginalized by society all their lives," adds Halyard.

Michael Halyard, MS, MFT is a San Francisco Marriage and Family Therapist and specializes in LGBT issues, depression, anxiety, addictions and couples counseling in his private practice. He can be found on the websites http://www.sftherapy.com/ and http://www.sanfrancisco-psychotherapy.com.

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