Dear Therapist:

Our son recently got engaged B"H. He doing very well but is one of those kids who "took the scenic route." He had struggles with yiddishkeit and in yeshiva over the years. He told us that his rebbi recommended that he and his kallah go to a marriage therapist while they are engaged to work on their relationship. This frightened my husband and me. If they are already having issues maybe this isn't the right match? We were told that this is sometimes done and beneficial but I would like to hear your thoughts on this, and if and when is it appropriate? 



In my opinion, pre-marital counseling is not only always appropriate, but it should generally be a prerequisite to marriage. Regardless of  faith or background, dating does not in any way prepare a couple for marriage.

The dating relationship is a poor facsimile of the marital relationship. When dating, we tend to be “on our best behavior.” We also often focus on the immediacy of the relationship (how we feel about the other person, whether we enjoyed the date, etc.) rather than on those areas that will affect our lives in the long run.

Even when we identify specific areas that we want to address, this does not give us a truly clear sense of what the long-term relationship will look like. There are various reasons for this. Regardless of how things look “on paper,” aspects like personality and personal chemistry often defy logic. We often are not quite certain, ourselves, of what it is that we want. This can cause us to persuade ourselves that we are okay with something that later becomes problematic. Our unconscious minds (emotions) are excellent at convincing us that what we feel is actually what we believe.

You mention your concern about your son’s relationship undergoing issues. I don’t know the specifics of their relationship or of the situation. I also don’t know the motivation behind your son’s rebbi’s suggestion that they see a marriage therapist. Each person comes from their own perspective. Perhaps your son’s rebbi generally feels that it’s a good idea for couples to see a counselor prior to marriage. Perhaps he feels this way in certain types of situations. Perhaps your son was introspective enough to acknowledge to his rebbi that there are aspects of the relationship on which he would like more clarity.

Many couples simply “float” through dating and engagement, only to discover once married that there are many factors that hadn’t been properly addressed. If this is something that your son and/or his rebbi are able to recognize at this point, addressing these factors before marriage can help to give your son and his kallah clarity, thus helping them to build a wonderful life together.

Of course, there is the possibility that your son or his rebbi identified a particular issue that is cause for concern. The question is whether you trust your son and his kallah to make the proper decisions. Once they are married, their decisions will be largely on their shoulders. They will have many crossroads and issues with which to deal. Hopefully, they are mature enough to address their own issues with some help. The fact that they have reached out to others for advice, and that they are interested in working with a therapist, may be a sign of such maturity.


-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

  Woodmere, NY

  adjunct professor at Touro College

  Graduate School of Social Work

  author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 516-218-4200


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