John and Mariah wake up a bundle of nerves—but better today than a few months from now on their wedding day. This afternoon, they attend their first session of premarital counseling. The two are undeniably in love and committed to each other, but to ensure it stays that way, they’ve decided to seek guidance from a therapist. And while they’re nervous about how the session will go, two smiles emerge at its end. In the months that follow, John and Mariah see Dr. Joann biweekly to discuss marriage concerns, learn effective communication techniques, and prepare for future conflicts. And by the time their wedding date arrives, they’re more confident than ever that this whole marriage thing can and will work out for them—they’re equipped to handle any curveball thrown their way.
John and Abraham have been engaged for a year now and their wedding date is fast-approaching—but for the past month, they haven’t stopped arguing. And now they worry that they’re not ready for marriage after all. John’s father recommends they do what he and John’s mother did: seek premarital counseling. So, much to Abraham’s dismay, that’s exactly what they do. John schedules a session that same day and just a week later they’re sitting in Dr. Thompson’s office—a place they would come to know very well. That first session consists of a lot of bickering and the two emerge with heightened emotions—but they finally have some direction. In the weeks that follow, John and Abraham learn to communicate more effectively and better understand each other’s feelings. However, at the conclusion of therapy, the two decide that they’re better off to lead separate lives. And they’re okay with that—because they’re both so much happier and healthier doing so.
What is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling helps couples develop essential communication skills, identify potential conflict areas, and learn how to properly confront and handle these difficulties. This specialized kind of therapy can benefit all couples who are strongly considering and ready for lasting commitment. And with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, it is important that couples consider seeking out premarital counseling before they tie the knot—in fact, some states require it for those under the age of 18.
This type of counseling is normally sought out during an engagement, but it is also necessary and useful for those still contemplating marriage. Premarital counseling can be beneficial for couples who are not sure about their next step, as well as those who are already engaged and preparing for marriage.
Who Should Seek Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling can help a person in a relationship, who is “non-committal,” learn what issues they may have with commitment and where they stem from; it can help a couple resolve issues they cannot seem to get past; and it can also help educate couples on the realities of marriage. In addition, signing up for premarital counseling does not guarantee “I do’s” will be or must be said. In fact, some couples go through counseling and find it best that they do not pursue marriage, and they both go on to live separate happy, healthy lives—just as John and Abraham have done in the scenario detailed above.
For those who have gotten engaged and are ready to commit to each other for life, the benefits of premarital counseling are virtually endless; research has shown that it can reduce divorce rates and curb pre-marriage jitters. That said, you do not have to have a problem to seek premarital counseling—it does not mean something is “wrong” with you or the two of you together. Instead, counseling can be used to strengthen your relationship and help you communicate better, which will lessen and/or ease conflicts that may lie ahead. This type of counseling can also help open up discussions that you feel uncomfortable bringing up yourself. Some commonly covered ground in premarital counseling will include:
- Common Interests and Activities
- Role Expectations
- Religion and/or Church
- Marriage Expectations
- Budget and Finance
- Children and Parenting
- Need for Space
What Does a Premarital Counseling Session Look Like?
The structure of premarital counseling can differ among therapists: some prefer to first see each individual separately, which allows them to identify and understand any individual concerns or issues, while other therapists focus on the two as one entity from beginning to end. However, once the couple begins sessions together, they then typically address any concerns, discuss expectations and hopes, and identify how they’ve approached those goals as well as how they plan to continue working towards those goals.
Sometimes, premarital counseling also involves making a Couples Resource Map, which aids each partner in identifying resources that will come in handy when they face given challenges. Similarly, partners also typically talk about warning signs and create a plan of action to refer to and utilize if these conflicts do arise. This plan of action may mean scheduling a counseling session, sitting down and having a productive, meaningful conversation, and/or referring to one’s individual resources.
Quick Facts about Premarital Counseling
- Couples who underwent premarital counseling had a 30% higher marital success rate than couples who did not, according to HealthResearchFunding.org.
- Premarital counseling doesn’t just help couples prepare for marriage, but any kind of long-term commitment.
- Couples seeking premarital counseling have a few choices: they can take the traditional route and see a therapist, or attend a group therapy session, or go to a workshop.
- Counselors will help guide difficult discussions, such as those about money or kids.
- Counselors will teach effective communication skills, which will come in handy during any future conflict.
- Premarital counseling will help to ease worries about marriage or commitment, by helping a couple identify future issues that may arise, now.
- It can be difficult—as it’s not always easy to hear your partner’s concerns or negative feelings. Therefore, one should try to go in prepared for tough feedback, whilst remembering the many benefits to come.
- It may be costly, both time and money-wise, but it is worth it. Still, there are free and low-cost counseling resources available as well; one option is to check out your community clinic.
Get Premarital Counseling Today
Premarital counseling is designed to help you save your marriage before it even begins—because while you may be a happy couple now, you are sure to face conflict in the future that threaten your marriage. Talking to a therapist about these potential conflicts, learning effective communication skills through their expertise, and having a mediator to guide conversation in a productive direction is sure to make your relationship stronger. So, make premarital counseling a priority, an essential to your wedding planning. Because while the flowers, attire, and food are certainly important to wedding day memories, a loving and lasting marriage surely takes the cake.
We want you and your partner to find the help, care, motivation, or information you are looking for. If premarital counseling is something you want to pursue in your area, make an appointment with a therapist from Thriveworks today: click here to see a counselor near you. Or, if you’d like to explore online counseling opportunities, click here.
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