If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if premarital counseling is really necessary. After all, who knows your relationship better than the two of you, right? But an outsider’s point of view can be extremely helpful when trying to put your best self forward in a committed relationship. Isn’t that why we all find ourselves talking about relationship issues –big or small– to a friend over a glass of wine or two at some point in our lives? Getting that feedback from a neutral expert can be even more beneficial than you think.
According to a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology, couples with premarital counseling reported higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years. In fact, some couples in Colorado thought premarital counseling was so important that they proposed legislation that would require every single engaged couple to participate in 10 hours of premarital counseling before they could legally wed! The initiative also included a tax cut for couples who voluntarily complete continuing marriage education each year to “reduce the billions of dollars taxpayers spent annually on divorce.” While this never made it to the ballot, it did get us thinking…what exactly is premarital counseling, and should couples consider it? Here’s what we found out…
What is premarital counseling?
Premarital counseling is a form of therapy that seeks to ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship, giving you a foundation for a stable and mutually satisfying marriage. If you’re getting married in a house of worship, then you might already have faith-based marriage classes booked in your schedule, since some churches and synagogues mandate them.
What happens during counseling?
Your premarital counselor will help you hash out some details with regards to important and emotional topics such as kids, intimacy and money. You’ll be asked questions about your individual career goals, your values, your financial situation, your sex life, your expectations with regards to having children, your religious beliefs, your family involvement, and your social lives. While you’ll find that you’ve probably already discussed a lot of these topics, you might be surprised by some of the questions, including: If for some reason, we can’t have children, will we pursue adoption? Will one of us stop working after we have children, and how will that affect our lifestyle and finances? What do we want our children to learn from our relationship? How will we deal with each other’s friends we don’t like very much? What are our zero-tolerance hot buttons (i.e. financial dishonesty, infidelity, drinking too much, gambling)? What are the repercussions of those missteps?
As you work through the questions, keep an open mind and be prepared to find out some hard truths that were either unknown or ignored before your session. For example, you may find out that your fiance wants more alone time, is unhappy with one of your habits, or is holding on to some toxic resentments from the past. Your counselor will observe your behaviors and help you see where you can improve your conflict resolution skills, have realistic expectations of one another, dismantle fears about marriage, and identify potential areas of future stress in your relationship. Don’t worry though–your counselor will also highlight and help you nourish the strong parts of your relationship, which is beneficial in its own way for reinforcing what you agree on and love about each other.
Where can I find a premarital counselor?
Search for a local counselor or therapist in your area. In addition to private practices and family health clinics, most hospitals have a family counseling department that employs marriage counselors. To find local agencies and read reviews, check Yelp and Angie’s List. You can also find certified marriage counselors at many large churches and synagogues.
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While premarital counseling might be a required or voluntary therapy for you to seek out, it helps to know what it is and if it’s right for you!
Tell us, WGM’ers, are you going to pre-marriage counseling?