What Is Premarital Counseling and How Does It Help?

93% of Americans today believe that a healthy marriage is one of the most important things in life. Research shows that couples who attend counseling have a 30% better chance of enjoying a successful and healthy marriage. Also, meta-analytic reviews suggest that premarital education programs are generally effective in producing immediate and short-term gains in interpersonal skills and overall relationship quality (Carroll & Doherty, 2004). Finally, a meta-analytic study found that premarital education programs appear to be effective at improving a couple’s communication (Fawcett et al., 2010).

Many people believe that counseling is only for couples who are actively experiencing problems in their marriage or committed relationship. However, premarital counseling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counseling can help ensure that you and your partner are equipped with the tools necessary to have a successful and satisfying marriage. During premarital counseling, you may discuss topics including, but not limited to, finances, conflict resolution strategies, and communication skills to prepare both partners for their commitment to one another and the relationship.

What Exactly Is Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is a specialized form of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. By undertaking premarital counseling before the wedding, you and your partner have the chance to build a healthy relationship that will provide a strong foundation for your union. Premarital counseling can help couples of any gender, race, or religion address their expectations and concerns about their marriage.

Who Can Benefit From Premarital Counseling?

Many people assume that counseling is only for people with problems or for couples in crisis. This is far from the truth. Participating in premarital counseling helps you and your partner learn how to identify issues and handle problems that may arise at some point in your marital life.

Therefore, premarital counseling is highly recommended for couples who are engaged and aiming to get married. Premarital counseling is a form of family therapy designed to help couples stay connected during difficult times. This type of counseling offers partners a variety of tools and strategies to resolve conflicts.

Issues Addressed in Premarital Counseling

Let’s talk about common topics and issues addressed in premarital counseling.

Conflict resolution: Premarital counseling addresses the ways each partner resolves conflicts and how you can improve your ability to compromise on issues where you disagree.

Communication: You will discuss communication with your partner and address any adaptive or maladaptive methods of communication you may have.

Expectations: Premarital counseling encourages each partner to discuss their expectations for each other and the marriage so you can work toward finding ways to compromise. Furthermore, it helps partners understand what constitutes a successful marriage.

Values and needs: Research has shown that partners with similar values and needs have a better chance of staying together. Counseling addresses this important factor and helps partners acknowledge their values, personal beliefs, and needs.

Finances: Premarital counseling also addresses financial issues. Are you able to discuss your financial problems? Partners often avoid discussing sensitive topics like money, especially when one of the partners is overspending. This can create conflict, so a premarital counselor will address issues like this and assist you resolve them as a couple.

Family: Do both partners want to have children? If not, are both partners aware of this? If you both want kids, how many does each partner want? When is it time to start a family? These and many other issues regarding families are addressed in counseling.

Intimacy and sex: Are you and your partner comfortable or uncomfortable discussing sex? Do you both feel intimate? What does each of you expect in terms of a sexual relationship? In a successful marriage, couples can talk freely and honestly about sex, so premarital counseling raises these sensitive topics and explores each partner’s limits.

The Goals of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling examines your relationship in an objective manner and helps you learn how to interact in a healthy and productive way. Premarital counseling also addresses cultural issues and how they affect the relationship. It examines how personal values and beliefs or family history affect how each partner perceives the relationship and behaves during everyday life, and how cultural differences might cause crises in the relationship. Counseling will help you identify your differences and develop methods to manage them successfully.

Address and Eliminate Dysfunctional Behaviors

Premarital counseling helps couples identify and eliminate dysfunctional behaviors, such as control issues, addiction, and dependency.

Improve Communication

Good communication is the secret ingredient for a healthy marriage. Premarital counseling helps couples learn effective ways of communication, letting you and your partner express your thoughts and feelings openly, in a healthy, supportive, and safe relationship.

Identify Couples’ Strengths

Premarital counseling can help partners identify the positive aspects of their relationship and their overall strengths. Understanding of the stronger aspects of your relationship and acknowledging the positive parts will help you build resilience and a stronger foundation upon which to maintain a healthy marriage.

Eliminate Emotional Breaks, Isolation, and Avoidance

Many couples have difficulty expressing their feelings, so they end up avoiding each other. This type of avoidance will eventually lead to serious problems in the relationship. Premarital counseling will assist you in learning how to openly express your feelings in a way that brings you closer together rather than leading to further avoidance behavior and, in the end, isolation.

The Benefits of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling offers many benefits to ensure your marriage will be stable and happy, which is obviously the main benefit of counseling before marriage.

Another important benefit is that it helps couples develop and strengthen the skills that are necessary for resolving conflicts in a marriage and maintaining a healthy relationship. You and your partner may have different ideas of what it means to be happy. By discussing this beforehand, you can set common goals to work toward together.

Also, premarital counseling helps partners identify any possible issues that could negatively impact  their marriage later on, giving you the opportunity to discuss your wants, needs, and expectations before marriage. With the help of a counselor, you can work to cope with your differences.

No matter how much a couple love each other, they may still have some anxiety over the thought of a lifelong commitment. Counseling can help partners deal with this anxiety by giving them the opportunity to deal with possible causes for anxiety and work through them.

Finally, couples often approach their marriage with fears about the longevity of their relationship. Premarital counseling can help you identify and confront your fears about forming and maintaining a healthy marriage.

Understanding the Aspects of Premarital Counseling

Education, Expertise, and Experience

Couples seeking premarital counseling should accept services only from specialized and certified professionals who hold the required education and experience. A premarital counselor needs to have specific knowledge and expertise, so couples should be careful when choosing a counselor.

Confidentiality

All professionals are obliged to protect their clients’ information, so couples should expect that the counselor they choose will explain their right to confidentiality at the outset of therapy. Counselors should also explain when they may need to disclose some specific information, for example, to authorities.

Types of Premarital Counseling

There are different types of premarital counseling depending on your personality or your background. Choosing the right type of premarital counseling will increase its chance of effectiveness and ensure that you will benefit from the experience as much as possible.

Online Premarital Counseling Sessions

For couples who would prefer to receive counseling in the comfort of their own home, online premarital counseling will bring them closer to achieving their marriage-related goals in privacy and comfort. Online premarital counseling may include online counseling and self-guided sessions, among other methods.

One-on-One Premarital Counseling

This is the most traditional and commonly-used method of counseling. Premarital counselors conduct face-to-face sessions and help couples tackle their issues and develop the appropriate tools to resolve any future problems in their marriage.

Group Sessions and Open Discussion

While group sessions don’t focus solely on one couple, they can be a valuable experience. Group sessions can be used by couples for engaging purposes and to elicit helpful discussions that will teach them different perspectives and ideas. Couples will have the opportunity to learn how others deal with problems and how others maintain a happy marriage. Couples should keep in mind that privacy is at risk here, due to participation of other people.

Give yourselves the chance to build a strong foundation.

You and your partner need to understand that committing to each other can be challenging. You may find yourselves facing and discussing issues that you would rather ignore, but facing and resolving these issues is how you and your partner grow in your relationship. Don’t try to ignore issues in your relationship, and never isolate yourself from your partner. You and your partner are allies in life. Banish the idea that there are winners and losers in a relationship. You are both equals in your partnership, and you have 50-50 stakes in whatever makes you happy or shakes your relationship. Take advantage of the time you spend with a counselor to create a safe zone that you will nourished for years to come to build a healthy, trusting, and loving relationship with your spouse.

References:

Carroll, Jason & Doherty, William. (2004). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Premarital Prevention Programs: A Meta‐Analytic Review of Outcome Research. Family Relations. 52. 105 – 118. 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2003.00105.x.

Fawcett, Elizabeth & Hawkins, Alan & Blanchard, Victoria & Carroll, Jason. (2010). Do Premarital Education Programs Really Work? A Meta-analytic Study. Family Relations – FAM RELAT. 59. 232-239. 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2010.00598.x.

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