From the moment your to-be pops the big question you should both start actually planning your life together. 20 years from now, a perfectly planned centerpiece won’t really matter; establishing open and honest communication, knowing where you will likely experience friction, and learning the tools to work on the relationship will matter. Plus, happy couples have more and better sex. So all you men who think counseling is dumb, there is no excuse now.
What is Pre-Marital Counseling?
Pre-Marital counseling is not couples therapy, and is not designed to dive into all of your deep issues. Instead, the goal is to give you the tools to build a really fantastic marriage. The average married couple waits six long years before they seek professional help for marital problems, and by then the problems can be severe. Most divorces happen by the 7th year, so don’t be part of the statistic!
Pre-Marital counseling, like all therapeutic treatments, will vary greatly upon the couple being counseled, but there are a few common traits.
Pre-Marital counseling is often...
1. Conducted by a religious advisor or accredited therapist
2. A place to assess and inventory your current relationship
3. A time for skills training
4. Frequently combined with couple’s counseling
5. Educational, not therapeutic
6. Held in small groups or individual sessions
7. A time to foster awareness, discussion, and encourage you and your soon-to-be to address problems proactively.
Why Pre-Marital Counseling?
Begin your marriage with tools for success. Two lives coming together is no small feat, no matter how well you know each other. Why pre-marital counseling and why not a few heartfelt conversations? Keep this in mind; a marathon runner doesn’t say “Hey, I can run five miles so of course I can run 26.2 miles!” Dating and being engaged are not always enough prep for the marathon that is marriage. To really prepare for marriage you need the correct training and tools. If you think you are the exception to the rule, that you don’t need the extra help, you probably need the counseling the most. It may sound harsh – but we want to be honest and that’s what our experience has been.
Here are some of the awesome things you learn in pre-marital counseling:
Listening effectively and communicating are not innate skills for most people. Learning how to communicate well with your partner is invaluable.
Discuss role expectations
Who will do what? You’d be surprised what you haven’t talked about: jobs, finances, chores, sexual intimacy, children, where you spend important holidays…
Effective conflict resolution
Conflict arises over little things like walking the dog to more serious issues like money. There are effective ways to de-escalate problems and to know and love each other so well that you change behaviors to prevent conflict.
Explore spiritual beliefs
For some, faith is the most core part of their being, and individual beliefs within that faith can be “non-negotiables.” You should learn those before tying the knot.
Identify problematic family of origin issues
Family heavily shapes our personalities and values, both in positive and negative ways. Couples who understand existing family problems are more likely to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Develop personal, couple, and family goals
Where do you want to be in five years? How many children do you want? Where do you want to live? You would be amazed at how many couples have never asked each other these questions and more!
Recognize strengths and weaknesses
It can be an amazing experience to sit and talk honestly about what you are both good at and where you will likely disappoint each other.
Things to look for in a Pre-Marital counselor and their practice
The best way to find a counselor is to get a personal recommendation from someone. A bad counselor can do more harm than good, so do your homework and don’t be afraid to switch if your first one isn’t good.
Education, religion, and experience
What school did they go to, are they licensed, and do they practice the same faith as you?
What are their office hours, where is the office located, and is the office easy for both you and your fiancé to get to?
How many sessions are you committing to, how long is each session, how frequently, and what is the cancellation policy?
Fees and insurance
What is the cost of each session, are the covered under your insurance, and what is the payment plan?