Congratulations! Your partner has proposed after all those years of dating and you’re on your way to planning your wedding. Everything seems hunky-dory, but have the two of you considered going to premarital counseling together?
Now wait, going to counseling doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong with you or your relationship!
In fact, there are plenty of reasons why it’s a smart step between engagement and the big day.
According to this study by students at St. Catherine University, researchers found a trend where couples who sought premarital counseling had greater marital satisfaction. So, reserve your judgment.
Here's the low-down on this marriage-saver and why it’s worth the investment:
What is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling is a form of therapy where you and your partner talk to a trained professional about important issues to prepare you for having a successful, fulfilling marriage. These issues can encompass topics as diverse as your expectations towards finances, careers, children, your sex life, division of labor, planning for the future, how to resolve conflicts, and how to deal with friends and family.
The service can come in three main forms: religion-affiliated, secular, and group sessions. Depending on which type, it can cost around $25.00-$300.00 per session, so definitely do your research. If you have a faith-based wedding, counseling may be free or mandatory before a member of your religious institution agrees to marry you. Oftentimes, this is to ensure that both of you are going into the union with the correct mindset.
The Benefits of Premarital Counseling
1. Ensuring you and your partner are on the same page
While most couples going into marriage often have a general understanding of each other, there are many issues that might have been considered too embarrassing to bring up or issues that just weren’t thought of previously. Because of this, there's a real possibility that there are untouched topics where you and your partner genuinely don't know where each other stands.
By going to counseling, your therapist may be able to help the discussion along and create a safe space to talk things out. This is a great way to clearly state your positions so that no one is surprised when one of these subjects comes up after you've tied the knot.
2. Mastering conflict resolution skills
Conflict is inevitable in every relationship. However, what separates successful relationships from unsuccessful ones is how the couple handles conflict.
During premarital counseling, a therapist can:
- Pinpoint how you approach arguments
- Show you and your partner what to do or say to de-escalate the situation
- Teach both of you how to come back together as a loving couple again after the conflict has been resolved
Learning these skills will help you and your partner approach and deal with the fallout of any problems that would have otherwise endangered your union, something invaluable to master for a lasting relationship.
3. Capitalizing on an unbiased look at your relationship
After a particularly nasty disagreement with your partner, how often have you gone to a friend for support, to help you figure out your partner’s logic?
Although having another person’s perspective on the incident is valuable, your friend is still your friend and they’re going to be looking after your best interests. In other words, they’re highly likely to be very biased!
However, when you seek premarital counseling, your therapist is a third party with no stake in your relationship and is trained to handle interpersonal issues. This objectivity may allow him or her to look at your relationship from a new angle and uncover a previously unseen solution. Take advantage of it while you can!
4. Working out any relationship baggage you have
Every person has a past and that past is going to affect the way they approach certain situations.
Premarital counseling can help you delve deep into your relationship history and determine if any of the issues in your current relationship are due to transference. This revisiting of your past will help you identify harmful patterns regarding how you and your partner treat each other so that you can find solutions.
However, the relationship baggage may not even be from your own past experiences. If either you or your partner came from families with divorced or dysfunctional parents, having these flawed relationships unfold in front of you sets a terrible example. You’ll be surprised what you pick up accidentally and internalize without meaning to. Your therapist can help analyze how these relationships affect your outlook on marriage before it’s too late.
5. Getting clear on what marriage means to both of you
Being an age-old institution, the significance of marriage may seem like a given to some people. Even so, before getting hitched, it’s a good idea to discuss what your expectations are for your partner when you’re married.
Some questions to ask may include:
- What role is each person supposed to have in the relationship?
- What housework is each person responsible for?
- What sacrifices are you going to make for your careers?
- Are you going to have any children?
- If you decide to have children, how many are you going to have?
Marriage is a contract, and so premarital counseling will help you and your partner make sure that you are both going into it fully aware of what you’re signing up for.
Making the most of it
Going to premarital counseling is a great opportunity to build a stronger bond that will withstand the test of time. Of course, this only works if you and your partner are putting in the effort to be truly honest about your needs and expectations. You have to be ready to be humbled by the harsh reality about what kind of person you are and what compromises you have to make to make the relationship work in the long run. Confronting yourself is a scary prospect, but if both of you stick through it, your relationship will emerge stronger than ever, making all the time and money invested completely worth it.