The decision to walk down the aisle is not to be taken lightly, especially when one considers the daunting divorce rate. No matter how in love a couple might be, marriage can be difficult and overwhelming at times. It comes with amazing benefits, but it also asks a lot in return, such as honesty, commitment, openness, and communication. These are skills that take time and effort to hone, and this is precisely where premarital counseling can be invaluable.
Premarital counseling comes in many different forms. Some couples attend required premarital counseling at their churches, congregations, or temples, while others seek out secular options. Some attend only a session or two before the big day, while other couples commit to a longer and more-involved process. To decide which option is best for you, sit down with your partner and have an honest talk about what you both want out of the process.
Realize that premarital counseling isn’t for couples who “need help” in general or for couples who aren’t sure about their decision. Rather, it’s for the forward-thinking, committed couple who wants to find ways to strengthen their bond and deepen their love.
Part of the anxiety that couples feel regarding premarital counseling is a result of not knowing what they’ll find when they walk through the doors. Here is what you can expect in your sessions:
You will discuss expectations. Although you have likely dreamed about your future together, it’s important to make sure that you actually sit down and talk about those dreams with each other. For example, what if you picture a houseful of kids in your future, while he wants only one…or maybe none? Or, maybe you envision yourself as a globe-trotting couple with a packed schedule, while he would prefer a homebody life.
It’s important to talk about all your goals and hopes and find out what each of your expectations are. This includes not only your hopes as a couple, but also your individual dreams and plans. For example, maybe you dream of going back to school and getting your degree, or maybe you envision yourself quitting your job someday to pursue more creative goals. Will your partner be supportive and understanding of these desires? Does he even know of these long-term goals? Premarital counseling can be a safe, nonjudgmental place to bring up all these issues.
You will discuss hot-button issues before they arise. Common arguments among couples include issues such as finances and family drama among others. Therapy can help you to address these issues before they arise, whether it’s setting out a financial plan (or maybe even a prenup) or discussing what religion you will raise your children in. Premarital counseling is all about working out these issues before they take on a life of their own and threaten your relationship.
You will tackle long-standing problems. What is the main issue in your relationship? Do you feel like he doesn’t listen when you talk, or do you wish you could spend more time together? All these little problems are going to grow bigger and take on a life of their own if they go unresolved. Premarital counseling will help you head these issues off at the pass and treat the underlying problems (because when you fight about him leaving his dirty clothes on the floor, you are often fighting about some deeper, more personal problem, such as the fact that you feel unappreciated). Premarital counseling can help you work through all these feelings and discover healthier ways to communicate and express yourself.
You will learn tools for the future. Premarital counseling will arm you and your partner with the tools you need to survive troubled waters in the future. No relationship is perfect and no marriage will ever be problem-free, but with premarital counseling you can learn how to survive difficulties with your love and your happiness intact.
Ultimately, you get from your marriage what you put into it, and premarital counseling can teach you how to put your best self forward and allow you to reap the amazing benefits of a happy, supportive marriage.