After getting engaged, it’s common for couples to feel excited, nervous, or joyous about their upcoming wedding. However, some couples consider how marriage might change their dynamic or feel stressed about planning a wedding, moving in together, and committing to someone they love. These feelings can all be expected, and it's not unusual for couples to attend counseling before they get married to address them. Premarital counseling can help soon-to-be-married couples gain a deeper understanding of one another while learning valuable communication skills.
Even couples who do not plan to get married might benefit from couples counseling, as it is a highly effective and research-driven form of therapy. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that premarital counseling online is a popular choice because it's positive strengths-based, and offers a safe venue for difficult conversations. Couples might also use therapy to strengthen their bond, which doesn't necessarily signify "failure" or a desire to break up.
What Can We Address In Pre-Marriage Couples Counseling?
- Beliefs and values
- Decision-making within the relationship
- Relationship roles
- Money and finances
- Sex and intimacy
- Conflict resolution
- Other family relationships
- Spending time together
- Love languages
- Plans for a wedding
- Past relationship problems
- Extended family and friends
A couples counselor or therapist can provide advice, activities, and exercises to allow couples to talk about themselves as individuals and as a unit. In doing so, couples are often able to improve their communication skills and ensure they’re on the same page about important questions.
A couples counselor might also provide advice or prompt couples to make informed decisions. In addition to preparing for the challenges they expect to face in the future, it’s common for couples to discuss stress before marriage or concerns about wedding planning.
Benefits Of Couples Counseling Before Marriage
Premarital counseling offers many benefits for couples of all ages and backgrounds. Here are a few.
Reducing The Stigma Of Couples Therapy
Some people may believe that couples counseling is a solution only for those considering a split or having severe conflicts. Stigma might cause them to hesitate to reach out for support, even if they might benefit from the support of a couples counselor. However, this stigma does not accurately reflect the variety of reasons a couple might reach out for support.
Another common stigma surrounding couples counseling is that uncomfortable conversations may lead to conflict. While couples counseling might uncover underlying conflicts or differences, a marriage therapist is trained to help couples resolve these issues through healthy communication. Couples counselors are trained not to pick sides or ask a couple to break up. Instead, they provide professional therapeutic services personalized to each couple's needs.
Many couples use tools such as couples therapy, premarital counseling books, and bonding strategies to improve their connection prior to marriage. These avenues often open up important conversations that can strengthen the positive aspects of a couple’s bond, help them avoid or resolve conflict, and learn about themselves as individuals.
Building Effective Communication Skills
You and your partner likely already make efforts to communicate. However, how effective has your communication been? Are there any areas where you might feel you could improve? A couples counselor may help you address these areas, openly discuss them, and learn new communication strategies.
With a counselor's experience and guidance, therapy can be a safe space to talk with your partner about what frustrates you or makes you feel happy, respected, and loved. Additionally, studies show that commitment may not be an ingredient of long-term marriage satisfaction if communication is not also present.
Addressing Concerns Early
It’s common to enter marriage while still in the "honeymoon stage" of a relationship, when it can be difficult to imagine significant disagreement or conflict. However, even a relatively small issue, left unaddressed, might later turn into a larger issue. Through counseling, you can discuss minor concerns early and address them before they become problems. Often, learning to resolve these minor issues can serve as good practice for future concerns that may arise.
When entering marriage, each person may have different expectations regarding married life. Couples counseling offers a safe place to discuss expectations about cohabitating, child-rearing, sex and intimacy, finances, and more. With clear expectations in place, you can gain a deeper understanding of each other's wants and needs.
Counseling can be a useful tool for unmarried or soon-to-be-married couples. Premarital counseling through a licensed marriage and family therapist offers guidance, activities, worksheets, and research-based methods to help couples
You may choose to enter premarital counseling in-person or online. Online premarital counseling may be beneficial for couples who prefer the flexibility and ease of a virtual setting. Online counseling allows couples to attend sessions from two separate locations, choose a mutually convenient time slot, and avoid commuting.
Clinical studies show that 95% of couples who engage in couples counseling consider it highly effective. Surveys have also found that couples feel more open and honest when discussing their relationship issues with someone online instead of in person. If you want to try online therapy, consider a platform like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. Both platforms offer over 30,000 therapists trained in various treatment methods and specializations.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are a few frequently asked questions about couples therapy before marriage.
Should Couples Go To Therapy Before Marriage?
Premarital counseling or couples therapy can be healthy before marriage. Talking about the future while heading into married life can open up communication about expectations, values, and morals. You can also discuss your plans for the future and learn to make compromises if required.
Seeking couples therapy may not only work for partners dealing with significant issues in their relationship. It can also benefit those who want to build communication skills, solve problems before they start, discuss expectations, and consider family planning.
What Do You Talk About In Pre-Marriage Counseling?
Pre-marriage counseling can invoke discussion about challenging topics many might shy away from before getting married. For example, you might discuss having kids, the role of religion in your marriage, finances, and what a work-life balance looks like together. Conversations of this nature can be challenging alone. However, a therapist can be a third-party mediator to help couples make decisions.
Despite this factor, couples can discuss whatever they want in therapy. As counseling is a supportive service for you and your partner, so bring a list of subjects you're interested in discussing. Let your therapist know if you don't want to address a particular topic.
Is Premarital Counseling Biblical?
Pre-marriage counseling or premarital couples therapy is often recommended in the Christian faith. This form of "counseling" is often life advice and religious-based guidance from a pastor or priest. Some individuals do not have counseling degrees and cannot offer marriage therapy. Some couples might utilize these coaching services, but they are not a replacement for premarital counseling in a psychological sense unless the person giving advice is a licensed and experienced therapist or counselor.
Premarital counseling performed by a licensed mental health provider may or may not include religious or spiritual factors. However, if you do not seek these services, your therapist should not provide them. Many therapists offer secular and non-Christian therapy.
What type of questions are usually asked in premarital counseling?
Depending on your relationship, a marriage counselor may ask any number of questions. Here are a few examples of questions a premarital counselor may ask:
- What are your expectations of marriage?
- Why do you want to get married?
- What are your plans for money management?
- What are your feelings surrounding parenthood?
- What are your preferred communication styles?
How many sessions should premarital counseling take?
There typically is not a predetermined number of premarital counseling sessions as each couple has unique needs and expectations. Many couples choose to attend for 8-10 weeks, while others may take longer to feel ready for marriage.
When does couples therapy not work?
Couples therapy may benefit any couple. A counselor can help guide productive conversations so couples can reach a place of mutual understanding and find a resolution. If a couple is experiencing difficulty in their relationship, a couples counselor might serve as a neutral party and help the couple decide whether to continue or end the relationship.
How does premarital counseling help improve communication?
A premarital counselor can offer couples guidance, activities, and strategies to facilitate open, healthy communication.
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