Benefits Of Couples Counseling Before Marriage

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated June 7, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It’s common for engaged couples to feel excited, nervous, or joyous about their upcoming wedding. However, some couples, given the statistics on divorce rates, 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 for premarital education. 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 serious conversations. Couples might also use therapy to strengthen their bond, which doesn't necessarily signify "failure" or a desire to break up. 

Couples counseling pre-marriage is effective

Premarital counseling benefits

Premarital counselors are typically licensed marriage and family therapists trained in family psychology. Thus, these mental health professionals are generally equipped to help couples navigate any number of complex topics, whether it’s feelings towards marriage and partnership, setting realistic expectations, or other issues unique to the couple. Many couples ask about premarital counseling questions topics such as:
  • Beliefs and values
  • Decision-making within the relationship
  • Relationship roles
  • Money and finances
  • Communication
  • Sex and intimacy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Affection
  • Children
  • In-laws and 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 help a couple build a strong foundation by providing 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 
Here are a few benefits of premarital counseling that many couples of all ages and backgrounds can expect:
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.

Strengthening couples bonds

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.

Conflict resolution skills

Resolving conflicts can be a difficult and painful process if neither partner has the correct tools to gently end an argument. Premarital (and marriage) counselors may use tools from the Gottman Institute to help couples learn how to handle conflict before, during, or after arguments occur. These strategies, called the Gottman Method, may emphasize effective communication, active listening, and the ability to resolve issues constructively. The Gottman Institute programs provide practical tools to identify destructive patterns, manage conflicts, and ultimately foster a healthier, more resilient partnership. By honing in on specific conflict resolution skills, the Gottman Institute equips couples with the means to build lasting connections and plan on how to face future conflicts and the challenges that inevitably arise in relationships.

Setting expectations

When entering marriage, each person may have different expectations regarding their upcoming family life. Couples counseling offers a safe place to discuss expectations about cohabitating, their partner’s family, 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.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Licensed marriage and family therapists

While each partner may be engaged in individual therapy, seeking counseling can be useful 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.

While there are options from in-person therapy practices to community centers where you can find premarital counselors, you may want to choose an online option. Online platforms can help busy couples access premarital counseling if they prefer the flexibility and ease of a virtual setting. Online counseling allows couples to attend joint 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 for a healthy relationship. 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, find a platform that offers premarital counseling like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. Both platforms offer over 30,000 therapists trained in various treatment methods and specializations.

Takeaway

Couples therapy can benefit any couple, whether married, engaged, or in a relationship. Additionally, there may not be one "right" time to go to therapy. Some couples begin therapy to start the communication process of commitment and intimacy. Others might go when they have a concern they want to discuss with a professional. No matter how you approach it, couples counseling is typically a valuable investment for any couple. Consider reaching out to a counselor to gain further insight into this type of treatment. 
Marriage can come with complex challenges
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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