Starting Off On The Right Foot: Pre Marriage Counseling
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated February 24, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Richard Jackson
Marriage is supposed to be for life. Some people never enjoy the privilege, while others marry two, three or more times. What is the difference between a relationship which will stand the test of time, and one that starts out well but becomes ever more brittle over the years? While there are a variety of answers to this question, one thing that's beyond doubt is that most couples starting out on their new life together can benefit from pre-marriage counseling.
It is fundamentally difficult to know another person well. This is one of the life secrets many people embarking on the adventure of marriage don't know, and the truth is that love is often just not enough to compensate for the space that separates everyone, whether we choose to acknowledge this or not.
Benefits of Pre Marriage Counseling
"Fools rush in" as the saying goes but doing so can lead to a situation where relationship counseling is required to resolve problems that needn't have occurred in the first place. Avoiding this backward approach is one reason why many couples opt to go for pre-marriage counseling. Much like signing a prenuptial agreement, it does not mean that you expect things to go wrong, but that you are taking an adult view of the major step you're about to take.
Rather than trying to improve your marriage once things have already started to head south, it makes sense to forestall any issues that may arise later with a short course of couples' counseling before the big day. You need not to wait until there is something creating distance between the two of you; talking about expectations, hopes and things that bother either of you is something couples with a healthy relationship do often.
Get to Know Your Partner Better
Even though you may currently be blindly in love, both of you should remember that marriage is a bond of many dimensions - financial, familial, sexual and emotional. Making sure that you and your future spouse are on the same page regarding all of these issues is perhaps the best way to maintain and improve your marriage.
What kinds of topics are commonly covered in premarital counseling? A therapist is likely to touch on a variety of subjects, such as how you both view commitment, what your short- and long-term goals are, what kinds of expectations you have of each other, and how you will handle financial decisions. Here is a list of the types of questions you might expect:
What do you hope to gain from premarital counseling?
What drew you to each other initially? Were you looking for someone with certain qualities?
In what ways are you similar to your partner? In what ways are you different?
How would you define a happy marriage?
What makes you two "click"?
What kinds of personal goals do you aspire to? Do they mesh with any relationship goals you might have set?
What do you admire or respect about your partner?
Are you on the same page regarding family life and children? Have you discussed how you would manage these changes?
If you plan to have children, how would you describe your parenting styles? Are they in sync?
What role will your in-laws and other family members play in your life? How often do you expect to see them?
Where would you ultimately like to live? Do you have a lifestyle you are hoping to achieve?
What are your professional goals? What sacrifices might need to be made so you can help each other achieve them?
What are your expectations for alone time? Friend time? Couple time?
Do you have a clear understanding of how your past relationships may affect your relationship with each other now?
Are there any changes you would like to make in yourself that you are hoping your mate will support?
How important is it to you to achieve a certain financial status?
Have you discussed how you will handle money on a day to day basis? Will you have joint checking accounts or separate ones? Do you agree on a budget?
What role did money play in your family growing up? Are there any issues from your early experiences that may affect your relationship now?
Have you discussed any debt either of you have? What is the plan for paying off this debt?
How do you resolve arguments with each other? Would you like your partner to respond in a different way?
How will you divide housework and/or yard maintenance?
Do you have a role model for the type of partner you would like to be? Or the type of marriage you would like to have?
Do you have the same expectations regarding sex? Is this a topic you can speak openly about with your partner?
How important is religion or spirituality to you? What role does this play in your life now? If you plan to have children, are you in agreement about how you will address this topic?
Is there anything that would be considered a "deal breaker" in your relationship? What actions or behaviors are absolutely off limits?
What kinds of traditions or rituals would you like to start as you begin your life together?
Is there any information or topic that hasn't been brought up that you think is important to discuss?
This is just a sample of the types of questions that may be introduced in premarital counseling. You will be encouraged to continue conversations on these subjects at home together and bring back any issues you want to talk about. While discussing these questions on your own is certainly helpful, having someone professionally trained in counseling walk you through the process can help you get the maximum benefit and assist with resolving any potential problems that may surface.
If you've never been in a counseling type situation before, talking about personal information in this way may be new to you. Just remember that you will get out what you put in. The goal of the experience is for you and your partner to learn more about each other and address any problem areas proactively. The more you share your thoughts and feelings in an open and honest way, the better outcome you will have. (You might even have some fun learning new things about yourself and your mate.)
Still, it may seem difficult to discuss such very personal matters in front of someone you know, perhaps even the priest or rabbi who will be performing the ceremony. Fortunately, there is an easy solution: anonymous online relationship counseling provided by experienced and accredited therapists specializing in the field. Though you may want to believe that your love will conquer all, allowing a professional to point out some of the hazards your relationship will be facing can help to lay the groundwork for a truly durable marriage.
Finding your happily ever after is rarely a question of pure luck, nor is it something you do one time and can then forget about. Building a happy marriage takes effort, compromise and the knowledge necessary to make it work. Mistakes, once made, can be very difficult to reverse, so consider attempting pre-marriage couples therapy to avoid the worst, most common pitfalls.