Wedding planning is full of lists, to-do’s, and compromises. While this can be an exciting time, sometimes couples notice that the stress of the wedding impacts their relationship. An engagement can stir up emotions and topics that are critical for a happy and fulfilling marriage – this is where premarital counseling can be a huge help. We’ve rounded up the top four myths about premarital counseling so you learn more and decide if it’s the right fit for you and your partner.
Myth #1: Premarital counseling only works for the short term
Some couples attend bridal expos and see premarital counseling as a questionable choice; the thought being that it may indicate that something is already running awry in the relationship. However, there is quite a bit of evidence that supports premarital counseling as helpful for ensuring long-term happiness and marriage success. In fact, according to one published report, “Couples who underwent counseling before their wedding had a 30% higher marital success rate than those who did not.”
By investing in your marriage you’ll proactively discuss hot topics and communication issues, building a tool kit for the coming years together. For example, premarital counseling helps couples explore their personalities, sexual health, and nuclear family relationships. After you get married, you may notice that your personalities clash over issues such as laundry, cleanliness, frequency of sex, finances, or grocery shopping. By learning about your partner in new ways now, proactively considering roles, and having open conversations about sex and finances, it makes those conflict areas more approachable down the road. The conflict strategies that you learn can also be an asset resolving gridlocked issues of marriage that occur in years to come.
Myth #2: Premarital counseling is only for couples who are having significant problems
Premarital counseling can be a wonderful atmosphere to learn more about your partner. Typically, it is a series of sessions conducted by a pastor, relationship educator, or clinician to have open dialogues about the couple’s future. Sometimes the premarital sessions are taught in the form of a class with other couples and other times it is individual sessions with a facilitator. The facilitator can help you and your partner discuss some major topics that you and your partner may either not agree on, or have not thought to consider.
All couples have differences as they were raised in two different nuclear families. This means that as decisions are being made there are going to be two unique perspectives. The goal of molding two individual lives into one cohesive one will naturely have its challenges; not because the relationship is doomed or problematic, but because the couple is having to work to alter some of their expectations and find a middle ground. Premarital counseling allows a couple to explore and learn ways to compromise, manage stress, and communicate in conflict.
Premarital counseling has been described as going into marriage with eyes wide open. When you dedicate your time to premarital counseling, you can ensure all the major areas of your relationship have been considered. It can be helpful to know which topics are prime for compromise and which are non-negotiable.
Myth #3: Premarital counseling must be started at least 6-12 months before your wedding
The question of “How long before the wedding should you start premarital counseling?” comes up often! While there is not a hard and fast line of when you need to start premarital counseling, it is important to consider premarital counseling at least three months before your wedding. The three-month lead time will allow you to meet with a facilitator at least three times before your wedding and once after you’re officially married.
During these sessions with your facilitator, you and your partner will be able to address any major red flags or inconsistencies in your union. For example, a couple may discover that their long-term desires for children or faith are radically different than what was perceived or previously discussed. The open dialogue allows for the discussion of relationship dynamics before the wedding instead of a surprise down the road.
If you are considering engagement, or know that you’ll have a longer engagement, you can start premarital counseling earlier and take the pressure off. This extended time period will allow you and your partner to address some items without the wedding bells ringing loudly in your ears.
Myth #4: Premarital counseling is all that’s needed to jumpstart a marriage
Premarital counseling gives a couple the opportunity to have honest conversations before their wedding. Once the ceremony concludes, the cake is sliced, and the wedding party heads home, the marriage truly begins. One bride offered her insight with relationship expert Aimee Hartstein, who stated “marriage is different than being a couple…you are in a permanent union and the stakes feel higher.” With that being said, the first year of marriage may prove difficult as the types of conflict and previous ways of handling your relationship may change. It can be useful to employ the conflict resolution and communication strategies learned in premarital counseling to adjust and create new routines around communication, sex, and patterns with extended family.
Many proactive and emotionally centered couples will set up monthly check-ins with a therapist to discuss their relationship. These check-ins support open communication and help ensure that challenging issues don’t fester. The couple can also work on good conflict resolution routines and better understand one another earlier on in their marriage. The adjustments of marriage do not have to be faced alone and having a clinician’s support and direction can make all the difference.
Common Questions about Premarital Counseling
What is discussed during premarital counseling?
At Connect Couples Therapy, we offer a premarital program called Prepare/Enrich, which is the leading premarital assessment. Each couple takes an assessment on their perspective on themselves and their relationship. Some of the highlighted topics include:
- How to handle finances
- Conflict Management
- Boundaries with In-Laws
- Sexual Health
In our premarital sessions, we discuss the results of the questionnaire that the couple takes and how this affects the couple’s relationship. The goal is not to give the couple a compatibility score, but rather to allow the couple to understand their areas of strength and areas to improve. We facilitate discussions on pivotal areas that arise in marriage and give tools for the couple to practice going forward.
Are there other premarital assessments besides Prepare/Enrich?
Other programs like SYMBIS or a course taught through a church may utilize varying materials, but the goal remains the same — to set the couple up for success in marriage. Both Prepare/Enrich and SYMBIS have trained facilitators who you can meet for premarital services. Each website has a directory of facilitators who can be contacted for sessions based on area and availability.
How much does premarital counseling cost?
If you are interested in premarital counseling, then consider setting aside some funds in your wedding budget. Depending on where you are in the country, there may be varying rates with churches or private practices. In Connect Couples Premarital Program, we offer four 80-minute sessions with a clinician as well as the Prepare/Enrich workbook and questionnaires for each couple to take. Since the premarital program is psychoeducational, we are able to provide services across the United States virtually.
Ready to say “I do” to premarital counseling?
Preparing for marriage can be exciting and exhilarating as you and your partner plan your future together. Premarital counseling can help you and your partner add tools to your toolkit and overturn all the aspects of your relationship. You can continue to strengthen your marriage with a clinician’s support through monthly check-ins.
If you’re ready to schedule your premarital counseling or monthly marriage check-ins, please reach out! We offer virtual and in-person sessions at our Charlotte location.