Marriage is an exciting time in your life. It can be a bit overwhelming and stressful once wedding plans begin. There’s a tendency to spend enormous amounts of time and money on the wedding itself, focusing on the details of the dress, the cake, the photographer, the ring, even the fold we want for the dinner napkins. In all the excitement, often little thought goes into preparation for the marriage itself. The assumption is that how could anything ever go wrong when we are so blissfully happy and in love today?
What is premarital counseling?
Premarital counseling is a type of therapy that helps couples take the next step in their relationship, resolve potential issues in their relationship before they commit to marriage, or set relationship goals. Many couples seek premarital counseling as a preventative measure, almost like going to see your primary care physician for an annual checkup. Instead of waiting until there is a problem, couples engage in premarital counseling to get ahead of any issues brewing below the surface. Think of premarital therapy as a resource to help couples prevent the need for marriage counseling later on down the road.
Who should seek premarital counseling?
There are many reasons why a couple might want to seek premarital counseling. It’s a way to address a specific problem you may be currently experiencing, or an opportunity to learn skills to manage issues that haven’t yet arisen in the relationship. It is also a time to talk about sensitive topics with a neutral third party, to carve out dedicated time to discuss any fears and uncertainties about your future together, and improve the communication between you and your partner. From conflict resolution to setting realistic expectations for married life, a premarital counselor helps couples build and maintain a healthy relationship.
Premarital counseling is also a great way for couples to familiarize themselves with the therapeutic process, making them more likely to seek out support in the future through couples counseling, should issues arise later on. Also, you don’t have to be engaged to opt for premarital counseling. Some couples can leverage this counseling to explore and talk openly about the idea of marriage. Premarital counseling helps couples understand their hopes, fears, and expectations around a healthy marriage, allowing them to make an informed decision about the future of their relationship and whether marriage is the right step.
Do we need premarital counseling even if we don’t have any problems?
Falling in love can be an intoxicating experience. It is hard to imagine that this nearly perfect person could ever upset you or even wake up with morning breath! The reality is, none of us are perfect, and hurt feelings and misunderstandings will occur even in small ways, at some point in our marriage. These failures might sneak out through insecurities or jealousies. We may experience heightened anxiety around money and react critically to our spouses spending. We may fail to see that our partner needs a little extra affection because we are overwhelmed or tired ourselves. Each of these examples are common in marriage and no one is immune from bumping up against their own human weakness. Failing to show up for your partner consistently and perfectly will happen. It can be challenging when we first begin to bump into those human imperfections, but being prepared through premarital counseling can give you and your partner a head start on healthier ways to navigate the realities of marriage.
Premarital counseling can help you recognize that even when your partner is less than perfect, he or she still loves you. Your therapist can teach you effective ways to communicate your needs so that there is less confusion around those little imperfect moments that leave you wondering if your partner is really there for you and understands your needs. Premarital counseling can also teach you how to navigate making amends and quickly repairing damage done, so that you are less likely to enter into negative patterns that can hurt your marriage.
Can I benefit from premarital counseling even if I have been married before?
Many wrongly assume that just because they are entering into a second (or third) marriage, that premarital counseling no longer applies to them. You may believe that you’ve seen and done it all and that there is nothing more you could possibly learn by meeting with a counselor. The truth is that you could most likely benefit from premarital counseling just as much as any couple.. The reason being, that you have no doubt experienced some hard times in earlier relationships and you are ready to learn more effective ways to share your life with someone. There is a good chance that if this is a second marriage, there may also be children involved. Even if your children are grown and gone, we still find that blending families is no easy task. Premarital counseling can enable you and your partner to navigate unexpected situations that involve your children or grandchildren. Counseling can pave the way for more success as opposed to the alternative of repairing a road after it’s been damaged..
What topics are covered in premarital counseling?
No topics are off-limits when it comes to meeting with a licensed therapist through premarital counseling. With that in mind, here are some of the most commonly discussed topics and reasons why couples seek premarital counseling:
- Values and Belief systems
- Family relationships
- Sex or Intimacy
- Friends group
- Conflicts and resolutions
- Your mutual decision-making process
- What hobbies you’ll do (both as individuals as well as together)
- Financial anxieties
- Blending a family
- Expectations about big life decisions (buying a house or starting a family)
- Avoiding toxic resentments
- Dismantling fears about marriage or addressing marriage anxiety
- Concerns you might have about the relationship or future together
What happens during premarital counseling?
The primary focus of meeting with a therapist for premarital counseling is to help couples get on the same page about certain topics and to better understand themselves, each other, and their partnership. Therefore, one of the first exercises of premarital counseling is usually for each partner to answer a written questionnaire, or series of questions, about how they feel about each other and their relationship. Your answers can help pinpoint strengths, uncover potential problems, and identify personality traits that will be useful for your counselor to facilitate a productive conversation. Then, you will interpret your answers together with your couples counselor and discuss any commonalities or differences in your responses. This exercise will serve to set appropriate goals based on what challenges you wish to overcome with your future spouse.
If you have questions or would like to schedule a brief consultation for premarital counseling or marriage counseling at Desert Consulting, contact us today!