The Different Premarital Counseling Topics People Seek Out
While some religious denominations require couples to go through premarital counseling prior to a wedding ceremony, more and more couples who are not necessarily religious are choosing to engage in the process, as well. Statistics indicate that 44% of today’s married couples engaged in premarital counseling, and that they are better off than couples who don’t participate in premarital counseling.
If you’re engaged or about to get married, you may have wondered if premarital counseling is right for you and your partner. Ahead, we’ll discuss the types of topics people discuss in premarital counseling sessions as well as the many benefits that couples can enjoy from partaking in the process.
What Is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling is a counseling service for future married couples who want to discuss certain topics and issues before they tie the knot. It used to be an exclusive religious practice, where churches and other religious leaders would offer counseling services for couples in the church. Since then, more couples who are not that religious realize its benefits.
For many people, deciding to marry someone is one of their biggest life decisions. Doing so indicates a promise to merge one’s life with someone else’s forever. When we’re caught up in the excitement of wedding planning and imagining the happiest parts of our future, it is easy to overlook complications that may arise due to personality clashes, differences in values, contradictory parenting styles, or family involvement.
A premarital counselor will ask questions about these topics to help couples explore where they are similar and where they hold opposing views. The goal is to anticipate challenges so that couples can take a united front and go toward one another in conflict, instead of against or away from one another.
For example, what happens you're confronted with financial or intimacy issues? Someone who has had pre marriage counseling may be prepared for the rainy day, while someone who hasn't will find it more difficult. What if one partner envisions a life with children while the other partner wants to remain child-free? People who go to premarital counseling seek out various topics to discuss and overcome. Let’s delve into some of those topics in depth.
It’s easy to assume that married couples understand each other very well. However, this may not be the case. Even if the two of you are joined at the hip, miscommunication can still occur and cause arguments in the relationship. This is because miscommunication is easy, thanks to human nature. We communicate using words, body language, and thinking people will "get the hint," and there is naturally going to be miscommunication that comes from it.
Say you want your partner to wash the dishes right away, and you tell them as much. Your partner thinks you mean to wash the dishes eventually and puts it off. Once you see that the dishes have not been washed, you get upset with your partner, and your partner gets defensive. A premarital counselor would address this problem by having the couple bring up examples of miscommunication and then learn how to resolve them.
A good couple should have reliable communication. Of course, mishaps may occur from time to time. A longitudinal study involving couples over four decades discovered that the most common communication issues revolve around one partner’s refusal to communicate (stonewalling), partner criticism, defensive communication, and overall contempt – all considered as relationship therapist John Gottman’s four horsemen (harbingers of failed relationships). Premarital counseling can help partners respond with empathy and understanding, versus defensiveness and resentment.
Clearing The Air
Another topic people try to accomplish when they go to premarital counseling is clearing the air of issues that have been bothering them. Many couples go to marriage with a few grievances. They may write them off as minor; after all, no one is perfect, and you're going to have disagreements with anyone. However, if left untreated, these disagreements can turn into arguments, which can erode your relationship.
Disagreements can involve quirks that one partner doesn't like. For example, let's say one person is messy, always leaving their clothes around, and the other is cleaner. The cleaner person rolls their eyes at the messier person but writes it off as something they'll have to live with forever. Instead, their annoyance grows until they snap.
Sometimes, the issue may be more major—for example, the desire for children. If you want children, and your partner doesn't, don't assume they'll change their mind. Sometimes, they don't, and you will get into arguments over that topic. A premarital counselor addresses issues in a proactive manner by offering compromises and solutions.
Planning For The Future
Another topic that people address in premarital counseling is planning for the future. When it comes to planning, life doesn’t always go according to our plans, but that does not negate the importance of having a plan. Having an ideal plan for your future can make it easier for you to survive and respond to opportunities or dilemmas. A premarital counselor can look at your goals and aspirations and help you develop a plan that is easy for you to maintain and adjust. Not all plans have to involve major life decisions, either. You can plan for a vacation or how to save up for a rainy day.
Learning More About Each Other
Many people seek counseling to learn more about their partner. You and your future spouse may think you know every secret, belief, or quirk there is to know, but the learning experience never stops in a marriage. You may soon realize that there is a lot more to know about your future spouse than you realize.
Premarital counselors are typically skilled in asking open-ended questions designed to lead into productive discussion. Whenever they ask a question, they do it casually and easily. These questions can be fun little "get to know you” questions or they can be fundamental questions about opinions on life. These questions can focus on issues that you never feel like discussing—for example, your past relationships. Learning about your past relationships can help you figure out how to learn from your mistakes.
Marriage Anxiety (Having Cold Feet)
Marriage can be the best time of your life, but it can also be a relationship fraught with anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion. If you are having a ceremony, the ceremony itself can be a source of distress, as you may fixate on wanting everything to go right. You may be worried about solidifying a long-term commitment for the first time, or after a previous marriage that failed.
Marriage is associated with various stigmas. Some believe they’ll lose their freedom, independence, or even identity once they marry, but this is not necessarily true. Marriage is a new chapter and one that can create a brand new dimension of your life. It doesn't have to be a period of anxiety, and it doesn’t mean that you will lose the parts of yourself or your current relationship that you most cherish.
How To Have A Good Session Of Premarital Counseling
If you are going to a premarital counseling session, there are a few “best practices” to consider, as well as behaviors to avoid. Many premarital counselors will establish “ground rules” up front (such as not using anything the counselor says or taking things out of context to attack or insult one’s partner). Below, we’ve included tips for getting the most benefits out of your premarital counseling journey.
Acknowledge Your Problems
Premarital counselors do not expect their clients to come into the first session with a perfect marriage, and they will likely be able to identify efforts to put on a facade. It is important to recognize that your counselor will not judge you if you have problems or flaws; they have seen many clients and helped them work through many issues. Remember to bring up any questions and concerns you may have. It is better to address these issues now when you have a clear head.
Have An Open Mind
Too many people believe they are the hero in their tale, but in reality, they may be in the wrong. A good marriage involves admitting when you were wrong, sincerely apologizing for causing harm, and making compromises to change your behavior and improve your relationship quality. You need to learn all sides of an argument before you take a side, and counseling can help. Know that your counselor is not interested in taking sides; their job is to hold partners accountable so that they can reach common ground.
Try It Out Before You Disregard It
Your premarital counselor may suggest strategies that you may not think will work, or that cause you to feel defensive or uncomfortable. If you believe the advice is worth trying, then do it. Even if you don't feel like the advice is good, it may still be worthwhile to give it a try. You may be surprised at how good a counselor's advice is, and your willingness to try new things can reassure your partner that you are committed to making changes for the survival of the relationship.
Know That Premarital Counseling Is Not A Panacea
Even if there is nothing majorly wrong with your marriage, counseling can help find small issues before they get worse. By going to regular therapy, you can maintain your marriage. Your marriage is like a machine, and by ignoring the small problems, it can break down and end up costing you some money—both literally and figuratively in this case.
Find A Therapist Who Specializes In Premarital Counseling
A good premarital therapist can help you with any potential problems you have with your future marriage. For busy couples on the go, an online premarital counselor may be an excellent option. Through online therapy platforms like MyTherapist, users can schedule appointments at convenient times. They can additionally attend virtual therapy sessions from any location with a strong internet connection. This makes it easy for couples in long-distance relationships to meet with a premarital counselor, or for couples to attend therapy without having to leave work early to travel to an in-person therapist’s office.
In one study of couples engaged in premarital partnerships, researchers learned that online therapy is effective in increasing couples’ positive emotions concerning marriage, helping them develop better communication skills, and enhancing their understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses.
As exciting as planning for a wedding can be, it can also be expensive. The average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2022 cost $30,000, which can serve as one barrier a couple faces when seeking premarital counseling. Online therapy is considered to be a more affordable option than face-to-face therapy, and those who participate tend to achieve their desired results more efficiently when compared to attending in-person therapy.
Premarital counseling is not just for couples experiencing relationship conflicts. Happy, healthy couples go to counseling just like a fit person exercises. You may find that engaging in premarital counseling is not only useful, but a fun and safe way to deepen your relationship and strengthen your connection with your partner. In fact, one study found that nearly 95% of people who participated in premarital counseling shared that they would recommend it to those who are contemplating getting married.
You and your partner deserve the best shot at enduring love. With a compassionate, professional therapist on your side, you can feel emboldened to ask difficult questions and make empowered behavioral changes. When you’re ready to start searching for a premarital therapist aligned with your couple goals, you can reach out to an online counselor today via MyTherapist.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Questions Do They Ask In Premarital Counseling?
When counseling premarital couples, a counselor will ask specific premarital counseling questions covering important topics known to make or break a marriage. Here are premarital counseling questions often asked by therapists while counseling couples to help draw out discussion:
- How will you handle relationships with your families?
- What core values are important to you?
- Do you want children? If so, what values will you strive to instill in them? What is your preferred parenting style?
- What are your life goals?
- What are your religious beliefs, and how important is religion to you?
- What are common arguments or disagreements you’ve had up to this point with your partner?
- If there are children from a former relationship with either partner, how will parenting roles be adjusted?
- What emotional wounds from past relationships need to be resolved that might impact your current relationship?
- What do you consider to be non-negotiable or “dealbreakers” in your marriage?
- How important is sexual intimacy to you?
- Where do you stand financially, and what are your financial goals individually and for the marriage?
While these are commonly asked premarital counseling questions and topics, this is just a sampling of the types of questions that will be asked during your premarital counseling session. During premarital counseling, your partner will listen as you answer the premarital counseling questions and then provide their own answers. Then, the counselor will lead a discussion based on both of your answers.
When Should You Do Premarital Counseling?
While many couples think premarital counseling should start after the wedding date, it is most beneficial when started before the marriage. In fact, many marriage counselors suggest starting premarital counseling once it has been established in the relationship that marriage is happening.
The premarital counseling questions therapists ask when counseling couples are created to help you and your partner prepare for marriage, which can become a moot point if you start after your wedding date. Individual counseling may also benefit some clients for marriage preparation before the wedding date, especially individuals who were previously married and may have unresolved emotions to sort through before remarrying.
How Many Sessions Are Involved In Premarital Counseling?
The number of relationship counseling sessions depends on the therapist and the needs of the couple. An average of five couples’ counseling sessions is recommended. Still, a couple could undergo as little as one counseling session, or as many as 50 sessions – whatever is needed to provide sufficient marriage preparation.
When you interview prospective therapist candidates, let them know what topics you and your partner want to discuss in premarital counseling and determine what kinds of premarital counseling questions and topics will be discussed. The length of time spent counseling premarital couples often depends on the topics discussed, which will influence how many sessions are needed.
What Is The Purpose Of Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling aims to help prepare couples for marriage through couples counseling in a talk therapy style. This is accomplished with a premarital counselor, who asks specific premarital counseling questions to guide discussions regarding serious topics that impact marriages.
Premarital counseling sessions are meant to help the couple navigate tough topics in a healthy way that won’t destroy their marriage at the first sign of a bump in the road. In a typical premarital counseling session, the therapist will use premarital counseling questions intended to help the couple solve recurring disagreements, build on their communication skills, and equip them to handle conflict down the road.
When in premarital counseling, your partner will have the opportunity to discuss your quirks that cause them frustration and vice versa. In some cases, individual counseling may benefit one or both partners as well.
How Do I Choose A Premarital Counselor?
When choosing a premarital counselor, there are many factors to consider. First, find a counselor who offers premarital counseling in line with your faith and core values. Also, ensure your counselor is licensed to offer couples counseling and has experience counseling premarital couples.
Consider interviewing several therapists who offer premarital counseling and find one that would be the best fit for you and your partner. Also, you can read reviews online for relationship counseling professionals near you, which can help influence your decision.
Can You Do Premarital Counseling Online?
Absolutely. Many counselors are actively counseling premarital couples online. Online therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years. A counselor who offers premarital counseling online can use many of the same methods they use during in-person sessions and ask the same premarital counseling questions.
Does Premarital Counseling Reduce Divorce Rates?
Couples counseling has been shown to reduce divorce rates by as much as 50%. Some factors influence this success rate, however. Choosing the right therapist who offers premarital counseling in a format that works for you and your partner’s needs will increase the likelihood of marriage endurance. Also, premarital counseling questions are meant to draw out the potential problems you and your partner may have down the road and offer solutions and coping mechanisms when those problems arise. The topics and questions you discuss in premarital counseling will also influence your counseling's success rate.
Couples counseling won’t eradicate conflict from your marriage, but it can greatly improve your chances of having a successful marriage. Also, the topics you and your partner discuss in premarital counseling serve as the ultimate marriage preparation tool, so you are going to get out of it what you put into it. Both you and your partner need to be all-in for counseling to be successful.
What Should I Do Before Marriage Counseling?
There are a few steps to take to prepare for your first marriage premarital counseling session. First, find a professional who offers premarital counseling or regular couples counseling, depending on your needs. The formula for counseling couples isn’t one-size-fits-all, so one counselor’s style may work for another couple but might not work for you and your partner.
Thoroughly research therapists online and read client reviews. Select a few options to interview. Not every therapist who offers couples counseling will be the right fit for you and your partner, so doing your homework to find the best fit matters. Then, get ready for your first counseling session.
Relationship counseling requires both partners to be on board for couples counseling to be successful. Counseling couples only works when both partners are emotionally available and honest in their desire to be the best they can be within their relationship. Individual counseling may be necessary as well, depending on the couples’ needs. In some situations, each partner receives individual counseling before joining their partner for joint couples counseling.
What Do They Talk About In Premarital Counseling?
What Are Examples Of Premarital Counseling?
When Do You Consider Seeking Help From A Premarital Counselor?
What Are The Three Most Popularly Used Test Inventories For Marriage?
After How Many Sessions Do You See Results From Premarital Counseling?
Does Premarital Counseling Help Alleviate Stress And Anxiety Between Partners?
What Are The Statistics On Premarital Counseling In The United States?
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