When someone tells you that he or she is receiving counseling, you may naturally feel inclined to ask, “What’s wrong?” However, therapy is not only for managing problems that currently exist but a way to prevent problems from occurring and maintain progress. One form of therapy that is frequently misunderstood is premarital counseling.
Why is premarital counseling important?
With an exceedingly high divorce rate in our country, it is essential for partners to actively invest in their relationship if they hope to have a healthy, long-term marriage. One way that couples can prioritize their relationship is through premarital counseling. It is a preventive source of relationship care, much like taking a vaccine to prevent disease or studying for an exam to prevent failure.
Every relationship will encounter significant events that partners must navigate for a marriage to evolve, grow, and stay strong. Some of these issues are expected, such as choosing to buy a home or have children, and others will be unexpected, such as losing a job or getting a promotion. Yet few couples initiate important discussion of these topics on their own prior to marriage. As a result, many couples encounter significant conflict and resentment when management of these events goes awry.
Premarital counseling prompts discussion of important relationship issues and teaches new interpersonal skills so partners feel confident in managing life’s expected and unexpected events that the marriage will encounter. Communicating about these topics in a safe, therapeutic space offers couples guidance and an opportunity to actively create a stable foundation for the next stage of their relationships.
What are the benefits of premarital counseling?
Through premarital counseling, couples receive education about relationships, and the benefits range over a variety of common relationship problems. Conflict is inevitable, and partners will learn skills that allow them to constructively manage disagreements. Sexual desire naturally fluctuates, and premarital therapy helps partners become more aware of each other’s sexual expectations and preferences to promote greater long-term sexual intimacy. People change over time, and partners learn important communication skills that will allow them to remain open, connected, and confident in their ability to adapt and grow together over time.
Are there any downsides to premarital counseling?
It is true that discussing some of these topics, like children, religion, or finances, can trigger conflict between partners who have not faced these issues before. Maybe they were actively avoiding them or perhaps they did not know that their partners felt differently. The structure of premarital counseling accommodates for this risk. Premarital therapists understand that some of the therapy will revolve around hot-button topics, and they are there to help you and your partner work through it and reach a greater sense of understanding and connection.
Who should pursue premarital counseling?
At the time that you decide to get married, things are probably going very well in your relationship, and you may naturally question how counseling could help you if it seems like there is nothing wrong. The benefits of counseling for premarital couples are not limited to partners struggling with serious relationship issues or those questioning the desire to be married. While counseling can certainly help resolve these problems, premarital counseling is a foundation for any couple wishing to prepare for marriage and to learn the skills necessary to sustain a long-term healthy and happy relationship.
Do not let the stigma of therapy or the concern that others will judge your relationship negatively hold you back from learning important skills that will benefit you, your partner, and your marriage. Choosing to pursue premarital counseling is an investment in your relationship and an expression of your desire to prioritize your partner and the marriage for many years to come.
Meghan Emerson, MSMFT