4 Premarital Counseling Myths and Opportunities
Suppose you have been in a committed relationship for the past two years. While there are no serious issues and you aspire to be married, there is some doubt. This tension leads to a Google search revealing potential relational problems such as student loans, infidelity, lack of commitment, money, social media, mismatched libido, porn, and stress. You posit that your student loan payoff is an issue and you take some small steps. One is selling the Aniz Ansari:
Road To Nowhere tickets you originally purchased for a date night. The money goes to an extra payment on your student loan. This decision does not go over well with your partner as the date is now at Zanies, and she thought you were heading to see Ansari. More tension and another Google search lead to the option of premarital counseling (PC). However, you think “this is not a serious issue, and we do not need counseling.” This blog will explore this misconception as well
as a couple of others related to PC.
Premarital Counseling (PC) Myths
Myth 1: PC is a test we can pass or fail (Prepare/Enrich 2018).
Opportunity 1: PC is not a test; instead it is an opportunity to continue to build on the relational foundation that has begun. The build may include things such as enhancing communication skills, understanding each other’s personality, finances, building greater trust, intimacy connection, and commitment (Prepare/Enrich 2018).
Myth 2: PC is for relationships that have serious issues or couples who do not get along (Prepare/Enrich 2018).
Opportunity 2: We will marry someone who is imperfect, and there are always opportunities to grow. Through the research of Hawkins, A. and Clyde, T. (2018) on emerging adults, we know 87% of men and 30% of women in this demographic use pornography nearly every day. Thirty percent of women report some level of use. Additionally, use is changing marital attitudes, expectations of our partner’s bodies and sexual performance, sexual scripts, and overall less interest in sex. Not setting boundaries and expectations around use can have an impact on the relationship. Are you able to explicitly address pornography use and attitudes? If not, the discovery of use not matching assumed expectations can be devastating.
Myth 3: PC will only bring up issues and make us argue (Prepare/Enrich 2018).
Opportunity 3: Gottman and Gottman (2016) note that 69% of the problems of a couple will have no resolution and how they process the conflict is most important. Having a plan with skills such as attunement, listening empathy, validation, and comprise for the other 30% will help avoid things such as criticism and defensiveness. Additionally, the relational trust will erode over time if we cannot attune and be emotionally engaged.
Myth 4: Cohabitation is premarital education. Hawkins and Clyde (2018) note nearly half of adults who cohabitate with a desire to get married believe it will reduce the chances of divorce. The logic seems to hold up as the number of couples that marry after first cohabitating is decreasing and it appears to help with partner selection and marital readiness. Meanwhile, some considerations include individuals who do not commit to marriage before beginning cohabitation
or have multiple cohabitation partners are at higher risk of marital dissolution. Another issue may be what is called “sliding” into cohabitation with no deliberate plan. “Sliding” occurs when relational reasons such as money or having a child result in the decision to cohabitate.
Subsequently, these external forces move the partners to the decision to marry as well. This inertia can lead to poor marital quality.
Opportunity 4: Using PC can help a couple explore commitment to the future and align expectations while decreasing risk. This process can begin before, during and after cohabitation. Along the way, clients will obtain a deeper understanding of the relationship and oneself in the relationship. Learning can mean making the hard choice to end the relationship. Regardless of the outcome clarity and confidence in the decision making about the future will result.
Today, social media and the internet provide a plethora of relationship advice. Although the next generation of marrying couples history, attitudes and needs differ substantially from prior generations the overarching goals of PC to build couples relationship foundation, understand each other and oneself better, and enhance communication remain the same (Hawkins & Clyde, 2019). In the context of technology, the next generation and consistent goals it is paramount to
continue to clarify premarital counseling misconnections.
Gottman, J. & Gottman, J. (2016). Level 1 Clinical training manual: Gottman method couple therapy. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute Inc.
Hawkins, A. & Clyde, T. (2018) Reinvigorating and re-envisioning premarital education for the iGeneration. Retrieved from: http://www.narme.org/conferences/8th-annual-narme
Prepare/Enrich, LLC. (2018) Premarital Counseling: Myths and Misconceptions. Retrieved from:
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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