When you are in the blissful period before you get married, busy with all the wedding plans and imagining your wonderful future together, it may seem like seeking couples counseling would be the last thing you should be doing. However, studies have shown that successful premarital counseling decreases the likelihood of divorce by 50 percent. Couples that seek counseling before the wedding are more likely to handle conflict more effectively because they know what each other needs; they communicate those needs and their feelings more effectively; they are more likely to see counseling as a positive experience and therefore are more likely to seek assistance when problems begin to surface, rather than waiting until the problem seems irreconcilable.
Premarital counseling will include a discussion of each partners’ respective relationship values and expectations. Topics such as managing finances, having children, the timing of when each partner expects to reach certain milestones, handling childcare and discipline matters as a team, maintaining the family home, personal time, intimacy and expectations for the relationship, the extended families and celebrating holidays and even visions for retirement and healthcare should all be discussed and examined in the sessions. Fears about marriage should be dismantled and normalized.
The most important skill that a couple obtains in premarital therapy, however, will be learning to communicate and navigate conflict effectively to avoid the development of toxic resentments and hurtful arguments that never seem to get resolved and begin to repeat themselves with overwhelming regularity. A counselor can help you learn how to listen and communicate more effectively. You will learn how to validate each other’s needs so that you each feel heard and what not to say in order to reach a happy solution to an argument. If you can go into the counseling with the good faith desire to learn how to be a supportive, encouraging and loving spouse, you can work through any bad habits that you may have developed in the relationship and avoided discussing because you were afraid to “rock the boat”. Understanding the source of the conflict before it becomes toxic can be of tremendous value when the marriage is under stress from future life circumstances.
The counseling might be challenging, but remember, the goal of premarital counseling is not to win but to be humble and willing to change things that aren’t working in order to make your marriage satisfying and strong in the future. The more reflective you are about what you feel and what you hear your partner telling you about how they feel, the more skills you will have to grow individually and create the great marriage you imagine you can have.
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