a couple sitting on a therapists couch
Illustration by Marta Pucci

Pre-Marital Therapy Work. Why and What?

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
8/11/2022
Last updated:
8/11/2022
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
8/11/2022
Last updated:
8/11/2022

TLDR;

  • Counseling around the subject of marriage is not just for those who have been in a relationship for years.
  • Pre-marital counseling can be beneficial to help work through areas that may cause an issue down the line.
  • Professional counselors will also be able to help you learn important skills such as communication and conflict resolution skills.
  • During premarital counseling sessions, you might discuss potentially difficult issues like finances, children and even fundamental beliefs.

 

Are you one of those people who think couples counseling is only for people who have been in a relationship for years? That it’s only beneficial when you’re already in the midst of challenges?

It’s not… and… er… it’s not.

Allow us to explain.

Why do people opt for pre-marital counseling?

No matter how loved up and convinced you’ve found your soul mate you are at the beginning, we guarantee that more challenging times will lay ahead during married life.

And rather than let these, and your reactions to them, take you by surprise, why not get ahead of the curve? Having upfront and honest conversations about common issues that arise won’t just clear up any likely problems, it could help you develop the skills you need to tackle anything else that comes your way. We’re talking about communication skills, conflict management skills, problem-solving skills and the like – powerful tools that will help you build a strong foundation for a healthy marriage.

In fact, you might think of pre-marital therapy as a proactive way to make sure you’re getting your marriage off on the right footing.

And for the science-lovers among you, while research findings weren’t overwhelmingly significant, a 2015 study (1) did find a general trend showing that “individuals who took part in premarital counseling indicated greater marital satisfaction than those premarital couples who did not take part in counseling.”

So what do you have to lose?

Could working with a premarital counselor be right for you?

Some religions require religious counsel pre-marriage and some US states offer a discounted marriage license if you choose to take part in a pre-marital course. But for most people, the choice to undertake a form of marriage counseling before they’re married is their own to make.

Here are just some of the reasons we see couples choosing to employ pre-marital counseling services:

  • They want to be as prepared as possible for the wedding and realize that relationship education will help to strengthen the base on which they’ll build their future.
  • It gives them an opportunity to explore their relationship and talk about the positives and their love for one another. This provides a wonderful memory to turn back to for reassurance when times are tougher.
  • They realize there are a number of important things they’ve never discussed and want to get them out in the open. These might be topics such as children, financial issues, or beliefs and values that might seem particularly big to tackle alone.
  • They want a time and a place booked in and professional guidance to help them focus and cover everything they need to think about. They don’t want to waste time they could be spending on other, more fun things.
  • They want to learn useful relationship skills to enhance their bond and the way they communicate with one another in the future. It cannot be over-emphasized how life-changing it is to learn effective styles of conflict resolution and communication.
  • They want to know that there is nothing hidden in the woodwork that is liable to trip them up down the line.

What’s involved with pre-marriage counseling?

We’ve found from experience, working with couples before they are married, that people like to have a set of concrete things to work through.

Of course, if they come with particular concerns in mind, we’ll look at those individually. But if the goal is to go over common issues, make sure they’re on the same page, and identify and address any possible issues, then it helps to have a structure to guide us.

That’s why we have prepared a rich and detailed manual along with an inventory to work through, discussing all manner of different ideals, wants, values and beliefs. It’s an opportunity to work through systematically, getting everything out in the open and learning a whole lot of new things about one another.

You’ll also be given a workbook to complete, usually at your own pace.

What can you expect to talk about?

While every pre-marital counselor will approach things differently, premarital therapy sessions will likely be driven by the couple and anything that comes up from the workbook as they work through it. There will be lots of opportunities to talk through feelings and emotions and to try to understand one another’s point of view where it differs from your own.

You’ll likely talk about your views, your compatibility, and any past conflicts that you found difficult to resolve, or perhaps still need to work on. And you’ll be encouraged to talk about finances, too.

Unsurprisingly, financial health is one of the most common causes of arguments in long-term relationships, so it’s vital to discuss your expectations with each other at this early stage. Perhaps one of you is a keen saver, while the other likes to spend every spare penny on a summer holiday somewhere hot. How will you compromise to ensure neither of you feels the other is ‘controlling the pot’? Indeed, will you have a joint bank account? Or will you keep everything separate? These are important decisions to thrash out.

And it might seem boring, but how will you split the household chores? If one partner feels they work harder than the other and therefore expects that they won’t have to pull their weight at home it might be a good time to find that out.

And of course, it's important to cover the deeper issues too – how do you feel about the idea of children? And what if it didn’t happen for you? And what are some of your most strongly held societal values and spiritual beliefs?

Facing up to some of the more difficult subjects and finding out your partner's thoughts without painful emotions getting in the way can really make things easier down the line. By unpicking likely issues and learning to resolve them yourself you really will be giving yourself a better chance at a long, happy, and successful marriage.

(1). Kepler, Amanda, Marital Satisfaction: The Impact of Premarital and Couples Counseling (2015). Social Work Master’s Clinical Research Papers. 466. https://ir.stthomas.edu/ssw_mstrp/466
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