Premarital

Pre-marriage counseling: Benefits + what to expect

  • Published Feb 23, 2024

    11 mins read
  • Written by:Chris Boutté
  • Reviewed by:Benu Lahiry, LMFT
Pre-marriage counseling: Benefits + what to expect

contents

Pre-marriage counseling is a great way to create a strong foundation for your marriage long before the wedding happens. You’ll learn how to align your goals, resolve conflict, and avoid common mistakes.

Pre-marriage counseling is one of the best ways to start your path as a married couple. More and more young people are choosing not to get married, partially due to the commitment and fears that come with a marriage. 

According to the data, compared to older generations, millennials have the smallest percentage of people married between the ages of 23 and 38. The reality is that you can put many of the fears to rest by attending pre-marriage counseling.

Pre-marriage counseling is designed to help couples in love prepare for marriage in various ways. Sometimes, couples simply don’t know what they don’t know because they’ve never been married, but premarital counseling helps couples understand everything that goes into a marriage. 

Below, we’ll go over what pre-marriage counseling is, who it’s for, the benefits, and what to expect from your sessions. With this information, you’ll understand why this is such a helpful service for couples who are about to get married.

What is pre-marriage counseling?

Pre-marriage counseling is a form of counseling that’s designed to help long-term and engaged couples. When you get counseling before marriage, the therapist helps you better understand your partner by teaching you how to communicate effectively. You will also learn how to navigate the inevitable conflicts that come with marriage and how to resolve them in a healthy way. In addition to the skills you learn, one of the primary goals is to help you and your partner proactively build a strong foundation for a happy, healthy marriage.

There’s also a common misconception that premarital counseling is for religious couples. While many religious couples seek the assistance of religious leaders for pre-marriage counseling, there is also secular premarital counseling. In a secular setting, you will work with a therapist who is often a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or has similar qualifications.

Who is pre-marriage counseling for? 

Pre-marriage counseling can help any couple who is serious about their relationship. “[If you’re] in any sort of long-term relationship, it’s not a bad idea to try pre-marriage counseling,” says Ours therapist Lauren Mollica LMFT, MS.

Regardless of how your relationship is going, there’s usually room to grow. In some cases, as a couple, you haven’t experienced certain situations that may cause conflict, and that’s where pre-marriage counseling can help. We all have various sides of our personalities, and before marriage, you may not have seen all of the different sides of your partner just yet.

“I’m an advocate for [premarital counseling] because I believe the earlier we explore our familial histories, attachment styles, and acquire skills for healthy conflict resolution and reconciliation, the stronger the foundation for marriage becomes.”

-Lauren Mollica LMFT, MS

It’s sometimes difficult to see the full context of oneself within a marriage, which is why a therapist’s guidance can be so helpful. “We could unknowingly be engaging in unhealthy relationship patterns and coping skills without recognizing it,” Lauren explains, “This type of intervention is key when breaking any sort of generational patterns with dysfunction in relationships.” 

What are the benefits of pre-marriage counseling?

The primary benefit of pre-marriage counseling is learning how to communicate and work through conflicts because couples overlook many aspects of marriage. The pre-marriage counseling questions that arise will help both you and your partner prepare for your marriage in the best way possible. 

Premarital counseling also increases the likelihood that you’ll seek help if you need it during the marriage. Some marriages reach a rough patch, and rather than seeking marriage counseling, they let the conflict go unresolved, which turns into an unhealthy situation. One study shows that this isn’t the case when couples seek premarital counseling. Those who attend premarital counseling are much more likely to attend marriage counseling when necessary.

Below, we discuss some additional benefits of pre-marriage counseling and what you’ll learn in your sessions.

Discussing mutual goals

Some couples don’t look too far into the future when they’re getting ready to get married, and this can be a source of unforeseen conflict. In your pre-marriage counseling sessions, you’ll learn how to discuss and align your long-term goals. This will allow you to proactively discuss the big things like finances, sharing the parental load, career goals, and much more.

Working through fears

There are natural fears that come along with getting married. Some people fear the commitment, some are afraid it won’t work out, and some simply fear the unknown. Regardless of the fears, these fears and anxieties are normal before getting married. Pre-marriage counseling gives you a safe setting where you can discuss these fears with your partner while getting the guidance of a therapist.

Conflict anticipation 

When couples plan to get married, they’re often at the high point of their relationship, and then there’s the honeymoon phase after the wedding. It can feel like conflict will never arise, but this is an unrealistic expectation. Even the healthiest relationships experience conflict, which counseling can help you anticipate. While every conflict may not be avoidable, you’ll gain the tools you need to healthily resolve the conflict.

Adapting to communication styles

We all communicate differently, and this is due to a wide range of factors. Our communication styles result from the households we grew up with, our previous relationships, and our personal experiences. Sometimes, different communication styles can lead to an escalation of conflicts within a relationship, and that’s where counseling can help. In premarital counseling, you’ll learn each other’s communication styles and how to communicate effectively.

Learning to compromise

For a healthy, happy marriage, each partner needs to make compromises. The problem is that it’s often one person making a compromise for the other person, so how do you decide who makes the compromise or how to meet in the middle? This is important because, as a married couple, you’ll need to make major life decisions about your career, family, and finances. In marriage counseling, you’ll better understand when and why you should compromise.

What happens in premarital counseling sessions?

Premarital counseling sessions are a lot like therapy sessions, but you’re with your partner. Before or during the first session, your therapist may have you fill out a questionnaire to learn more about you and your partner. They may ask questions about the relationship to get a good idea of where to start. 

When you attend regular sessions, you can expect:

  • A deep dive into a specific area or issue of your relationship
  • Discussing current or potential challenges with the wedding planning process
  • Assignments from the therapist to do outside of your sessions
  • Reviewing something specific that came up when doing the “homework”

Each therapist is different and may have their own style and assignments. Overall, one of the best ways to get the most out of premarital counseling is to do the work outside of your sessions. This involves utilizing the communication tools and other skills you learn from your therapist.

Strengthen your relationship before the wedding by giving premarital counseling a try

Learn more

What kinds of questions are asked in pre-marriage counseling?

While dating, it’s common to get caught up in the whirlwind of the romance and planning the wedding rather than ensuring you’re both on the same page. 

There are different questions you should ask yourself about your partner before getting married, and some of these will arise during premarital counseling sessions. 

Your therapist may ask questions like these to get important conversations going:

  • Have you discussed how you’ll handle your finances as a married couple?
  • If you’re planning on having children, have you discussed your preferred parenting styles?
  • Have you had a conversation about spirituality or faith?
  • How do you get along with one another’s friends?
  • How do you interact with your partner’s family?
  • Are you on the same page about sex and intimacy?

During and outside of these sessions, the conversations will allow you to ask yourself some important questions as well. Do you know who you’re marrying? Are they comfortable and honest with you? Are they compassionate and kind? Each of these and others are important questions that you’ll focus on while going through pre-marriage counseling.

3 tips for finding the right pre-marriage counselor

If you’ve never been to a pre-marriage counseling session, knowing what to look for in a counselor can help. Although many counselors have the credentials to provide services, your relationship is unique, so it’s helpful to know what to look for.

  • Make sure they’re qualified: When searching for a pre-marriage counselor, ensure they have the proper credentials. Many will have letters after their name, like LMFT or Ph.D.
  • See if they have focus areas: You, your partner, and your relationship are unique, so you may want to find a counselor with specific focus areas. For example, if one person has a history of trauma or another mental health issue, you may want to find a counselor who understands.
  • Read reviews: Many therapists have reviews about them online. You can research these and see the pros and cons of working with them based on previous experiences with others.
  • Interview them: Before committing to a therapist, interview them to see if they’re the right fit. Some premarital therapists also offer free consultations.

If finding the right pre-marriage counselor seems overwhelming, let Ours do it for you. At Ours, we hand-match you with a therapist after thoroughly reviewing your sign-up questionnaire.

Alternative approaches to premarital counseling

In addition to traditional premarital counseling with a therapist, you can also try alternative options. These alternatives are typically in a self-guided format, so you won’t have the benefit of asking questions as they arise and getting real-time feedback.

  • Online courses: Many couples counselors create online courses that cover some of the most common topics from premarital counseling. Some courses allow you to leave comments and ask questions, and the teacher responds when possible. 
  • Group discussion forums: You can find online communities of engaged couples and chat with people in a similar situation. These group discussions are about a specific topic, or they may discuss marriage self-help books people are reading.
  • Premarital tests and questionnaires: There are many questionnaires out there that you can try together, or you can take a couples quiz to learn more about one another.

How much is pre-marriage counseling?

The price of premarital counseling can vary depending on the therapist. Some premarital counseling sessions are as low as $150 or $200 and others are closer to $500 or more. Here at Ours, we offer a $50 one-time session for new couples and multisession packages where you can save money on our typical $200 per session service.

How to make the most of premarital counseling

Now that you better understand premarital counseling, you should know how to make the most of the experience. Here are some ways you can help ensure premarital counseling is beneficial and strengthens your relationship:

  • Commit to counseling: Some couples believe they can go once and get all they need, but much like a serious relationship, counseling takes time. Commit to continue going as long as you’re benefiting from the experience.
  • Prepare for a challenge: During sessions, you may discuss topics you’ve never discussed with your partner before, which may be difficult. Trust in the process, and use the tools from your therapist, and you’ll do great.
  • Be honest about your relationship: Premarital counselors are here to help, and it doesn’t help if you embellish to appear as if you have the perfect relationship. Your counselor has heard everything, so be honest with them so they can help.

Get started with virtual pre-marriage counseling today

Here at Ours, we’ve helped thousands of couples and have seen many happy marriages due to couples embracing pre-marriage counseling. Our team of qualified premarital counselors understands what makes for a great marriage. The process starts with filling out a questionnaire, and then we find the therapist who is right for you. In between sessions, we provide various digital tools that you can use as well. To get started, sign up today.

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