Premarital counseling is the kind of counseling couples might engage in prior to getting married. This type of counseling can differ from couple to couple and therapist to therapist. Even the topics and intensity of premarital counseling can vary. For most people, premarital counseling involves conversations guided by a therapist with their soon-to-be spouse on topics that are important to cover before marriage. It can include topics like finances, expectations, family dynamics, sex, and children. There are curriculums created for engaged couples that are accessible to therapists to use in counseling. Some premarital therapy can be more intense for couples depending on the amount of conflict or issues they might be facing. For example, engaged couples who are volatile might have more intense discussions in therapy. A couple who has a history that includes infidelity might have deeper discussions about lack of trust in the relationship. In general, premarital counseling is going to look differently depending on the couple and therapist involved. However, it is a common practice many people participate in. Why do people engage in premarital counseling?
It brings up important topics to discuss. For some couples, particularly young couples, premarital counseling can bring about certain conversations that might they not have discussed before. Even if couples talk about particular issues like sex or finances, there might be aspects of the conversation they have not delved into before.
It can bring to light any red flags within the relationship. There are some couples who probably should not pursue marriage. However, with the divorce rate hovering around 50%, people end up marrying each other when maybe there were red flags they missed. While it is not going to necessarily prevent all people from getting divorced in the future, premarital counseling can provide a place to catch red flags. A therapist can point out important issues for couples to consider before they get married.
It can encourage conversations about expectations. Unmet expectations may seem small. However, they can be the root leading to deep issues that can destroy a marriage. Being open and honest about expectations can be helpful as couples plan for their future. Premarital counseling can help couples understand each other’s expectations, adjust unrealistic expectations, and discuss how to manage expectations in the future.
It can provide useful tools for marriage. Like most counseling, one of the purposes of premarital counseling is to provide valuable tools for couples as they prepare for marriage. It can help provide them with: the ability to communicate more effectively, tools for managing and handling conflict, and strategies for maintaining a lifelong relationship. The hope is that couples can utilize the tools learned in counseling throughout their relationship to keep it strong and healthy.
It can prevent divorce. The hope is premarital counseling can prevent couples from getting divorced in the future. Whether is stops the relationship before the marriage begins or provides them with tools for maintaining the marriage, premarital counseling can help set up couples to be successful. It can give them what they need to potentially prevent the dissolving of a marriage.
gets people more comfortable with the idea of counseling. Ideally, couples may not find they need counseling in the future.
However, engaging in premarital counseling early in the relationship may allow
individuals to develop more of comfort level with therapy. The hope would be
that if a couple needed help in the future, they might be willing to step into
counseling because they have been there before.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.