Curious about premarital counselling? Our experts are here to share everything you can expect to discuss if you decide to sit down with a therapist before your big day. From defining marriage expectations to determining whether you and your partner are both on the same page about having children, no question is off-limits. Think of it this way: The more you know about your significant other, the sooner you’ll be able to walk down the aisle.
Premarital counselling, a specialized type of therapy usually provided by marriage and family therapists, is believed to offer benefit to all couples who are considering a long-term commitment such as marriage. Typically, the goal of premarital counselling is to identify and address any potential areas of conflict in a relationship early on, before those issues become serious concerns, and teach partners effective strategies for discussing and resolving conflict.
Partners are seeking counselling before marriage may also find that premarital counselling can help them better understand their expectations about marriage and address any significant differences in a safe and neutral environment.
Premarital counselling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counselling can help ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship — giving you a better chance for a stable and satisfying marriage. This kind of counselling can also help you identify weaknesses that could become problems during marriage.
Premarital counselling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees — and many choose to become credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Counselling might be offered through religious institutions as well. Some spiritual leaders require premarital counselling before conducting a marriage ceremony.
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Why is it done?
Premarital counselling can help couples improve their relationships before marriage. You’ll be encouraged to discuss topics related to marriage, such as:
- Beliefs and values
- Roles in marriage
- Affection and sex
- Desire to have children
- Family relationships
- Dealing with anger
- Time spent together
Premarital counselling helps partners improve their ability to communicate, set realistic expectations for marriage and develop conflict-resolution skills. In addition, premarital counseling can help couples establish a positive attitude about seeking help down the road.
Keep in mind that you bring your values, opinions and history into a relationship, and they might not always match your partner’s. For example, family systems and religious beliefs vary greatly. Many couples have experienced very different upbringings with different role models for relationship and marriage. Many people go into marriage, believing it will fulfil their social, financial, sexual and emotional needs — and that’s not always the case. By discussing differences and expectations before marriage, you and your partner can better understand and support each other during the marriage.
Perhaps the most important topic of discussion in any marriage counseling service is how to handle arguments in the relationship. You probably already have experience with this as a non-married couple. Determine how you can effectively end arguments in your marriage before they turn into deal-breakers, and ask your marriage counsellor for suggestions on ways to improve your conflict resolution skills.
- What has helped us end fights so far?
- What habits, actions, or hot-button issues make our fights last longer than they should?
- What are our biggest pet, peeves and annoyances?
- What are our no-tolerance conflicts? Example: Infidelity, abuse, alcoholism, drug use, etc.
- What repercussions can we agree to if a no-tolerance conflict occurs? (Having preset “punishments” is a crucial step in divorce prevention)
Have you ever really sat down and discussed your values with your fiancé? For a lot of couples, values are implied or assumed, not talked about. You may have a general idea of what your future spouse stands for, but it would be in your best interest to openly chat about these ideals before you get married. This will give you a chance to cooperate and come together about values you may want to instil in your future children, should you choose to start a family. If you have vastly different core values, you can work together on a compromise before they cause fights down the line.
- What are your core values?
- Where do your values come from? Example: Past experiences, instilled family values, religion, etc.
- Do we have the same values in life?
- What are the most important values we want to uphold as a couple?
- How will our values impact our abilities to start a family and raise children in the future?
While your therapist is not going to act as your financial planner, they will be able to open up the lines of communication regarding your finances.
Money can be a tricky topic to talk about, especially for couples who are about to get married and merge their finances. Topics to discuss should be the wedding and honeymoon budget, any debts owing, and how bills will be handled once married.
Discussing these topics may be awkward at first, but it is important, to be honest about your financial situation before getting merging your monies and assets. Remember to address marriage finances, before you walk down the aisle, as it is one of the best premarital counseling questions to discuss with your partner.
Children, pets, and family planning
Are you on the same page about starting a family or owning pets? Surprisingly, many couples have not discussed family planning before getting married. Topics to consider include if and when you decide to start a family, how many children you would like to have, appropriate and inappropriate parenting techniques, financial planning and more.
Having children can be difficult on the health of marriage if both partners aren’t prepared. A premarital counsellor can help you discuss your differences involving the desire to have children, how to raise them, and how to keep your romantic life healthy while parenting.
Check out our post on Tips for Newly Engaged Couples.
Communication is important in order for a marriage to stay strong and united. Conflict resolution is a huge part of the communication process.
During therapy, your counsellor will teach you how to solve conflicts, stress the importance of listening and empathizing with your mate, and delve deeper into why you and your spouse react to situations in the way that you do. Marriage communication is an important takeaway, and one of the best premarital counseling questions to help couples feel prepared to get married.
The uncomfortable topic of infidelity
No relationship is perfect, and there are always bumps and surprises along the way. One of the best premarital counselling topics to discuss with your counsellor is what your plan of attack is should a betrayal arise in your marriage.
Some things to consider should infidelity occur whether you both agree that emotional affairs are equal to sexual infidelity, what steps you will take in being honest with one another about your sexual desires and emotional needs if they are not being met in the marriage, as well as how you will talk to your partner if you begin to feel attracted to someone else.
If you are both working, are planning to start a family, or have hobbies or family obligations that take up a lot of your time, you will want to discuss how to stay united after marriage.
Your counsellor may stress the importance of weekly date nights. This is one night a week where you reinforce the importance of your relationship. Date nights should be fun, promote sexual intimacy, and support communication.
Discussing deal breakers
Flirting, poor money management, viewing pornography, excess time spent out of town or away from each other, and other such issues may be a deal-breaker for you or your spouse. It is important to discuss deal-breakers before getting married so that both of you understand your spouse’s expectations of the marriage.
Importance of religion and values
One thing you may want to discuss during premarital counseling is the topic of religion. If one partner has strong religious or spiritual beliefs and the other does not, suggestions may be made on how religion will play a part in the marriage and the upbringing of children.
Overcoming past issues
One of the best premarital counseling topics that will be discussed is how your past experiences will affect your marriage. For example, a former relationship where your trust was betrayed can have a lasting effect on how you treat your current partner.
Past experiences and environments will be discussed during premarital counseling to see what sort of impression they have left and how it will impact your relationship. Topics related to your past experiences must be one of the top ten marriage counselling questions to ask your spouse. These negative experiences may be worked through further during therapy so that couples can make better choices in their emotional responses.
Getting married is not the end of your journey together; it is the beginning. After the initial newlywed glow wears off, many couples have trouble settling into married life after having so much wedding excitement building up to the big day. This reality check can cause couples to feel like they have failed at keeping the romance burning in their marriage.
One of the best premarital counseling topics to discuss is your bucket list. Make plans together so that you will always have goals to achieve and dreams to look forward to. Your bucket list may include buying a house, starting a family, pursuing your dream job, taking up a hobby together, or travelling around the world.
Sexual preference, frequency, and communication
Physical intimacy is a major aspect of a marital relationship. Maybe that is why time and again, it can be very difficult for couples to express their true sexual desires to there partner.
The fear of being judged for your sexual preferences can be very embarrassing and can leave a marriage broken and distraught.
That is why you must engage in healthy communication about your sexual preferences through premarital counseling.
A counsellor will ensure that you guys are mentally prepared to have that conversation and keep a check on any judgments that might develop during your sessions.
Moreover, through premarital counselling, you would also be able to learn some tools to ensure that you can maintain an open and honest line of communication about your sexual preferences even after you get married.
When it comes to marriage counseling, you need to have a great attitude and the right motivations. Decide with your partner the best premarital counselling topics to discuss during your session, and you will be building a solid foundation for a successful marriage.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Sessions?
Accept that it’s going to be challenging at times. It’s a mistake to think that marriage counselling is just a scheduling session for when you’ll have kids, or buy a house, or move to an island when you retire.
Remember that the goal is not to “win.”
Both partners need to keep an open mind and be willing to change things that aren’t working.
Keep your sessions completely private
Don’t chat with bridesmaids, your mother, or anyone else about the things you’ve discussed, and don’t even think about posting anything on Facebook that could embarrass your partner. Trust is essential to improving upon any relationship, and 100 per cent discretion is necessary.
Express gratitude to your partner
Tell your future spouse that you’re thankful they’re willing to attend counselling with you and for the great work you’re doing together.
While it’s a great advantage to have a professional counsellor guiding you, you might find that it’s easier if you just discuss all the hot topics and plans in the comfort of your own home. Use the following questions to get the conversation started about your expectations, hopes and values.
Challenges Of Premarital Counseling
Premarital counselling may pose challenges for some individuals, and couples may initially avoid or dread counselling out of fear or anxiety over what issues may be revealed. Difficult topics or areas of significant concern may be raised in counselling sessions. Some couples may be discussing their values and beliefs or ideal partnership roles for the first time. While bringing differences of opinion up for discussion may help some address and successfully resolve them in therapy, others may decide certain issues are irreconcilable and choose not to marry.
Therapy offers participants a safe space to discuss concerns, but hearing a partner raise issues or express thoughts about the relationship and the role of both partners in that relationship may lead to hurt feelings or generate conflict. Being truthful about relationship doubts, expectations, or goals for the future may lead to short-term conflict between partners. Still, many partners are able to work through this, with the help of a therapist, and begin their partnership with a strong foundation.
Not every couple may be able to access premarital counseling. Some LMFTs may accept insurance; others may not. Some community centres or hospitals may offer low-cost counselling services. Doctors or other health care professionals may also be able to provide information about low-cost counselling resources. Premarital counseling also requires a time commitment, and busy couples may find it difficult to make time for counseling. Some therapists may offer flexible scheduling.
When both time and money are constraints, many self-help books, DVDs, and audio materials can also serve as a form of premarital counselling. Many of these resources are authored by mental health professionals, though they are not intended to replace professional counselling.
What to expect in a premarital counseling session?
Premarital counseling may differ from the therapist. Some therapists may choose to see each partner individually for a session or two, while others may work with the couple as a unit throughout the length of therapy. These individual sessions offer the therapist the chance to work with each partner to identify and address any concerns, strengths, and weaknesses in the relationship. Doing so individually, in the beginning, may help each partner be able to speak more realistically and openly about their goals for their partnership.
Each partner will also have the chance to describe their ideal marriage and any steps they have taken toward that goal or any challenges they see barring its achievement. In joint sessions, partners can discuss these issues together and, with the help of the therapist, explore ways to cope with these and any other challenges that may develop over the course of the marriage.
Some counsellors help couples develop what is known as a Couples Resource Map. This helps each partner identify resources to turn to when faced with challenges, both as individuals and as a couple. In therapy, couples may also discuss warning signs of concerns and develop a plan of action to utilize if these concerns arise. This plan may include steps such as turning to individual resources, seeking counselling or seeking spiritual guidance.
The act of participating in premarital counseling can be a positive beginning to a partnership such as marriage because of the commitment each partner has to counsel and to improve and strengthen a relationship.
Premarital counselling is designed to set your marriage up for success – right from the start. It provides an unbiased platform for you and your spouse to tackle marital struggles before they ever come up. Your counsellor will guide you through these discussions during your premarital counselling sessions, but you may have a particular issue that you want to focus your attention on. By getting a feel for the conversations to come, you can start thinking about questions, answers, and important points you want to bring up.