Premarital counseling is a type of
therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counseling 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
counseling can also help you identify weaknesses that could become problems
Premarital counseling 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). Counseling might be offered through religious institutions as well. In
fact, some spiritual leaders require premarital counseling before conducting a
Why it's done
Premarital counseling can help couples
improve their relationships before marriage. You'll be encouraged to discuss
topics related to marriage, such as:
to have children
Premarital counseling 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 own
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 fulfill 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 marriage.
How you prepare
The only preparation needed for
premarital counseling is to find a licensed marriage and family therapist
(LMFT). Loved ones and friends might have recommendations. Your health insurer,
employee assistance program, clergy, or state or local mental health agencies
also might offer recommendations.
Before scheduling sessions with a
specific therapist, consider whether the therapist would be a good fit for you
and your partner. You might ask questions such as these:
What is your educational and training background? Are you licensed by the
state? Are you credentialed by the AAMFT?
What is your experience with premarital counseling?
How long is each session? How many sessions should I expect to have?
How much do you charge for each session? Do you accept my insurance?
What you can expect
Usually, each of you will be asked to
separately answer a written questionnaire to determine how you feel about each
another and the relationship. These forms can also help identify any strengths,
weaknesses and potential problem areas. Together, you and your counselor will
interpret your results and discuss areas of common unhappiness or disagreement.
You'll set goals with your partner to help overcome challenges.
In addition, your counselor might ask
you and your partner questions to find out your unique visions for your
marriage and clarify your expectations and desires for your marriage.
Remember, preparing for marriage
involves more than throwing a party to celebrate an engagement. Take the time
to build a solid foundation for your relationship.
Counseling: What It Is And Why You Should Do It?
In this article we'll answer questions like
"What is premarital counseling?", "Do we need premarital
counseling?" and more, while giving practical information on premarital
counseling resources and how you and your future spouse could benefit from
pre-marriage counseling provided by a licensed therapist.
You're engaged to the love of your life. As soon as you said "yes" or
popped the question you were probably caught up in envisioning the perfect life
the two of you will share together and how you would tackle the wedding plans.
The benefits of premarital counseling were probably one of
the farthest things from your minds. However, as the date draws nearer you may
begin to wonder how it could help strengthen your relationship with your
is actually something you and your future spouse may want to consider as part
of your plan to build the strong marriage and life together that you're so
excited about. Think of it like this: you've just settled on your dream
honeymoon location, you can see your toes in the sand of a five-star resort,
but you're not just going to end up there without a little planning and
preparation to make sure everything goes just right. Instead, you'll either
take the time to painstakingly research places on your own or you could work
with a travel professional who can help you through the process and ensure
you'll have the honeymoon of your dreams.
premarital counseling is a bit like planning your honeymoon with a travel
agent; while you'd most likely still have a great and successful marriage on
your own, if you work with a professional premarital counselor then you can
ensure you're fully prepared for marriage to your partner and to tackle any
lingering questions or issues you may struggle with.
Some premarital counseling
counseling before marriage may not be something a lot of couples discuss openly
there are some statistics (healthresearchfunding.org, n.d.) that indicate it
does help prepare couples for a successful marriage.
who underwent counseling before their wedding had a 30% higher marital
success rate than those who did not
of couples who get married today agree to premarital counseling
median amount of time couples spend in premarital counseling before
getting married: 8 hours
these statistics help show is that even a limited amount of time of premarital
counseling with a professional can make difference in the outcome of a
marriage. And as we'll discuss in the next section of this article, a lot of
the benefit of pre-marriage counseling stems from an emphasis on learning how
to effectively communicate with your partner, even when you face differences in
opinion or other issues.
So, what is
to the Mayo Clinic, the definition of premarital counseling is "counseling
that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counseling can help ensure that you and your partner have
a strong, healthy relationship-giving you a better chance for a stable and
satisfying marriage." In addition, counseling before marriage can also
help couples identify weaknesses in their relationship that could potentially
lead to problems or even the failure of a marriage. The Mayo clinic lists these
topics as the primary focus of premarital counseling, and they can help give
you some insight into what you can expect if you decide to prepare with
counseling before marriage.
intimacy and sex
time spent together
counseling is often provided by professionals over the course of just a few
short sessions and may ask the couples to do a variety of activities and
exercises both together and separately to better understand how they function
together and their level of compatibility both in their current relationship
and in their future marriage. These exercises may include a written test or
questionnaire (which we will cover in an upcoming section of this article),
acting out or responding to potential situations they may face in marriage
(i.e. how to react to their spouse losing their job), creating marriage
resolutions and goals, addressing issues that the couple has previously been
avoiding, and identifying potential future causes of marital tension.
Types and Techniques of Premarital Counseling
on your religious background, your reasons for seeking counseling before
marriage, and the personality of you and your partner there are different types
of pre-marriage counseling you can partake in. Choosing the right type of
professional counseling for you and your significant other can greatly increase
its effectiveness and the benefit you get out of the experience.
- Many religious institutions require couples to attend some sort of counseling
before performing the marriage ceremony. If you are planning on getting married
in a house of worship check with whoever will be performing the ceremony
beforehand to see what requirements they have. This can be a combination of different
"secular" types, including group courses, one-on-one meetings with a
religious advisor, and/or compatibility tests.
premarital counseling courses
- If you and your partner prefer a more private experience there are online
courses you can take. Online courses generally take no more than half a day and
will help facilitate discussion with you and your partner and give thoughtful
information about how to anticipate and positively respond to potential
conflicts in your marriage. Typically you will receive a certificate of
completion at the end of the course.
Probably the most traditional method of pre-marriage counseling, meeting with a
professional counselor is a great way to ensure your counseling is specifically
tailored to your relationship. This means you can tackle the issues or
struggles that you believe have the potential to cause future problems or that
you simply value enough to want to start working on before you get married.
Plus, when you're meeting with a professional counselor you know your sessions
are completely confidential.
tests or questionnaires
- Often given in conjunction with other types of premarital counseling,
compatibility tests (while sounding intimidating) are simply assessments
designed to find areas where you and your partner already have a strong
foundation of respect and communication and to identify areas that may require
you to revisit and spend more time discussing. These assessments aren't meant
to be a pass or fail test, leaving you and your partner feeling discouraged if
you didn't achieve perfect compatibility. Instead, you will most likely see
them used as a resource to help facilitate your professional counseling by
ensuring that you're addressing what most needs to be addressed in your
these tests will consist of questions that you and your significant other will
answer separately (may often by in the form of "never, sometimes,
always" questions or other related forms) and then reconvene with your
results to see where you may need to work on compatibility. If you'd like to
get an idea of what types of topics or questions you'll see on these premarital
questionnaires there are a variety of examples online. A simple
"premarital questionnaire" search will give you plenty of results.
Just note that they there are a multitude of versions and you most likely won't
find the exact one you'll be given online.
Group courses and discussion-While couples
generally don't just rely on group counseling for their marriage preparation,
it can be helpful to have larger group discussions-both with engaged couples
and married couples-to be exposed to different perspectives and ideas. You and
your partner may learn of new strategies for conflict-resolution you hadn't
thought of or feel a sense of relief in knowing that you aren't alone in
struggling with a certain issue.
Benefits of Premarital Counseling
The obvious benefit of counseling
before marriage is that you and your partner are taking steps to ensure your
marriage will be stable and happy and that you'll have the necessary skills to
cope with issues that will arise. However, a more detailed look at the benefits
of premarital counseling can help you decide if professional counseling is
right for you and your partner.
Create mutual goals and resolutions for
- you and your partner may have different ideas of what specifically will mean
you've achieved a happy and successful marriage. By discussing beforehand what
you both hope to get out of your marriage you can determine a few resolutions
that combine what you both want and give you common goals to work toward what
you both believe in.
Understand, adapt to, and improve
- Yes, that's quite a mouthful. But what it boils down to is you and your
partner will better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own and
each other's communication styles and how to adapt to them to ensure that
you'll be able to successfully talk through potential problems instead of
ignoring them or arguing about them with no idea how to actually resolve the
Heading off potential conflicts before
they become a problem
- Do you know you have trouble saving money and that it drives your partner
crazy? Premarital counseling will give you a chance to get issues like this and
more out in the open before you say "I do." Often couples will avoid
talking about issues they have, choosing to believe that in the glow of
newlywed life they'll simply go away. This is the exact opposite of setting
yourself up for a successful marriage. Instead, pre-marriage counseling will
help you work through these issues now and help you understand that your
differences don't need to lead to larger problems.
Dismiss marriage anxiety - For some people no
matter how much they love their significant other, the thought of a lifelong
commitment can still be cause for some anxiety. If you or your partner is
dealing with this anxiety premarital counseling would be a great option for
you. You can confront possible causes for the anxiety and work through them so
that you both feel much more reassured that marriage will be a positive next
step for your relationship.
How to make your
premarital counseling successful
If you and your spouse decide that
professional premarital counseling is for you there are ways you can help
ensure you get the most benefit out of the experience. These include:
it will be challenging and it will cause you to discuss and face some
issues that you'd rather leave alone-this is how you and your partner will
grow in your relationship!
try to "cheat" or downplay thoughts and opinions to make it seem
like you and your significant other are completely compatible-this
completely ignores the point of the counseling, which is to face issues
go of the idea of "winner" and "loser" and instead
embrace the idea that you're both on equal playing fields (even if you're
discussing communication and one of you is the queen of the silent
that time with your counselor is a "safe zone" and that what you
discuss with your counselor can't be fuel for future arguments or "I
told you so" moments.
share what you discuss in counseling with anyone-even your closest friends
and family members. What you discuss in counseling is solely for the ears
of your counselor and partner, spreading that around will only break
12 TOPICS YOU NEED
TO DISCUSS BEFORE GETTING MARRIED
By Dr. Jim Walkup
wonder what you need to talk about before you get married? As a marriage
counselor offering premarital counseling for many years, I have selected these
as the most important topics along with questions for you to explore before you
walk down the aisle. Trouble discussing any of these issues might suggest to
you that sitting down with a premarital counselor could be helpful. Don’t
hesitate to start off on the right foot as you build your relationship to last
I can be of help, please don’t hesitate to reach out, especially if you’re in
the NYC, Midtown Manhattan or Westchester areas of New York. You can contact me
directly at 914-548-8645. I’m happy to offer you a free consultation to
explore what we can do together.
1. Meaning of Your
Describe what commitment means to you as you make plans to walk down the aisle?
B. Of all of the persons in your life that you have met and could have married,
why are you choosing your partner?
C. What attracted you to your partner initially and what do you believe your
partner will help you become?
2. Your Life Long Goals
What do you hope to achieve in the near future and the distant future regarding
B. How do you plan to care for your community alone or separately?
C. Do you hope to leave a legacy after you die?
3. Your Mutual
What do you expect from a marital partner regarding emotional support during exciting
times, sad times, periods of illness and job loss?
B. Will you set aside one night just to be together alone to catch up with each
other and have fun?
C. What size house is important and in what kind of neighborhood do you hope to
live in both now and in the future?
D. Are you both clear how much alone time the other needs?
E. How long does your partner need to spend with friends separately and
F. Do you agree with how much time is appropriate to give to work?
G. Do you both expect to support the family financially and will that be
different when kids arrive?
H. Are you both comfortable with the salary differential between you?
I. How will you deal with times when one or both of you has reached a midlife
career point, and you need to change some aspects of your life?
4. Your Living
How do you plan to live together?
B. Where will you live after the arrival of children?
C. How do you determine if a new career path or job is reason enough to move?
D. Do you hope to live in the same house or area for a long time?
E. Will you need to be close to your parents either as you get together now or
as they get older?
5. Will you have
children and if so how many?
When do you plan to start a family?
B. How far apart would you want your kids to be in age?
C. Would abortion ever be acceptable before or after that?
D. What kinds of philosophies did your parents have about child raising and do
you agree or disagree?
E. How do each of you intend to shape your children’s values
F. What kinds of punishment are appropriate or not appropriate?
G. What kinds of expectations do you each have about money spent on toys,
Will you have separate or joint checking accounts or both?
B. If you do have different accounts, who will be responsible for which
C. Who will pay the bills?
D. Do you agree to have full financial disclosure about each of your personal
financial situation at all times?
E. How will strong disagreements about spending money be resolved?
F. Is there any debt that either partner has incurred before the marriage (ex.
college or graduate school loans or credit card debt).
G. What amount of available money does each of you need to have to feel
H. Will there be a savings plan for the first house?
I. Do you plan to keep trading houses as you can afford it?
J. How much credit card debt or home equity loan debt is acceptable?
K. Agreement about taking care of the financial needs of parents if likely?
L. Do you plan to send your kids to private or parochial school?
M. What will be the plans for children’s college education?
N. When do you hope to begin saving for retirement?
O. Will you use a financial planner?
P. Who will complete the taxes?
7. Parents and In-laws
How much time does each of you need to spend with your parents and how much do
you expect your partner to join you?
B. How do you plan to spend the holidays?
C. What will be the holiday expectations of each of your parents and how will
you deal with those expectations?
D. What kind of support do you expect from your partner when the parents are
putting pressure on you?
E. Is it OK for either of you to talk with parents about the problems of the
F. What kind of relationship do you expect your kids to have with your parents?
G. Do you anticipate that you will ever want a parent to live with the two of
you when you grow old?
8. Gender Role
What did your parents model for you concerning who did what in the family?
B. Did you feel that was fair and do you expect something different?
C. Does each of you have some preferences that might be unrelated to gender?
D. How will you deal with household or yard maintenance? How will you divvy up
these responsibilities or hire someone?
E. Do both of you expect to work if you have children?
F. When the children get sick, how do you decide who stays home with them?
9. Do you agree on
issues around erotic moments together?
How often do you want to enjoy an intimate evening with each other?
B. How do you intend to resolve differences in sexual preferences?
C. Can you work out an agreement about how to deal with differences in
frequency of sexual desire?
D. Are there certain things that are clearly off limits?
E. Do you agree to talk about your sexual concerns at a time when you both are
feeling creative and relaxed and not during sex?
10. How will you
resolve heated conflicts?
What can you learn about how your partner likes to deal with conflict
based on their experience in their family of origin.
B. What feels comfortable to each of you, as your partner gets upset?
C. Can either of you ask for a timeout to calm down and be creative in your
D. What rituals will you develop to reach out to each other after a big fight?
11. Spiritual Life
What does spirituality mean to each of you?
B. What kind of participation do you expect in each other in some form of
C. How will you share what means something to you with them?
D. Will your children be expected to attend any regular services or religious
E. Will the children go through certain rituals such as baptism, christening,
first communion, confirmation, bar or bat mitzvah?
12. Agreement about
Do you want to establish from the beginning that affairs are not an option?
B. Do you agree that affairs of the heart are equal to a sexual infidelity?
C. Will you talk to your partner about someone that you feel drawn to as a
colleague or erotically since this can build the bond between you and your
partner rather than the outside person?
D. Will you commit to never talking to a person of the opposite sex (except a
therapist or clergy) about your relationship with your partner since this
builds a bond outside of your relationship?