Engaged? Planning your wedding? How will you plan for your marriage? This tip clarifies many of the questions people have before entering premarital counseling.
Q: What is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling can be a very structured process or follow the lead of the couple’s prioritized goals. It is unique to every couple. Trained premarital counselors will have similar topic points to make sure to address, however every premarital counselors’ style can make the process look different. Your premarital counselor will make sure each person’s understanding of the agreement of marriage is vocalized and/or negotiated before signing the legal marital contract. The vows you make to each other are the more formal agreements, but people also have informal contracts. Premarital counseling helps you get this all out in the open.
Some of the therapists at the Center for Growth will meet with each of you individually at least one time. Others may choose to see you together throughout the process. Meeting individually without your partner is to help your premarital counselor get to know your history on a deeper level so they can anticipate the particular unique issues where your differences might get in the way or behavior patterns from previous relationships that may be playing out. Essentially, it is to better understand what strengths and weaknesses each of you are bringing into the marriage to assess how this impacts the dynamics you play out when you are at your best and worst.
With the help of your premarital counselor, you can explore marital expectations and goals together around the following topics:
- Family planning
- Sexual compatibility
- Family issues
- Day to day lives
Q: Why do Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling can help you and your partner invest in the preparation of your marital agreement. Following an engagement, a majority of couples get so swept up in the wedding planning process they lose sight of the reality that they are preparing for marriage. Everyone comes into therapy with their expectations around what couples counseling is and what is different about premarital counseling.
Premarital counseling is an opportunity to set yourselves up for more success in handling conflict that is bound to come your way. Therapists can provide you with more strategies for handling the anticipated and possible stressors that will come up for you so you remain connected together rather than against each other. Every couple has their dynamic when problems arise. A good premarital counselor will help you fight better. Fighting can be fair and end in conflict resolution. When couples show up to couples counseling saying they never fight, there are often underlying secrets or conflict avoidance that is not healthy either. Premarital counseling will set each partner up to be themselves, assert their needs, and listen to their partner’s viewpoint with empathy.
People all too often make assumptions about themselves, their partner, and what marriage is to them that they never actually say what they expect from each other out loud. Couples who manage conflict well and often are on the same page assume this is the case across the board. They do not always have the psychic ability to anticipate what might come up for them. Your premarital counselor cannot do this either, of course. Premarital counseling is also a realistic process that will help you plan for and expect some of the problems that will may come up for you with their knowledge around what that looks like for other couples before, during, and after weddings.
Q: How is premarital counseling different from religious counseling?
When people of the same religion get married there may be a required process that may be similar to premarital counseling. Ie: PreCana for Catholicism. Other times, your religious leader may meet with you to cover premarital topics or simply get to know your relationship before your wedding ceremony. However, premarital counseling is very different from the common, organized workshops in groups or a 2-hour meeting with your faith leader. Even if you thrived throughout one of these experiences, premarital counseling is your personalized process for writing your marital contract.
Q: Why would we need premarital counseling if we have a good relationship?
Many assume once you get to an engagement phase of your relationship, not much will change as you enter into marriage. Some have cohabitated already for years. Others have had children. Some think it is just a legal document to make a relationship a new kind of “official”. Some more traditional partners may just be moving in together following the wedding.
Premarital counseling allows you to begin or continue having the conversations that will set your future marriage up for success. To shift your conversations from which cutlery set matches the china to how you and your partner want your dinner time rituals to look. As you do plan for the wedding registry, your couple’s counselor can walk you through turning gift selection into the topic of how you will decide which holidays to spend with which extended family along with the traditions that mean the most to each of you. Whether you plan to entertain friends and family often or hope to be guests at bigger events as hosting tends to put the two of you against each other.
You may be reading this and think, we have been doing this holiday split, living together thing for a while now. We never argue about major things so we would not need premarital counseling. The reality is that every healthy to struggling couple can benefit from premarital counseling.
Premarital counseling is unique for this major life transition. Even though you were dating and engaged before, now you are about to be married. A healthy marriage is a balance between the WE and ME. Everyone needs the tools to be able to take care of yourself and support their partner. This requires healthy habits of self care and communication. Partnerships that survive off of only being about the WE can end up being codependent, while the ones too much about each ME can be cold or narcissistic. Premarital counselors will help you find this balance which is bound to shift across the different phases of your lives and certain situations. Your premarital counselor will not tell you what it should look like, but foster the flexibility it will take to resolve the issues on your own.
Q: What does premarital counseling look like?
Premarital counseling can last anywhere between 6-12, 53-minute sessions. Premarital counselors can meet you and your partner anywhere within your engagement process, but it is most beneficial if you have plenty of time before the wedding has full financial deposits to invitations for the wedding sent. The premarital counseling process looks different when one or both of you is feeling ambivalent about the wedding or if the wedding is in 1 month later.
Q: Where can you do premarital counseling?
Premarital counseling is best done in person. Phone or video conferencing premarital counseling can be a useful substitute when you do not have any trained premarital counselors near you. The Center for Growth has two offices for your convenience. Some choose to read through the biographies of our couples counselors before choosing where to go and others can call for a free consultation over the phone to identify the best fit of premarital counselor for you and your partner.
Q: How do I find a good premarital counselor?
Picking out the fit of your premarital counselor is also very important to the process. You each have to feel comfortable and safe with your premarital counselor as well as believing they have the expertise and training to help you.
Engagement is such an important time in your relationship! Premarital counseling can help you and your partner take this phase seriously while planning for your next chapter as newlyweds. Call us for a free phone consultation to see if premarital counseling is right for you.