Many people cringe when they think about going to couples counseling. There’s a myth that you only go to couples therapy if something is wrong.
Nothing is further from the truth!
Premarital counseling can be an especially helpful tool for preventing problems in your relationship. Why wait until there’s an issue when you can keep issues small and manageable with therapy?
Premarital counseling provides couples with the tools to build a strong foundation for a healthy relationship.
Marriage changes things in your relationship. It can bring up a lot of issues that you may not have dealt with before as a couple. In premarital counseling, you can anticipate, predict, and plan for those issues before you get married. By doing so, you’ll have a realistic sense of what to expect from your marriage. More importantly, you will learn the skills to work through problems while things are still positive in the relationship.
Premarital Counseling for Current Issues
Just because you’re planning to get married soon doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have relationship issues that can be addressed now. Many couples find themselves struggling during the time prior to marriage. The pressure of planning a wedding alone can create stress in the relationship. Therefore, you might first address immediate issues in premarital counseling.
For example, what disagreements do you have about the wedding? Do you both wholeheartedly want to move ahead or do one (or both) of you have some ambivalence? Maybe there is just one nagging thing that is holding you back from setting a date. Premarital counseling can help you address these common concerns.
Plan to Prevent Problems in the Future
Getting married is about blending two lives into one. Each of you has individual hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. Ideally, you both want the same basic things. However, there will always be some areas of disagreement. Premarital counseling provides the perfect place to start working through those potential problems. Some of the things that you might discuss include hopes, expectations, and beliefs about:
Managing finances and making financial decisions
Issues around having and raising children
Gender roles in your home
How to celebrate holidays
The importance of travel, work, and friendships
What your relationship with your in-laws and extended family will be
You may already be aware of potential issues. Counseling gives you tools to work through them. Additionally, a therapist specializing in premarital counseling can help you think about things that you might not yet realize could be a problem in your relationship.
Building Communication Skills in Premarital Counseling
Premarital counseling isn’t just about identifying a problem and fixing it. Instead, it’s about learning how to be in a healthy relationship with one another. This begins with communication. If you can learn to communicate about difficult topics, then you are well on your way to handling the many stressors that will arise in your marriage over the years. Learning to do this now, before the two of you have established too many negative communication patterns, can make those issues much easier to navigate.
One thing you might practice in premarital counseling sessions is putting your marriage first. You can learn how to view problems as enemies of the relationship. In other words, arguments won’t be about who “wins” but rather about how to find a solution or compromise that is best for the relationship.
You can learn this and other skills in premarital counseling where you might be encouraged to practice:
Accepting and celebrating your differences
Authentic sharing of your emotions using “I statements”
Listening to your partner with openness and non-judgment
Noticing signs that a conversation is going awry so you can take a break
Respecting one another despite differences
Sharing routines, traditions, and rituals that strengthen the relationship
Premarital counseling is an investment in your relationship now and in the years to come. Attending sessions with your partner indicates how much you value your relationship and want to start your married life together with skills and tools to be sure your marriage remains strong through the years ahead.
Lauren Thomas Hale, MA, LPC Intern, works with premarital couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin as they prepare for their upcoming wedding. Lauren guides couples by giving them any communication and conflict-resolution tools they may need as they embark on the next leg of their relationship journey. If you and your partner want to prepare to tackle any hurdles married life may throw your way, call Lauren at (512) 270-4883, ext. 114, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.