Source: Shahadat Hossain/CC by 2.0
You’ve set the date. You’ve bought the rings. You’ve rented the tuxedos. You’ve booked the venue (and maybe even squabbled over where to put Aunt Gertrude on the seating chart). The two of you have spent so much time, money, and effort planning your ideal wedding–but how much energy are you putting into planning your ideal marriage?
For many, the seemingly never-ending list of tasks to accomplish before you get married can distract you from what’s most important: building a secure foundation for the journey you are about to embark on with the one you love most. Your wedding day will come and go. But, if done well, your marriage will last a lifetime. Premarital counseling can be a powerful way for you and your partner to prepare for the life and family you are creating together.
Studies reveal that premarital counseling is an effective tool to use as you begin your married life. Researchers have discovered that it is a helpful way to improve your communication and conflict management skills while increasing your overall relationship quality and satisfaction. Couples who engage in premarital counseling have a more realistic view of marriage and a deeper level of commitment to each other. These couples reported having an easier adjustment to married life than those who didn’t participate in premarital counseling.
Although counselors, marriage and family therapists, educators, and some clergy members may have different approaches to preparing the couples they work with for marriage, the goal of premarital counseling remains the same: to help you and your partner have the conversations and build the skills you need before entering into a lifelong marriage commitment. Here are several of the many ways premarital counseling can help your relationship thrive:
1) Improved communication and conflict management skills. Difficulties in communication may be the number one reason couples seek out marriage counseling. Often, the strategies we naturally utilize to make our voices heard during conflict or manage the emotional intensity of our conversations can be counterproductive and even damaging. Premarital counseling can provide you with the specific skills you need to have more productive conversations and better deal with conflict in your marriage, potentially preventing some of the challenges you may face down the road.
2) Better understanding of core values and differences. How do you move forward when you discover your dream of a quiet country life is at odds with your partner’s desire for the hustle and bustle of a big city? If you allow them to sneak up on you, your differences can feel threatening or impossible to reconcile. They don’t have to be, though: Our differences can enrich and enliven our relationships if we know how to approach them with openness and honesty. Premarital counseling can help you and your partner develop the skills you need to effectively compromise and cooperate as you build your life together.
3) Better understanding of communication styles and needs. When she’s stressed, she needs space. When he’s stressed, he needs to talk it out. If she gives him space when he’s stressed because that’s what she would need, he may end up feeling resentful and alone. Sometimes, marriage can feel like two people who speak completely different languages living under the same roof. Premarital counseling is a perfect opportunity to deepen your understanding of your partner’s communication style and needs, including how you give and receive love, approach managing stress, and what you need from each other during conflict.
4) Experience working together as a team. In order to be successful, marriage requires the ability to work together as a team throughout your lives. Seeking out help as you begin your life together sets a strong precedent for how difficult times will be handled in the future. Premarital counseling is a shared goal and commitment the two of you are fulfilling together–and can help you develop the skills and have the conversations you need to build a strong foundation for the team you are creating.
5) Creating a deeper sense of shared meaning. Marriage is more than owning a home, saving for retirement, having 2.5 children, and marking things off of your to-do list until you die. Marriage is about being better together than you would be alone. Marriage is about creating a brand new family all your own. Marriage is about having someone by your side who loves you deeply even though they’ve seen you at your worst. As you begin your life together, premarital counseling can help you create a deeper sense of what you want the purpose of your marriage to be.
Premarital counseling is a powerful tool that has been proven effective for couples looking to start their marriage off on the right foot. It can help you and your partner learn the skills and have the conversations you need to make your marriage thrive for a lifetime. In all that you and your partner do to prepare for your wedding, make sure you are also preparing for your life to come–the marriage and family you will build together.