It makes sense! Why would a perfectly happy couple need to sit in a room with a counselor who analyzes their relationship if the relationship is already solid? Most often, people believe that couples only attend premarital counseling if there is something wrong in their relationship or if they are attending for their church, as a part of their religious practices.
This is partly true. As a premarital counselor, I have seen couples who just want to check the box to say they have gone to premarital sessions and feel like they did their due diligence. I have also seen couples who come into session in some sort of crisis regarding an issue they’ve had in their relationship for a long time but are just now motivated to address it because they are getting married. However, these couples make up only a small percentage of the clients that premarital counselors see in their office. Many of the couples that come to premarital counseling have heard from family or a close friend that it was very impactful for their relationship, and it is a must do before you get married.
The high impact that people feel from premarital counseling sessions largely speaks to the expertise that the counselor brings to the couple in the form of awareness and practice. There is a required 6-year minimum college education, including a master’s degree in their field to be able to counsel a couple on their relationship. In other words, they are highly qualified at helping you to strengthen your relationship and build a more secure connection. Not to mention, counselors spend thousands of hours listening to people talk about their lives, behavior, and feelings. So, it would suffice to say that they know how human behavior works, and if you are having a problem with human connection, they can probably tease it out and help you resolve it.
One of my favorite areas to cover in premarital counseling is future life planning. Everyone brings their own personal family background, culture, traditions, and way of doing things to the relationship. It’s partly what they have learned growing-up from their family, and it’s also things they have learned along the way in their adult life from others. Most couples assume that what they are picturing in their head, as far as the way they want their life to be, is complimentary to what their partner wants as well. This is where most couples need guidance because premarital counseling tends to find those discrepancies between both partner’s culture, traditions, and family background. Next the premarital counselor takes the role to help you talk about the discrepancies in an effective way to resolve the concern.
The biggest factor here is that we are getting the conversation started before the couple gets married. I have seen too many couples discover deal breakers after they have gotten hitched, and this leads to feelings of resentment, anger and ultimately feeling distant from their partner. In addition to future life planning, the second most common conversation in premarital sessions is regarding issues with family roles and boundaries. Either the parents want something done a certain way or are putting pressure on the engaged couple to have certain elements that they prefer in the wedding. Family relationships are not easy to navigate when you are already feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Premarital counselors can see these family dynamics with more clarity because they have the advantage of an unbiased, outside perspective. They will help you practice your boundaries and communication skills to be able to effectively manage these important relationships with care.
Outside of those two most common topics in premarital counseling, are the conversations of the essentials in building healthy secure relationships. These topics would include a brief overview of your relationship intimacy, trust, communication, and vulnerability. Each one of these topics is going to look different depending on the couple’s needs when they come to premarital counseling. Just know that your premarital counselor is an expert in all these areas, and naturally invested in the growth of your relationship to be able to provide you support and guidance in these key areas of your relationship.
In receiving feedback from my previous premarital clients, I have heard more about the feeling they both share after our sessions more than anything else I provide to them through their experience. It is not the essential skills the couples learn for a lifetime that keeps them at ease before the big day. It is the clarity, security and weight that has been lifted after they endure a positive, yet challenging experience together. There’s no other place like your safe space in premarital counseling where you get the opportunity to solely focus on the strengthening of your relationship with your loving partner and an expert nearby to help guide you through that journey!