Premarital Counseling: Exploring Its Values, Types, and Benefits

Medically reviewed by: Erica Munro, MSc
Monday, January 29

You’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Movies and books may make it seem like you can expect to live happily ever after once you’re married. But real life doesn’t always work this way. 

There’s more to a successful and lasting marriage than romance; marriage needs effort from both spouses to be fulfilling. Premarital counseling can put you and your fiance on the path toward your own version of happily ever after — while also helping you set realistic expectations.

Below, we’ll explore premarital counseling, its benefits, and some common approaches therapists use during this type of therapy.

The purpose of premarital counseling 

Premarital counseling is a kind of short-term therapy that helps couples resolve differences, set expectations, and deepen their relationship before the big day. Going through this counseling with your loved one may help both of you maintain a healthy relationship that keeps your marriage strong over the years. 

Why do people seek premarital counseling? It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your relationship, and it’s quite normal for couples to have occasional disagreements. Think of this counseling as part of your wedding planning and a rewarding investment in your future together. 

The benefits of premarital counseling 

Even if you and your fiance have a strong relationship already, there’s always room for improvement. From helping you both build important skills to envisioning your future together, premarital counseling offers several benefits that we’ll examine in the following sections. 

Improving communication and problem-solving 

Solving problems and communicating effectively are important parts of any relationship. Premarital counseling can help you and your future spouse improve problem-solving and communication skills, helping reduce misunderstandings and conflicts between you as you navigate married life. 

Identifying potential areas of conflict 

Are you and your partner on the same page in terms of whether or not you want kids? How are you both at managing money? Premarital counseling helps you identify and address potential conflicts that may affect your marriage. This gives you a chance to come up with a plan to handle potential problems later on or find solutions to them now.  

Setting realistic expectations for marriage 

What are your expectations for married life? While every couple wants to be happy, expecting only happiness may not be realistic. Marriages face challenges over the years, like health issues or job loss, which may strain the relationship.

It’s important to note that it’s entirely normal for married couples to have disagreements from time to time. However, premarital counseling can help both of you set realistic expectations for your marriage so you’re aligned from the very beginning. For example, you can discuss your expectations surrounding careers, ambitions, and even household roles and responsibilities.

Understanding and respecting differences

No matter how much you have in common, you and your partner are individuals. Each of you has your own hopes, dreams, interests, values, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses. Being able to respect these differences is a key part of a strong marriage. 

Premarital therapy encourages understanding between you and your partner over your differences. It also helps you respect those differences, resulting in a stronger bond. 

Building a shared vision for the future 

Despite your differences as individuals, you and your fiance should have a shared vision of the future. What do you hope to accomplish together? Buying a home? Having a family? Retiring at the beach? 

Premarital counseling can help you build a shared vision for your future. This involves aligning your goals and dreams to create a united path forward. 

Types of premarital counseling 

There isn’t just one approach to premarital counseling. In fact, there are several types available. Each type of premarital counseling uses different techniques to help couples grow stronger based on what best suits their needs and situation. Let’s explore a few of the different types of premarital counseling your therapist may employ. 

Gottman method

This is a research-based approach to couples therapy that focuses on enhancing relationship skills. You and your partner learn to improve communication, conflict resolution, and other skills that are part of a strong relationship. 

The Gottman method uses several techniques to accomplish this, like building love maps, creating shared meaning, or starting new traditions together. It also gives you both a chance to have difficult conversations or address issues you’re dealing with now.  

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)

Emotionally focused therapy, or EFT, helps couples understand their attachment styles or bonds with others. These bonds can have an impact on their relationship and marriage. EFT is based on attachment theory, which is the idea that attachments should provide a safe space that’s stable and supportive. 

When used for premarital counseling, EFT can help you and your partner build stronger emotional bonds. It also helps you form more secure attachments with each other, setting you on the path toward a more satisfying marriage. 

Psychodynamic couples therapy

Psychodynamic couples therapy explores your and your partner’s underlying motivations, fears, and other factors that may affect your relationship. It takes a deeper look into each of your backgrounds as individuals.

This approach to premarital counseling can lead to emotional growth at an individual level that brings you closer as a couple. It helps both of you understand your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, putting you in a better position to manage conflicts and other challenges in your marriage in adaptive ways. 

Types of cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy and other types of behavioral therapy, like mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), may also be used in premarital counseling. 

CBT involves learning to identify maladaptive behavior and thought patterns. You then learn to challenge these and replace them with more adaptive ones. CBT for you and your partner can help you learn valuable skills that benefit your relationship, like coping and problem-solving skills. 

Areas of focus in premarital counseling 

What kinds of issues does premarital counseling address? There are several areas of focus geared toward helping you and your fiance build and maintain a strong marriage. 

You can bring up specific issues that are relevant to your unique relationship during therapy, but in general, you can expect to cover the following focus areas:

  • Children and parenting: Do you both want kids? What parenting approaches do you plan on using?
  • Communication: What are your communication styles? Do you have frequent misunderstandings? 
  • Conflict management and resolution: How will you handle disagreements or other conflicts that come up in the future?
  • Family relationships: Do you have issues with your parents or other family members that may affect your marriage? Do you have any concerns about your partner’s family?
  • Financial management: How do you both manage finances? Do you have a plan to save up for a big purchase, like a house?  
  • Personality types: How do your personalities affect your relationship? Are there any areas of conflict that you need to work on? 
  • Relationship roles: Do you both agree on your roles within your marriage? What are your expectations of these roles?  
  • Sexuality: Are there any areas of your sexual life that you want to work on before getting married?
  • Spirituality: Do you share the same beliefs? If not, do you respect each other’s differences in beliefs?

How long is premarital counseling?

The short answer is that there’s no set time for a premarital counseling program. Every couple is different. Certain factors may affect the length of time you spend in counseling, like the goals you set as a couple with your premarital counselor or therapist. The plan you set with your therapist or counselor may also affect the timeframe for premarital counseling. 

Other factors may include how often you and your partner go to counseling sessions and how quickly you make progress. Remember that it’s not a race, and there’s no need to rush. Even with your wedding day coming up, you can always continue doing couples therapy or marriage counseling after you’re married if needed.

How do you know if you could benefit from premarital counseling?

Is premarital counseling right for you? Research shows that couples counseling is an effective way to strengthen relationships. Doing pre-marriage counseling may help you build a solid foundation for your marriage. 

You might consider premarital counseling services for any of the following reasons:

  • You’re experiencing parenting challenges if one or both of you already have children.
  • You want to work through financial conflicts or gain a better understanding of how to handle finances as a couple. 
  • You want to learn how to help your spouse feel valued. 
  • Both of you want to improve your communication and conflict-resolution skills.
  • You’re going through a major transition in your lives as a couple and want to learn how to cope effectively. 
  • You want to understand how you cope and manage emotions as individuals and how this affects your relationship.
  • You want to build skills to help your spouse cope with challenges, like loss or stress.

Lay a strong foundation for your marriage with a SonderMind therapist

A strong marriage takes work. In-person premarital counseling or online therapy can help you and your partner start on the right foot as you get closer to your wedding day. You can both gain a deeper understanding of each other that makes your relationship stronger and more satisfying. 

SonderMind makes it easy to find a couple’s therapist to help you meet your therapeutic goals. Whether you prefer online or in-person therapy, SonderMind can connect you with therapists to help you and your future spouse establish a strong marital foundation. 

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