Having practiced as a Marriage & Family Therapist for over a decade, I’m convinced, now more than ever, that couples to need to prepare for marriage before they say “I do.” From that perspective, nothing replaces or serves this purpose better than premarital counseling. Let’s briefly examine some of the benefits of this often neglected, yet much needed endeavor.
1. It Reinforces Their Level of Commitment to One Another
Couples who enter premarital counseling do something remarkable. They reinforce their level of commitment to one another, while helping lay a solid foundation for a marriage that will last over the course of time. To be sure, it’s a decision steeped in maturity, which demonstrates their willingness to do the hard work needed to have a healthy relationship moving forward.
For example, it would be easy for a couple to say, “You know, premarital counseling is too hard. Let’s get the latest books on marriage and see what happens.” On the other hand, by choosing to venture into premarital counseling, couples send the following message:
“We want to develop the strongest emotional foundation possible before we make the ultimate commitment of marriage.”
This latter approach, though more involved, pays great dividends in the end, particularly as it relates to knowing who you are committing to for the rest of your life. Think of this this way. You never want to be in the situation where you find yourself newly married and asking: “Who is this person? What did I do?” Believe me, that’s not the kind of “I do” experience you ever want to face in life.
2. They Learn to Face Reality as a Couple
The “Honeymoon Phase” of a relationship always feels incredible because it’s filled with high emotion, frequent displays of affection and a seemingly endless desire to make each other happy. Couples in this phase readily see beyond the faults of each member and offer one another a generous amount of grace. As incredible as this sounds, this phase eventually passes, and couples are brought face to face with the realities of their relationship.
This is actually a good thing. However, what makes or breaks a couple is how they navigate important realities or differences associated with money, sex, parenting, extended family, faith, their respective careers, etc. Some couples manage differences in these areas better than others. Either way, couples who seek premarital counseling can learn how to reach and maintain a clear alignment in those domains.
Premarital counseling, in this regard, is far more than just learning about each other. It’s about learning how to actually identify, establish and work through core needs, desires and differences in the relationship. Couples who learn how to face these realities, in a manner that fortifies their emotional bond, are those who have the greatest chance of developing a vibrant and long-term marriage.
3. They Learn to Talk
You may be surprised at this final point, but let me assure you, it’s not a joke. Not even close. Countless times I’ve heard married couples say, “We don’t talk. We don’t have time. We have horrible communication.” And as a therapist, these are concerning statements which drive home how important it is to help couples get ahead of the game, so to speak, so they never have to be the typical married couple who struggles to communicate well.
I’m not saying premarital counseling is the end all to establishing perfect marital communication. Every couple argues at various points of time, but not every couples argues the same. Some couples address their differences with a greater degree of listening, curiosity and empathy than others and get much further in resolving them as a result. Premarital counseling helps with all of this, because it sheds light on how couples can:
Identify, meaningfully discuss, and follow through with what each member needs to feel loved, cherished, and valued in their relationship.
Communicate effectively and build emotional bridges between them when differences arise.
Repair from moments of conflict or breaches of trust.
Prioritize their time together, and set clear boundaries with work, friends, extended family, etc.
Having said all of this, remember that you never have to settle for a mediocre relationship. If you are looking at getting married anytime soon, begin doing the work necessary as a couple to build a strong emotional foundation before you take that step. Yes, you will need to invest your time and money into the process, however the benefits far outweigh the costs when all is said and done.
Eric Gomez, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling