Pretty soon we will be starting wedding season! It’s hard to believe that spring will be around the corner. This is also the time of year when many couples have gotten engaged and are also planning a wedding for this year or next. If you find yourself engaged, I want to take some time to advocate for the importance of Premarital Counseling. So much time goes into the planning of the wedding, but what about planning for the marriage? What if you spent time planning for your lifetime together, in order to address any problem areas before you say “I do”? I think it’s important, especially with our marriages, to be proactive versus reactive with addressing problems.
Why Premarital Counseling?
With the divorce rate hovering around 50%, it’s important to start your marriage off on the right foot. According to Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, participating in Premarital Counseling can improve your chances of having a successful and fulfilling marriage by over 30%. Most couples spend on average around 8 hours (some more, some less) investing in their marriage before it starts.
Premarital Counseling is intended to bring you closer together. When you are both able to bring up any issues in a safe and supportive environment, the ability to work through things becomes much easier. It’s also the therapist’s job to bring in an unbiased perspective and offer simple tips to help you both be better both individually and together.
What Does Premarital Counseling Cover?
Premarital Counseling covers any and all problems that both you and your partner identify, as well as any issues your therapist may see. Here are some of the most common topics that should be covered in Premarital Counseling:
This is the number one thing that couples tend to struggle with. If you both struggle to communicate before the wedding, this will probably not get better on its own when you are married. Premarital Counseling can be used to discuss the styles of communication you both use. It can help teach you Fair Fighting techniques, conflict resolution, and compromise. It can also help you both see the unhealthy patterns of communication that you may both be stuck in, and learn some new skills to help be more successful. In essence, Premarital Counseling can teach you how to successfully talk to one another.
Sex and Intimacy
Often, couples just don’t “figure out” sex. It can be a little more complicated than anyone wants to believe. When a couple finds that they don’t match with their need for sex, frequency, preferences, etc. it can create huge problems in a marriage. I find that many of the couples I work with just thought they would figure the sex thing out, only to find that not figuring it out can create a lot of hurt feelings, resentment, and bitterness.
It’s important to talk about how intimacy is not just sex. Intimacy is trust, affection, and appreciation of the other person. It’s being connected both emotionally and physically. When these things are not present outside of the bedroom, it’s very difficult to be vulnerable physically in the bedroom. That’s why Premarital Counseling can be so helpful. It forces you to talk about expectations, needs, and what you are/are not comfortable with.
Family of Origin Issues
You both bring a lot of your family of origin with you into your marriage. When there are problems there (think dysfunction, mental illness, parents’ divorce, addiction, shame, anger, abandonment, codependency, the list goes on and on), it’s important to address these issues before you bring them into your own marriage. There should be a lot of discussion in Premarital Counseling about each of your families and how you plan to address any problems or issues together as a united front. It’s also important to discuss boundaries with family.
Speaking of boundaries, do you have any in your relationship? If you don’t, you are asking for trouble later on down the road. Boundaries protect your marriage and each of you. Use your Premarital Counseling time to discuss what boundaries you need to have in place. Some topics that are important to discuss are boundaries with family, time, friends, communication, members of the opposite sex, work, household responsibilities, etc. Boundaries are not meant to be controlling, but rather barriers of protection.
It’s important to discuss your expectations before you are married. Things like, who is responsible for what chore in the home? Who will pay the bills? Who will discipline the kids? Will one of you stay at home to raise the children? What is the expectation for cleanliness in the home, and who will take care of it? There are so many things that are important to talk about before they become major problems later on.
If you don’t have a budget already, it’s okay to use your Premarital Counseling time to create one. Money is another huge topic that couples fight about, and is often a contributing factor in divorces. Get ahead of it before it becomes a major point of contention between the two of you. If debt is being brought into the marriage, there should be some discussions about the plan to pay it off, and what your lifestyle will look like. Oftentimes we find that one person in the marriage is a saver, and the other is a spender. Obviously, this can create humongous problems in how each of you approaches money. The most important thing about finances is to be open and honest and to approach it with a team mentality.
Final Thoughts on Premarital Counseling
If you are engaged and are considering Premarital Counseling, please reach out. It’s important to start your marriage off on the right foot. I utilize an assessment tool called SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts), and I’ve found that it’s very thorough and helpful to clients who want to address issues before they snowball. Make sure that you are investing in your marriage now so that you have a solid foundation to build off of.
*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.
Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.