Premarital counselling is educational and often prescriptive for those who are planning to get ready for the long-winding road of marriage. With about 50 per cent of marriages in the US ending in divorce, this form of couples therapy can help you prepare highs and lows of your marital journey.
It is also pivotal for fine-tuning you and your partner to each other’s weaknesses that may pose a threat to the success of the marriage. Believe Gillian Flynn when she wrote, “Marriage is compromise and hard work, and then more hard work and communication and compromise. And then work. Abandon all hope, ye who enter.”
If you’re on the threshold of starting your marital journey, it pays to understand what is premarital counselling and its benefits to gain perspective about how your relationship can benefit from it.
What Is Premarital Counselling?
In an article, Robyn Parker describes premarital counselling as “programs that seek to engage couples in the processes of reflection and skills training with the aim of promoting and supporting the development of strong and stable relationships.”
Premarital counselling is an underrated mode of marital education. Getting to know your partner more deeply, learning and unlearning conflict resolution techniques, talking about possible conflicts in the future – are some of the areas premarital counselling can help.
According to Professor Scott Braithwaite, “Premarital counselling is a great way for people to do their homework about the most important decision they are ever going to make. The process equips them with skills that can prove critical to the survival of the marital bond.”
Related Reading: Prenuptial Agreement- How Do You Know If You Need One?
When should you start premarital counselling?
From the time when one of the partners proposes to the wedding, the entire process can be hectic for a couple, leaving very less time for counselling. While these constraints are legitimate, scheduling weekly sessions right when you decided to get married can be helpful.
However, keeping up with them even as the pressure of wedding planning grows is more important. Planning a wedding can lead to tensions and stress between a couple. Premarital counselling sessions can offer a safe space to work out those slim chinks.
It can be a place where you and your partner can sort out your issues, with the guidance of a professional counsellor.
What happens at premarital counselling?
You must be ready to open the drawer of things you cannot possibly say to your would-be spouse.
In the first session, the counsellor might try to make a couple comfortable by dealing with the general questions like how they met or fell in love. After loosening the hinges, more serious issues are addressed.
For example, a counsellor might ask the couple about past relationships, any conflict in the past, a tough experience they may have gone through together (like the death of a parent or someone close).
The counsellor might gain some insight about your families, jobs, friends and community. This helps a counsellor get insight into the kind of couple you are. Based on this, they may offer their suggestions or inputs.
For example, gender roles have undergone a paradigm shift in recent times. But if one of the spouses is unwilling to embrace this change while their spouse expects them to, it can create a major rift in the marriage.
These sessions help you get past the ‘love you just the way you are’ phase and see the person for who they are.
What Are The Benefits Of Premarital Counselling?
One of the key benefits of premarital counselling is that it helps partners clear the air on a host of issues in a healthy way. There may be underlying resentments from the past that can grow bigger if left unattended.
Does your spouse’s relationship with an ex make you uneasy? Does the work stress interfere with your relationship dynamics? A counsellor can help smoothen those toxic resentments out before you take the big leap.
Still not sure whether premarital counselling is right for you? Here are 12 other benefits of this form of therapy you must factor in before taking a final call on the matter.
1. Time matter hashed out
Sure, you have an eternity together. But having expectations from your partner without ever conversing about it can lead to marital clashes. Like when is the right time to invest in a house or when to have children and what intervals. The matters that need planning can be talked about beforehand in premarital counselling.
2. Improving conflict resolution skills
After a couple settles into the rhythm of marital life, newer conflicts are bound to take hold. Whether it is your spouse binging on Netflix too much or a harmless handsy co-worker at a party, issues – no matter how petty or serious – have to be dealt with. A premarital counsellor can offer advice as to how should react to different situations as and when they arise.
If differences arise, yelling, throwing stuff, or angry parting is not the right approach to conflict resolution. These counselling sessions will help you learn how to sort out certain issues with a calm discussion and laugh off the others.
Related Reading: Paying For The Wedding – What’s The Norm?
3. Taking care of quirks and behavior patterns
Does your partner cringe at the thought of you saying ‘me likey’ in the middle of a cooking show you are watching? Does the sound of your partner’s chewing drive you up the wall?
While couples often find it hard to point out these little quirks and annoying habits to each other, they are bothered by it. When you have to put up with them day after day, these seemingly small annoyances can turn into big triggers. A counsellor will bring out all the habits and behaviors you might want to adjust to suit each other better after marriage.
A healthy outlet in a therapy session, with a professional to help you, is better than a disproportionate outburst years later.
4. Shows the potential areas of conflict
It prepares you better for a fight in the future and truly shows how you should handle it. “After participating in these programs, couples reported or were observed to be better at resolving problems using effective communication styles, and on average, they reported higher levels of relationship quality,” says Bringham Young University professor Jason S Carroll.
5. Acknowledging core values and respecting differences
How to figure out if your dream job in a different city is clashing with your spouse’s promotion in another? Premarital counselling teaches you to acknowledge your differences with an open mind, complete honesty and an outlook to embrace the differences rather than trying to negate them.
6. Learn about expectations from marriage
Everyone has the idea of marriage in their head. However, your marriage may not necessarily pan out as per your expectations. That can lead to disappointment. An open conversation with your fiancé about your individual expectations from marriage is a must before walking down the aisle. That is what premarital counselling is there for.
7. Figuring out the finances
Does your spouse indulge in a more high-end shopping once a month while you buy things as and when you need them? What about sharing household expenses, savings and investing in assets? It is important to talk about finances before marriage.
Saving and expenditures after marriage is a topic that must be addressed ahead of time. Keeping a monthly budget, having something set aside as “fun money”, who pays for what bills are some of the finer details that need to be sorted out so that things do not seem too overwhelming after marriage.
8. The question of children
Do you picture yourself in a house full of children or are you more inclined to have a single child? Does your spouse agree? The parenting question can be a deal-breaker. Is there a time within which you want to just focus on your career, have fun and travel before settling down with kids?
Both of you need to be on the same page on this aspect for a successful marriage. Would they ever be up for adopting a baby? Would the child be left at daycare or would one parent take a sabbatical to raise the child?
A premarital counselling session can help chalk out these details, so you know what you are getting into.
9. The touchy subject of family
Marriage also brings two families together. You will be interacting with each other’s families. You may have your inhibitions, reservations, likes and dislikes on the subject.
How many joint family gatherings can you pass without it turning into an issue? Will the extended family have a say on your family matters? How many times can the parents visit?
These are all touchy topics that can blow out of proportion if not handled delicately. Even so, you need to ask these hard questions so no surprises pop up later (like your sister-in-law crashing at your place for three straight weeks).
Related Reading: This Is Why I Don’t Miss My Parents After Marriage
10. Being open about intimacy
Intimacy is an important aspect of a couple’s relationship dynamics. But if both partners are not on the same page about it, it can lead to dissatisfaction, discord and distance in the marriage.
Premarital counselling sessions will teach you to have healthy expectations about intimacy and be more in tune with each other’s needs. If need be, you can also decide on the number of days you want to be intimate with and see how much changes you want to make after that.
11. Addressing religious beliefs and differences
If one of you is devout and the other an atheist, you need to set the boundaries for the religious talk in the house. Is going to your place of faith once a week important to you? Would your spouse be willing to accompany you ever? Will religion govern important life decisions? How do both the partners feel about that?
Also, if you have children, what religious belief would they be raised with? Will one of the partners expect them to attend Sunday school? It’s better to be open about it from the beginning than having to engage in a heated argument every Sunday morning.
Besides, these matters must be discussed in a manner that does not hurt either partner’s sentimentality and create conflicts in the future.
12. Knowing the importance of social life
How often will you socialize with friends once you are married? If one doesn’t feel like going, does that mean the other partner will have to go alone or cancel plans? Will you find a middle ground by compromising on which gatherings to attend and which ones to skip?
Post-marriage, you will become a part of each other’s social circles. It is vital to embrace this reality and come up with a functional arrangement to handle social engagements and obligations.
Related Reading: 7 home chores every wife wishes her husband would take care of
How effective is premarital counselling?
Research indicates that it can be an effective tool in ironing out the underlying cranks that can turn into major stumbling blocks in a marital journey later on. Statistics reveal that premarital counselling can improve the marital success rate by 30 per cent. That’s perhaps why 44 per cent of couples today seek premarital counselling before walking down the aisle.
How much does it cost for premarital counselling?
The national average cost of premarital counselling in the US is between $125 to $175 per session. At Bonobology, you can avail the services of experienced counsellors in the range of $25 to 50 per session.
Can you do premarital counselling online?
Yes, absolutely. Premarital counselling can also be done online. Marriage is a sacred bond and we understand and value that. Our experts are available to offer counselling via WhatsApp, Hangouts, Zoom or your preferred mode of communication.
Addressing all your worries and issues before getting married can not only slay those wedding jitters but also make your marital journey a smoother ride. You can opt for premarital counselling even if you don’t see any potential issues in your relationship. The end objective is to evolve as better versions of yourselves and a better team as a couple.