Photo: Getty Images
Curious about premarital counseling? Our experts are here to dish everything you can expect to discuss if you sit down with a therapist before your big day.
1. You'll define your marriage expectations and role beliefs.
You may have one idea of what marriage looks like and what it means to be a spouse — and be blissfully unaware your soon-to-be husband feels very differently. In marriage counseling, you'll uncover what you each believe and have experienced about marriage, says Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage. "You'll talk about what each person expects the other to do and be, as well as how each of you sees the structure of the marriage," she says.
2. You'll analyze how your past affects your future.
To some degree, we're all products of our environments and experience. Premarital counseling will ask you to dig deep and see if you've formed any impressions about marriage based on what you saw growing up or went through with a past love. "It is important to talk through your backgrounds because of transference, which is a term that means we transfer qualities and recreate dynamics from old relationships onto new ones, and this is usually unconscious," says Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach. "Talking about them allows people to make more conscious healthy choices, and relate in healthier ways."
3. You'll come up with a plan for how you'll resolve conflicts.
Warns Doares, "If a couple cannot freely discuss any subject, no matter how personal or difficult, the marriage is going to be a struggle." In marriage counseling, you'll work with a therapist to foster communication and conflict resolutions skills you can carry with you long after you leave. "Good communication skills aren't enough to keep a marriage healthy, but without them the chance of success in any other area is diminished," Doares says.
See More: The Talk Timeline: What Conversations You Need to Have and When
4. You'll get real about money.
We all know that money has a way of ruining marriages. So to prevent future financial fights, you'll lay out all your money thoughts in premarital counseling. "It is a very personal topic — and each partner is going to have a different relationship to money," says Doares. "There should be no secrets or shame around money in a healthy marriage. Getting clear on each one's money story, past and present financial history, and common future goals and intentions can help a couple avoid this common relationship pitfall."
5. You'll speak about sex.
Says Doares, "Like money, intimacy is highly personal and most couples run into intimacy issues at some point in the marriage." So while it might be uncomfortable to discuss your sex life in front of a stranger, "helping couples understand the general physiological and emotional gender differences, as well as the ones specific to them, opens the door for them to be able to develop a healthy physical relationship," she says. "Knowing how to talk about it from the beginning is also a gift that many have never had."
6. You'll talk about talking.
You and your partner could have very different ways of communicating, and premarital counseling will uncover your styles as well as how they could affect your marriage. "If you value open and direct communication where each person can share freely and feel safe doing so, and your significant other fears that if he says the wrong thing, it will hurt the relationship, and then there will be a problem," Coleman says. "If he is comfortable with healthy and appropriately expressed anger, but anger is a four letter word for you, then communication will likely become a problem issue."
7. You'll chat about your feelings on children.
You wouldn't believe it, says Doares, "but, amazingly, many couples never really talk about having children." Not only could you uncover a deal-breaker in counseling if you have different opinions on having children, but "it's also important to talk about how many, parenting styles, extended family involvement, and more," Doares says. "Children have a large impact on a marriage — and it's often a negative one. Helping couples understand and define the issues leaves them and their marriage, better prepared."