Curious about premarital counseling? From defining marriage expectations to determining whether you and your partner are both on the same page about having children, no question is off-limits. Think of it this way: The more you know about your significant other, the sooner you'll be able to walk down the aisle.
What Is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling is a form of therapy that occurs before marriage. Typically, premarital counselors will ask couples to dig deep and revisit previous impressions they've formed about marriage before tying the knot.
We consulted with relationship experts Lesli Doares and Toni Coleman to share everything you can expect to discuss if you decide to sit down with a therapist before your big day.
Meet the Expert
- Lesli Doares is a North Carolina–based relationship consultant and coach and the founder of Foundations Coaching. She is the author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage.
- Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, is a licensed psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator. She has authored several articles on relationships, divorce, and divorce recovery.
1. Your Marriage Expectations and Role Beliefs
You may have one idea of what marriage looks like and what it means to be a partner yet be blissfully unaware that your soon-to-be spouse feels very differently. In marriage counseling, you'll uncover what you each believe and have experienced about marriage, says Doares. "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. How Your Past Affects Your Future Together
To some degree, we're all products of our environment and experiences. "It is important to talk through your backgrounds because of transference, which is a term that means we transfer qualities and re-create dynamics from old relationships into new ones, and this is usually unconscious," says Coleman. "Talking about them allows people to make more conscious, healthy choices and relate in healthier ways."
3. Plans for Resolving Future Conflicts
"If a couple cannot freely discuss any subject, no matter how personal or difficult, the marriage is going to be a struggle," Doares says. In marriage counseling, you'll work with a therapist to foster communication and conflict resolution skills you can carry with you. "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.
4. Proper Money Management
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," Doares says. "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."
There should be no secrets or shame around money in a healthy marriage.
5. Avoiding Intimacy Issues
"Like money, intimacy is highly personal, and most couples run into intimacy issues at some point in the marriage," Doares says. So while it might be uncomfortable to discuss your sex life in front of a total stranger, "helping understand the general physiological and emotional gender differences as well as the ones specific to [you], opens the door to be able to develop a healthy physical relationship," she says.
6. Fostering Healthy Communication
Open and direct communication are key ingredients in any union, especially if you and your partner have different ways of communicating. Premarital counseling will be advantageous in helping you discover your styles and how they could affect your marriage. "If your partner is comfortable with healthy and appropriately expressed anger but anger is a four-letter word for you, then communication will likely become an issue," Coleman says.
7. Having (or Not Having) Children
You may not believe it, says Doares, "but, amazingly, many couples never really talk about having children." Not only could you uncover a potential deal-breaker in counseling, but "it's also important to talk about how many [children you want], parenting styles, extended family involvement, and more," Doares says. "Helping couples understand and define the issues leaves them and their marriage better prepared."