Let's face it: planning a wedding is not always as blissful as it looks in the magazines. Sometimes an engagement brings up new stressors between a bride and a groom. Whose parents are going to pay for what? Are all out-of-town family members invited to the rehearsal dinner? A premarital counselor can not only offer support during this hectic time but also help build a solid foundation for your marriage. "It's like preventative health," says Rachel A. Sussman, LCSW. "It's good to have a relationship check-up."
If you are planning a wedding in a house of worship, you may have already attended your first premarital counseling session as some churches and synagogues require it. If you are just now considering the idea, start preparing for your session with the answers to the following seven questions premarital counselors always ask.
1. What Do You Appreciate Most About Your Partner and Your Relationship?
"These are the things that will get you through the hard parts of life. They will ground your relationship when all else feels chaotic," says Atlanta therapist Megan Broadhead of ENGAGE Premarital Counseling.
2. Are You on the Same Page About Having Children?
If you want to have children, when do you plan to start? "Children are the most important thing," says Sussman. "If you have a family, are you open to the possibility that life will change after having a child? Roles may change."
This is also the time to discuss work/life balance. Is quality family time more important than a larger house? "I've seen a lot of marriages fall apart because of long working hours," says Sussman. "Now is the time to say, 'Family time is important to me. Quality time is important to me.'"
3. How Will You Handle Your Relationships With Your Families?
How do you plan to spend the holidays? "Couples need to learn that they are forming a new family entity, and the relationship with their extended families transitions with this," says Broadhead. "Conversations regarding boundaries and roles of each of their families are important."
4. What Does Spirituality Mean to You?
If you have children, will they be raised in a religious community? "I believe that this conversation is one of many that can promote curiosity and further understanding into your partner," says Broadhead. "For many of us, our spirituality is a guiding force in our lives."
5. What Does Sex Mean for Both of You?
How will you handle changes in your sex life over the years? "Couples have to talk about sex. It's a major part of a healthy relationship," says Broadhead.
6. How Do You Look at Spending Versus Saving?
Who will pay the bills? Are you or your partner incurring debt? "It's not abnormal for one person to be a saver and one person a spender," says Sussman.
7. How Will You Resolve Future Conflicts?
What will you do if you're concerned about your marriage? "Have a plan," says Broadhead. "This isn't a question of if you will struggle, but rather, when."
Communication is important when resolving conflict. "I always look for communication style," says Sussman. "Are they able to hear each other talk, especially about sensitive subjects, without getting frustrated?"