Let’s face it, planning a wedding may not always be as blissful as it looks online or in magazines. Sometimes, an engagement may bring up new stressors between a couple that definitely deserve attention. Topics may come up such as finances and family boundaries, and it’s important for a couple to be able to navigate those discussions with compassion. Luckily, a session with a premarital counselor has the potential to not only offer support during this hectic time but will also help to build a solid foundation for your marriage.
Why Should You Consider Seeing a Premarital Counselor
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. But if you are just considering the idea, you may be wondering what exactly premarital counseling looks like.
“We value going into decisions and experiences being informed,” says Megan Broadhead, owner of ENGAGE Premarital Counseling. “It’s a great thing to do that with marriage too.” For many couples, premarital counseling can be a beneficial way to dive even deeper into really getting to know yourself and your partner. And throughout the process, it can be an incredibly affirming experience, deepening your relationship and maybe even allowing you to learn something new about each other. It's an opportunity to learn how to best communicate with each other, tackle important topics, and celebrate the curiosity you have for your partner.
Meet the Expert
Megan Broadhead is a licensed professional counselor and the founder of ENGAGE Premarital Counseling in Atlanta, Georgia.
To start preparing for your session, there are a few topics you may want to reflect on, both individually and as a couple. These are the eight 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 Broadhead. Think about each other's interests and aspirations, or activities you love to do together. Consider issues such as trust and communication. It's important to reflect on what you love most about your partner while considering the ways your partner likes to be appreciated as well.
2. Are You on the Same Page About Having Children?
Discussing the possibility of children can come in so many different forms. First, it's important to decide if you want to have children, and if you do, consider when you plan to start.
According to Broadhead, she also checks in with her couples on some of the difficulties surrounding having children. Consider what you would you do if you had a child at an unplanned time, or reflect on how you would navigate the potential of finding out you couldn't have children together.
This is also the time to discuss work-life balance. Consider how you will navigate caring for your children and discuss the importance of having quality time with the family and your relationship to your career.
3. How Will You Handle Your Relationships With Your Families?
According to Broadhead, couples may feel protective of their experiences growing up, with strong attachments to where they came from. It's important to hear each other in this situation and to reflect on your own individual relationship with your family, as well as the new relationships forming. There may be some work to be done to find compromise if part of your family is a bit more involved than others.
"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?
"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." Dive in on how you feel about spirituality and what's important for you to pass on to your children as well.
You may have different beliefs when it comes to spirituality, but discussing those upfront and understanding where your partner is coming from will go a long way.
5. What Does Sex Mean for Both of You?
How will you handle changes in your sex life over the years? What does sex mean to you? According to Broadhead, it can be a difficult, vulnerable conversation to talk about sex, and the first step is to honor and recognize that, creating compassion for your partner. "Couples have to talk about sex. It's a major part of a healthy relationship," she says.
Acknowledge if there is a problem or a change in your sex life, and stay on top of it and communicate. And remember, your sex life as a couple is entirely up to you. There may be times you feel more or less connected, and according to Broadhead, she works to normalize that with couples, encouraging them not to compare themselves with others.
Be prepared to have conversations that cover vulnerable topics. A counseling session may dive in on past sexual experiences that have influenced the person you have become.
6. How Do You Look at Spending Versus Saving?
Are you or your partner comfortable with incurring debt? It's important to talk through your relationship with money. "We can only see through our lens until we're exposed to our partner's experiences," says Broadhead.
For many couples, this discussion may focus on what money means to them, whether it's power, status, or anything in between. Growing up, your family may have had many discussions about money, or it was just a given that it was always available without any issue. It's important to think through how those experiences have followed you and how it may affect your outlook on spending and saving and ways you may be willing to compromise.
Don't be afraid to dive in on difficult topics such as your relationship with money. You and your partner came from different households, and this will inevitably influence how you feel about spending and saving.
7. How Are You Going to Handle Your Finances (Together or Separately)?
Discussing whether you'll combine your finances from the get-go or keep them separate is an incredibly important topic to cover. You may have already combined finances before your engagement, but if you've chosen to keep them separate, consider if that's the best fit moving forward. "A lot of conflict can revolve around money," says Broadhead. "It's important to dive in on your own individual history with money, especially if you're combining two histories." If you do choose to combine your finances, determine if it's best for one of you to handle the money, or if it will be a joint effort.
8. How Will You Resolve Future Conflicts?
What will you do if you're concerned about your marriage? How will you resolve future issues? "Have a plan," says Broadhead. "This isn't a question of if you will struggle, but rather, when."
Communication is important when resolving conflict. Be sure to think about the importance of considering how your partner is feeling when discussing sensitive subjects, and work as a team to find compromise or resolution.