Premarital counselling prepares couples for marriage; strengthening the foundation of the relationship so that there is a better chance at long-lasting happiness and beating the odds of divorce.
The structure of marriage as an institution has changed dramatically over the past several decades. The changing roles and rights of women within society mean that marriage is considered an equal partnership, and it serves to benefit the couple’s ideals of love and life goals instead of a practical, business-like arrangement that serves the community. These changes, revolutionary though they have been, have accompanied a dramatic rise in divorce rates. The idea behind premarital counselling is to equip both you and your partner with the communication and conflict resolution skills that you will need to prevent your marriage from reaching the point where divorce is the only way out.
Premarital counselling is not a new thing. Many religious institutions will not conduct a marriage ceremony until the couple has partaken in some form of faith-based premarital counselling. Premarital counselling is equally useful for couples who have been together for only a short time before their wedding, and for those who have known one another intimately for years. In the case of the former, counselling will bring up important issues that neither you nor your partner have probably even considered discussing yet, and in the latter, it is likely that you both need to make peace with past relationship issues so that you don’t bring them into your marriage. Any couple that is about to get married can benefit from premarital counselling, regardless of how much you think you already know about your partner and what you want your future to look like.
What Happens During Premarital Counselling?
There is no one version of premarital counselling, and you are encouraged to ask questions before settling on a counsellor, or else you may find that you’ve paid for something that isn’t quite appropriate to your situation. If neither you nor your partner is religious, then you probably don’t want to find that you’ve accidentally agreed to faith-based counselling. Depending on whom your counsellor is, sessions may utilise different tools, although they should primarily be based on communication – where you are guided into discussions that may become important issues within a marriage. Topics can include:
- Finances (budgets, debt, housing)
- Marriage roles (who does what)
- Individual and common goals (life goals, career goals)
- Beliefs and values
- Family/friend relationships
- Making plans together
- Expectations (of self/partner/marriage)
Many of these topics are deeply personal, and both you and your partner need to be able to trust your counsellor; something that you need to take into account before you choose on one. An experienced counsellor can make all the difference, helping to guide the conversations (particularly when they get sticky), preventing you from losing focus, and teaching you how to remain calm and best communicate when marriage gets difficult.
Premarital counselling can be an emotional process and it may be difficult to hear your partner reveal certain truths. Be open-minded and know that discussing certain things may be difficult in the short term, but your relationship will be strengthened by it in the long run.