We love that seeking therapy or counseling as a form of basic self-care has become normalized! Premarital counseling, specifically, is something that any couple can benefit from; no preexisting problems required.
Considering premarital counseling? Reaching out proactively for support and guidance can lay a solid foundation for your upcoming marriage. We turn to Paige Bond, LMFT, with a detailed Q&A to fill you in on everything you need to know. (Don’t miss her 7-Week Challenge FREEBIE at the end of the post!)
What are the benefits of premarital counseling?
The purpose of premarital counseling is to allow couples to explore individual and shared values, beliefs, and expectations as well as potential challenges that could arise in their marriage.
It’s crucial to chat about these topics before you say “I do” and drop mad stacks on a wedding. You want to set yourself up for a lifetime of relationship bliss, don’t you? This is the time to get real and get talking about what really matters.
Premarital counseling is an investment in your relationship that can offer several benefits like improved communication, better conflict resolution skills, and feeling more connected with your sweetie.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the honeymoon phase never ended AND you decreased your risk of divorce? Going to therapy to discuss all things marriage related before the big day can help you have a long-lasting and satisfying partnership.
Do we have to be struggling with something to seek premarital counseling?
I recommend couples who are already doing well start counseling AHEAD of time, this way you can nip any unforeseen issues in the bud when they arise with the skills you learn in premarital counseling.
Think of it this way, you would most likely rather put on a seatbelt before driving on a bumpy road. Just as a seatbelt can protect you from a sudden jolt while driving, premarital work can help you prepare for any challenges that may arise in your relationship and help you learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy and productive way.
Just as you wouldn’t wait until you’re in the middle of an accident to put on a seatbelt, starting counseling before issues start can set you up for relationship success. Starting therapy does not require a specific problem or issue, and it is an opportunity to strengthen your bond as a couple before marriage.
What are some common signs that we may need premarital counseling?
As previously mentioned, there doesn’t need to be a “problem” to attend premarital counseling. Though some helpful signs to look out for when it would be extra beneficial are:
If communication difficulties become a regular thing, it’s time to see a professional. If you keep having the same problems come up and when they are discussed, you walk away feeling more hurt and disconnected then a counselor can help you learn different skills to help you feel more understood and communicate more clearly.
Unresolved conflicts can put a damper on being able to enjoy and prepare for your big day confidently. If there are a lot of issues coming up and you’re left with no resolution, it would be wise to seek help to find relief.
Having trust issues before getting married can make it hard to feel like you’re making the “right decision” about your sweetie. It’s important to work towards building a secure connection where you can feel safe sharing anything with your partner and vice-versa as that will lead to a more fulfilling relationship.
What types of strategies or skills will a counselor provide us with?
In premarital counseling, you will learn specific skills to build a healthy and happy relationship like the speaker-listener exercise to improve communication and active listening skills.
Learning how to have a stress-reducing conversation will be essential to help you both stay connected and manage the stress in your daily life (not caused by your relationship) so that outside stressors don’t spill over into your relationship.
You will also learn how to problem solve and make decisions with strategies that teach you how to gently share emotions and needs so you can brainstorm possible resolutions that satisfy both of you.
When should we start premarital counseling?
It’s best to start counseling as soon as you notice any problems within your relationship so you can nip it in the bud.
However, if things seem to be “fine” but you want to attend counseling before tying the knot, start at least a few months before the big day so that you’ll have enough time to address all the standard topics in counseling, and allow for any wiggle room if problems become uncovered as a result of that and can be addressed before getting married.
Are there different types of counselors and how do we choose?
You can find different types of counselors to work on premarital issues such as religious counselors, LGBTQ+ premarital counselors, secular counselors, counselors of a particular culture or race, etc.
You can choose which type of counselor to work with by what is a good fit for your needs and values.
How long is premarital counseling?
Premarital counseling can depend on your relationship’s specific needs but it is at minimum 4-6 sessions but can go on for several months depending on what is uncovered in your work together.
Remember, just because you may be going to counseling “longer” than expected, does not mean your relationship is in trouble – it means that you are willing to put in the heavy lifting work now to make your marriage last a lifetime.
What does a typical premarital counseling session look like?
A typical premarital counseling session will have the counselor inviting the couple to discuss certain topics like family dynamics, finances, sex, spirituality, boundaries with people outside of your relationship, life goals, and roles.
The counselor will likely have you engage in active exercises such as role-playing, connection-building activities, and sharing vulnerable emotions, needs, and dreams regarding the relationship.
Your premarital counselor may choose to use an assessment such as Prepare-Enrich that you both fill out before your first session so the answers can be used as a guide for having discussions on particular topics.
What are some common topics covered during premarital counseling? What is asked?
Common topics discussed in premarital counseling are family dynamics, finances, sex and affection, spirituality, personal stress, shared interests, boundaries with people outside of your relationship, life goals, roles, marriage expectations, discussion on children, and parenting styles. Some standard questions asked in counseling before marriage are:
- What motivated you to seek premarital counseling?
- What are your expectations for your marriage?
- What are your individual goals and aspirations, and how can you support each other in achieving them?
- How do you communicate with each other, and what are some areas where you could improve your communication skills?
- How do you handle conflict and disagreements, and what strategies could you use to resolve conflicts in a healthy and productive way?
- What are your values and beliefs about important issues such as religion, family, money, and sex?
- How do you envision your roles and responsibilities in the marriage, and how can you work together as a team?
- What are your thoughts on parenting, and how do you plan to raise your children?
- How will you maintain intimacy and romance in your relationship?
- What are some potential stressors or challenges that you may face as a couple, and how can you prepare for them?
How much does premarital counseling cost?
The cost of premarital counseling varies between $125-$200 per session and depends on the counselor’s experience, the counselor’s credentials, and location.
On average, premarital work lasts about 4-6 sessions which can total your bill up to $1200. While that may seem like a hefty bill upfront, it is a minuscule investment compared to the cost of months of therapy unpacking built-up resentment, divorce proceedings, and attorney fees ($20,000+), and the emotional toll it can take on you and your family (is there a fair price for this?).
If you want to invest in your relationship, premarital counseling is a great place to start.
Do counselors offer free trials to see if we are a good fit?
Most counselors offer a free consultation session to see if you are a good fit for working together.
The time spent on a free trial varies per counselor but can range anywhere from 10 minutes up to a 30-minute session so that you can ask questions and see how everyone’s personality jives together.
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Paige Bond, LMFT
Paige is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in helping individuals, couples, and ENM relationships with concerns about intimacy and relationship anxiety/insecurity.
She is also the host of the Stubborn Love podcast, where every episode has actionable tips that will help you create a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling love life!