Pre-Marital Counseling: Why It Is a Must Before “I Do”
Based on my experience as a marriage and couples therapist, I think most couples planning to tie the knot can benefit from some form of pre-marital counseling. There are several reasons to consider this. Some couples call pre-marital counseling actual couples therapy. They experience repeated conflicts they are not able to resolve and the idea of couples’ therapy “before even being married” is just too disturbing. My answer to them is, “Good for you to realize this and not wait”. In these cases, pre-marital counseling is really no different from couples therapy or marriage counseling and the couple is simply getting a head start on tackling issues that can potentially ruin their marriage later. I applaud these couples in their wisdom and care about their relationship. If calling this “pre-marital counseling” makes them feel better, no problem.
Some come in for pre-marital counseling, not to deal with issues, but because they wish to discuss in a safe atmosphere common realities of married life, such as timing and number of children, work and career after children, finances, relationships with families of origins and friends, work/leisure balance amongst other things. In such cases, the counseling is more structured and each topic is discussed, differences are identified and there is a discussion and decisions made for mutually acceptable solutions. These sessions are very useful and productive in averting future discord, leading to anger, resentments and disconnection.
Sometimes, pre-marital counseling is a combination of both of these factors. Another common and related reason for therapy before marriage is that oftentimes unexpected problems arise during wedding planning. I have had several couples who came into my office because they realized during their engagement and wedding planning something about each other’s values or sensibilities they did not know before, or some issues happened between families that were especially disturbing. I have experienced weddings cancelled or postponed during these times and in these situations.
So, as you can see, I am all for pre-marital counseling or some discussion with a neutral party leading to marriage. Whether done by priest, rabbi or a therapist though all very different agendas and processes, it is healthy to address present or future potential universal marriage issues.