Premarital counseling can be the most important wedding gift a couple can receive. With premarital counseling, you can make instant improvements in your relationship and build a foundation for a long and happy marriage. These are some of the major benefits of premarital counseling along with suggestions for how to get the most out of your sessions.
Major Benefits of Premarital Counseling
1. Decide if you’re ready to get married. Go into counseling with an open mind. Even if you discover that you and your partner may need to delay the wedding while you work on some issues, it’s much better to move ahead strategically than to stick to an arbitrary schedule.
2. Set realistic expectations. It’s easy to get caught up in Hollywood notions of romance and fairy tale endings. An in-depth discussion with your partner with input from a trained and objective expert can do a world of good in helping you to separate fact from fantasy. It helps you prepare for the daily realities of sharing your lives.
3. Communicate better. Skillful communication keeps a promising relationship on track. By understanding the basic principles, you’ll avoid common pitfalls. With practice, you’ll discover how to give each other the support and validation you seek from one another.
4. Learn constructive conflict resolution skills. Disagreements are bound to arise as you manage the pressures of balancing careers, kids, and in-laws. By focusing on win-win solutions rather than getting your own way, you’ll grow closer instead of drifting apart.
5. Understand the stages of marriage. Between the honeymoon and sharing your golden years, most marriages move through predictable stages. The rocky times will be easier to endure if you know that many couples work through temporary disillusionments and setbacks.
6. Become a better role model for your kids. When you feel stable and resilient, you give your children an environment where they feel loved and secure. Your children are likely to imitate your good habits as they grow up and find their own life partners.
How to Make the Most of Premarital Counseling
1. Examine your attitude about therapy. Society has come a long way in recent decades but there’s still some stigma attached to psychological counseling. Try looking at premarital preparation the same way you need to take a driving test before you can get a license.
2. Find the right counselor for you. Many people receive premarital counseling as part of the preparations offered by their religious tradition. Whether you prefer a religious or secular approach, you can ask family and friends for referrals. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy may also be a starting point for finding a therapist you feel compatible with.
3. Get an early start. Studies show that the year before your wedding is a prime time to start working on your relationship – while you’re still highly motivated and before bad habits set in. The first six months of marriage are also a productive window of opportunity.
4. Take an inventory. Most therapists will start out by asking you to take an inventory. This will give you a road map to identify your areas of strength and weakness and see where you need to focus your efforts.
5. Supplement with marriage education classes. Targeted classes and workshops can be helpful on their own or as a complement to counseling. You’ll learn the fundamental ingredients for a healthy marriage and how to develop key skills.
6. Practice what you learn. For counseling to make a lasting difference, you need to apply what you learn. You and your spouse can write out your goals and monitor your progress together.
According to some studies, premarital counseling can improve your chances of staying together by 30% or more. Enjoy many years of wedded bliss by getting your marriage off to a healthy start!