Most engaged couples feel sure that they truly know their spouse-to-be. They’ve had ample time during their dating period to have those long conversations that deepen their mutual feelings and provide them with the information they need to say an enthusiastic “Yes!” to the marriage proposal. But even if you feel you know your partner inside and out, you may want to participate in pre-marriage counseling. Pre-marriage counseling will give you both a safe space to explore all sorts of important questions that relate not only to your relationship as it is now but also how you would like to see your relationship evolve “till death do you part.”
Where to find a pre-marriage counselor?
If you are getting married in a house of worship, such as a church or synagogue, they will have a pre-marriage counseling program available to you in the form of classes or individual meetings with a pastor or rabbi. If you are having a non-religious service, look for an accredited pre-marriage counselor in your community.
The benefits of pre-marriage counseling
Results from a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology show that couples who have undergone pre-marriage counseling have higher levels of happiness in their marriage and, when questioned five years after their wedding, had a 30 percent less divorce rate when compared to couples who did not participate in pre-marriage counseling. So think of pre-marriage counseling as a sort of insurance that protects your marriage from divorce!
The types of questions you’ll be reflecting upon may stir up some deep feelings. Your counselor will guide you through this experience, keeping emotions in check and on track. You will have the benefit of an expert continually prompting you to remain focused on the issues you are examining so the conversation stays even-keeled and doesn’t veer off into a free-for-all.
Some common pre-marriage counseling topics
1. Identify some areas where you think your fiancé could show improvement. How can you help that happen? This question serves a two-fold purpose. It allows you to voice, in a non-accusatory way, areas that you feel are not perfect with your fiancé, and also shows that you care about supporting them as they work on that area.
2. Identify some areas on which you have differing opinions. This topic opens the way to seeing how you speak to each other when you don’t agree on the topic at hand. The counselor can then give you tips on effective and respective communication styles, providing you with techniques to improve your conflict resolution skills.
3. Money management. You will be asked how you view the role of money, budgeting, spending and saving in your shared life. What are your spending habits and who will be in charge of the household finances?
4. If you are both career professionals, how will you integrate job advancement and any promotions that might require you to move to a different city? In other words, whose job is more important to the well-being of the relationship? Would one of you be willing to leave their job to follow the other to a new location, even if it is out of the country? How would you feel about a commuter marriage, with each of you living and working in different cities?
5. What are some of the hot topics that generate conflict in your relationship? With this question, the pre-marriage counselor wants to know the “sensitive” areas that you fight about, as well as your fighting style. You will be taught tools to help you fight productively so that you learn that your conflict is not with each other, but with the problem at hand.
6. Do you want children? If so, would you be willing to adopt a child if you are unable to have your own biological children? You probably have already talked about whether or not you both envision starting a family. But few couples talk about their views regarding adoption.
7. What is your timeline for important decisions, such as when to have children, buy a home, and even a (future, of course) retirement date? Establishing a mutually-agreed upon timeline for these life benchmarks is important.
8. What gives your life meaning? This is a terrific question. It helps you identify what is important to you as individuals and as a couple. Answers can vary from being deeply philosophical, “I want to leave the planet a better place,” to more personal “Seeing my partner happy gives my life purpose.” There is no perfect answer to this question, by the way!
9. What will you do to stay in love? So many engaged couples assume that the love they feel today will renew itself all alone. Your pre-marriage counselor will help you define how you see keeping your love vibrant and alive. You will learn that just being in love is not enough. Love is a verb and requires action to nourish it so that it lasts.
10. Are there any resentments that you’d like to air in the safety of your pre-marriage counseling sessions? If you have been harboring any pent-up anger towards your fiancé, now would be an ideal time to address this. You don’t want to bring these issues into your marriage, where they may cause greater damage than working them out now.
11. Do you have any fears about what marriage? A good question to reflect upon if you have a history of abandonment, or divorce, or were raised in a dysfunctional home where you did not have a great marriage model to learn from.