My fiance and I have been engaged for a few months and she recently brought up the idea of premarital counseling. I was surprised because I think our relationship is going great — I mean, we’re getting married soon! When I asked her why she thinks we need counseling, she says there’s nothing wrong and that it’s a good idea because she knows friends and family members who have found it helpful. I just don’t know if it makes sense to dig up problems in our relationship, especially while we are busy planning a wedding. Still, I want to honor my fiance’s wishes and learn what premarital counseling is about. Can you help me understand if premarital counseling is worth the time, money, and effort?
At Emily Cook Therapy we are happy to answer any questions you might have about premarital counseling. We want the process of beginning counseling to feel comfortable for both you and your fiancée. It’s important to understand what you’re getting into! In my work as a premarital counselor in Bethesda, MD, I often talk to engaged couples in a free telephone consultation about what to expect from premarital counseling so they have a better idea of what it’s all about. In this post, I share that information with you by busting several common myths about premarital counseling.
Myth: The fact that my partner asked for premarital counseling means there’s something wrong in our relationship.
It’s not uncommon that one partner may have a more positive view about counseling, from personal experience in therapy or hearing endorsements from people they trust. Sometimes, partners’ differing ideas can result in tension or confusion about why your partner has suggested premarital counseling. Just because your partner has suggested counseling does not mean he/she believes something is wrong in the relationship. In fact, many couples who seek premarital counseling do so to strengthen an already positive relationship and to learn tools to help it last a lifetime. Think of premarital counseling as preventative medicine, like a yearly physical, rather than an urgent care appointment for a fever and stomach pain.
Myth: Premarital counseling focuses on problems and instigates disagreements within the relationship.
Actually the goal of premarital counseling is just the opposite! Premarital counseling takes a strengths-based and skill-building approach. The focus is on highlighting ways your relationship is already strong and promoting healthy communication and conflict resolution. Through premarital counseling you can learn how to get on the same page about a breadth of topics from finances to family planning that set you up for success in married life. Sure, during the course of conversations with your therapist sources of disagreement may come up. For example, maybe you have differing ideas on how to respond to your prickly mother-in-law. Your premarital counselor can facilitate a discussion in which you both feel heard and teach you strategies that you both feel comfortable with so that you can act as a team during disagreements in the future.
Myth: It’s hard to fit premarital counseling into our schedules while planning a wedding.
We hear you! Planning a wedding is time consuming, and often both emotionally and financially stressful. And you’re not just busy with wedding planning — you’re probably working or in graduate school, have a social life, and make time for quality time with each other. That being said, it’s also valuable to devote a few hours to planning for your marriage in addition to the big day! In fact, couples often report that they enjoy premarital counseling sessions because it helps to zoom out from the wedding stress and focus on the reason they’re getting married in the first place — the amazing love and bond you share with your partner! In terms of scheduling, the premarital counselors at Emily Cook Therapy offer appointments every day of the week, including evenings and weekends. Sometimes, couples even like to get brunch or dinner after their premarital sessions as a fun break from wedding planning, and to continue the productive conversations they’ve just had with their therapist!
Myth: Because premarital counseling can be expensive, we’re better off using that money for something else in our wedding budget like flowers or an extra dessert.
Through my work as both a premarital counselor and marriage therapist, I can tell you from experience that preventative relationship health is really, really important. I specialize in helping couples repair and enrich their relationship, and there may be no more important time to do that than in preparation for marriage. In premarital counseling, you’ll spend only about 8-10 hours with a therapist, but the impacts of those discussions can last a lifetime. Premarital counseling at Emily Cook Therapy is designed to be helpful, strengths-based, and fun. We focus on important aspects of marriage like communication and conflict resolution, finances and the role of money, sex and intimacy, the influences of friends and family, and balancing time together and time apart. Compared to the thousands and thousands of dollars you’ll likely spend on your wedding and honeymoon, consider the hundreds you’ll spend on premarital counseling as a very worthy investment in your marriage. Long after the cake has been eaten and the flowers have wilted, premarital counseling makes sure you have the relationship tools and skills needed for a long, happy life together.
This post was written by Kaitlin Doyle, an experienced premarital counselor and marriage and family therapist at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD.