Whether someone recommended premarital counseling to you, be it your officiant or a friend, or you and your significant other are merely entertaining the idea yourselves (good for you!), you’re on the right track. Premarital counseling can be immensely helpful for a soon-to-be married couple about to enter the most exciting, and most life-changing chapter of their life together. It’s also incredibly beneficial. “Premarital counseling can help couples create a strong, happy marriage that brings happiness, health, wealth and well-being not only to the two people, but to their children, their children, and the generations after them,” says Elizabeth Sloan, LPC, LCPC, at Caring Couples, Happy Lives, with offices in McLean, Virginia and Glenn Dale, Maryland. “It not only helps you get to know yourself and your partner better, but it also teaches you about your similarities and differences and instructs you on how to create a roadmap for your life together.” But those aren’t the only perks of premarital counseling!
Here are some other surprising benefits of premarital counseling, according to the therapists who help real couples through it.
You can get to know each other in a deeper way.
You might think you know everything you need to know about your partner and some, but you might be surprised to uncover new and interesting things about his or her childhood, family life or personal interests through premarital counseling. “People are complicated and have unique life stories—premarital counseling gives you a way to share how past relationships, family experiences and other factors make you each who you are,” says Sloan. “You can find out where each of you may have ‘sore spots’ that need to be handled with love and care.”
You can learn good communication and problem skills.
Believe it or not, but fighting is a normal part of a healthy relationship. However, how you fight is important, and makes all the difference. In premarital counseling, healthy fighting ground rules are often covered, as is the case during sessions with Jessica Cline, MSW, LCSW, psychotherapist and owner of Cline Counseling & Consulting, LLC. “We set up a contract for what fair fighting rules may look like for the couple. Every relationship will experience conflict, the desire is not to prevent the conflict but to embrace it and deal with it. The secret to a healthy relationship is management of conflict not prevention of conflict.
You can nurture your intimacy.
Even if you sleep side-by-side each night, you might not be tuning into each other as intimately as you once did (especially with all of the stress brought on by wedding planning). In premarital counseling, you can learn how to manage the intimacy in your relationship through understanding how you deal with emotion. “Most people learn about handling emotions in childhood, and learn to think certain feelings, such as love, are good, while other feelings, such as anger, are bad,” explains Sloan. “We bring those philosophies about emotion into our marriage and if we aren’t aware of them, we can end up arguing about which emotions are okay, and which are not.”
You can learn to work out your differences.
Chances are, you have a different personality than your significant other—and that’s a good thing! We all have differences; that’s what makes us special. However, sometimes these differences can cause a rift in our relationship. These kinks can be worked out in premarital counseling. “The key to a happy marriage is to understand your personality differences and let them work for you, and not against you,” adds Sloane.
You can adjust your expectations.
We all have deeply held beliefs about how to handle the big areas in life—money, sex, romance, kids, etc., points out Sloane. While we might share some beliefs with our partner, we might not share others. ”Premarital counseling gives us a way to explore our expectations together,” says Sloan. “In premarital counseling, couples can take online assessments that quickly give them an overview of where their beliefs overlap, and where they don’t.”
You can figure out how best to handle your finances.
While premarital counseling isn’t akin to a meeting with your financial advisor, it can help you better communicate sensitive and hot-button topics such as money, which is cited as a source of conflict for couples and a contributing reason for divorce. “Most couples I work with have different ideals in regards to how they see money handled,” explains Cline. “Since money represents shared dreams, power and fear, there is potential for major conflict when they are not handled thoughtfully.”