Pre Marriage Counseling -
Do You NEED It?
Getting married without having had pre marriage counseling is simply not a wise decision. Why? Well, consider the stats: 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and of those that stay together, only 50% are reportedly "happy marriages."
So basically you have a 1 in 4 chance of making it to that desired "happily married" status that you dream of before getting married.
This is a huge potential problem. So why not take some preventative measures and make sure that your upcoming marriage has a good a chance as possible?
Wouldn't you do the same for anything else important in life? If you were starting a business wouldn't you make some preparations first? If you were buying a new car, wouldn't you do first do some research on the model you were interested in, comparing it to several other cars?
Of COURSE you would!! Then what in the WORLD would keep you from investing some time, preparation, and research into making your marriage successful?- (a marriage that will hopefully last you a lot longer than a new car, and maybe even a business!)?
What you may not know is that the gloomy statistic given above (50% failure rate of marriages) drops to less than 10% for couples who have been through some sort of pre marital counseling... so as you can see, this is definitely a worthwhile venture!
Research shows that pre marriage counseling is most effective from one year before the wedding, up until 6 months after the wedding. Why? Because this is the time-frame you have before bad habits start to creep in and become harder to break. Like with most negative things, "nipping them in the bud" is usually the best way to go!
What is Pre Marriage Counseling and
What Should You be Looking for?
The most common place to get pre marital counseling is through a religious place like your church, temple, synagogue, etc. Another route you can take is to go to a private secular counselor. The time range can be anywhere from 1-2 sessions up to 8-10 sessions, taking from about 2 weeks to 4 months. It all depends on the content that you cover, the depth that you cover it in, and the format used (eg- if it is group counseling the sessions will obviously be longer than if the counselor is just focusing on the two of you).
Whatever type/format of pre marriage counseling you choose, you should really make sure ahead of time that it covers a few key areas. These include (but are not limited to):
- Your family backgrounds (the families you grew up in)
- Expectations for your marriage
- Marriage Compatibility
- How you each give and receive love
- Conflict styles and resolution
- Sex and intimacy
- Interests and long-term goals
- Communication styles
If you're interested in going for pre marital counseling, I'd highly suggest that you either check with your church (or a church in your area if you don't usually go to one), or ask friends who have recently gotten married who they went to for counseling. Word-of-mouth is often the best way to go.
What We Did
Andrew and I decided to go for pre marriage counseling shortly before getting engaged. This was so that if we happened to find out anything during counseling that made us change our minds about wanting to spend the rest of our lives together, we could save ourselves the embarrassment, hassle, and heartbreak of having to call off our engagement.
Our pre marriage counseling was actually in the format of something called "Home-Based Marital Mentoring," which we were hooked up with by our church. It involved us meeting about 8 times in the home of an older married couple from our church, and going through a booklet with them. Although neither the husband or wife were professional counsellors, they had lots of life and marriage experience, and we used a booklet written by another couple who had the qualifications of Pastor, Psychologist, and Marriage & Family Therapist.
This booklet was called a "Marriage Expectation Inventory," and was divided into 12 topics, each of which had many open-ended questions. Andrew and I each had our own copy, and our "homework" each week was to answer the questions in the assigned section independently (without showing each other). This definitely made the suspense build up throughout the week!
Then, each weekend when we met with our mentoring couple, they would lead us in sharing our answers with each other, adding their own comments and suggestions for us.
Overall, it was a great experience for us, and gave us a lot of confidence that we were on the right track with our relationship, and had a good foundation for getting engaged and married. It was also neat to have our mentoring couple be at our wedding, to see them at church every week, and to have one final session with them after about 6 months of being married. This last session was just to see how everything was going, and if we had any questions or concerns about marriage that they could help us with.
Andrew and I both agreed that it was a really positive experience, and something we both believe in so much that we'd like to be the "mentoring couple" one day, doing this program with younger couples planning to get married. (I think you have to have been married at least 10 years to qualify though, so we'll have to a wait a bit:))
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