Premarital counseling prepares couples for long-term commitment and can go a far way toward increasing marital satisfaction. While this form of therapy is traditionally conducted face-to-face, couples also have the option of engaging in premarital counseling online.
What is Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling is a form of therapy designed to help couples enhance their readiness for marriage. This is done by helping partners to identify issues in their relationship and equipping them with the skills needed to work through present and future conflicts. Couples express their individual needs, preferences, and expectations regarding marriage and learn to resolve differences in ways that are mutually satisfying.
Premarital counseling is usually provided by licensed marriage and family therapists. However, some religious leaders offer counsel to engaged couples as a precondition for conducting their marriage ceremony. Couples typically meet with a therapist for five to seven sessions of premarital counseling. Online sessions help to make the process easier and can be used exclusively or in combination with in-person sessions.
Why Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling helps couples to better prepare for the demands of marriage. Within the context of a supportive environment, they learn to communicate more effectively and get the chance to explore topics they might otherwise find difficult to discuss.
Premarital counseling also draws people’s attention to weaknesses in their relationship so these can be addressed in a constructive way. It goes a step further by helping couples to anticipate future problems that could undermine their relationship so they are prepared if and when these arise.
The experience of premarital counseling helps to foster a more favorable attitude toward therapy in general. Couples who engage in premarital counseling are usually more willing to seek marriage counseling should it become necessary later in their relationship. Preliminary studies also suggest that premarital counseling may lower the risk of divorce.
Many marital problems can be avoided if couples put as much effort into planning for their marriage as they do for their wedding. One way couples can do this is by actively thinking about issues they need to discuss before marriage and then spending time to work through them together. While it is not possible to anticipate every possible scenario that could develop, the following questions can alert couples to aspects of their relationship they may have overlooked but need to address before marriage.
How do We Handle Family Stress?
Stress is a natural part of life and marriage brings its own fair share of it. Although each individual has his or her own unique way of managing stress, it is important for couples to consider how well these methods complement each other. What if both partners have a tendency to lash out or to fall apart when under pressure? What if one person has the habit of completely shutting the other out whenever difficulties arise? What if one partner prefers to talk through matters together but the other would rather deal with stress privately? By openly discussing these issues before getting married, couples achieve a deeper understanding of each other and are better prepared to handle family stress as a cohesive unit.
How do We Handle Family Finances?
Few things create as much conflict between married couples as the subject of money. Differences in income, spending habits and attitudes toward debt can place a huge strain on a marriage. Couples must address sensitive issues such as whether or not to keep their finances separate, who should cover various expenses, how much to spend on their first home, or whether to purchase a home in the first place. Conflicts often arise when individuals fail to disclose important details of their financial situation early in a relationship. Finding out after marriage that one’s partner has an enormous debt or a huge backlog in unpaid child support hardly bodes well for the relationship. By being honest and open with each other about matters such as these, couples can spare themselves major headaches and heartaches later on.
How do We Handle Family Decisions?
Couples are faced with numerous decisions in marriage—where to live, how much money to spend, if and when to start a family, just to name a few. Before walking down the aisle, it is a good idea for couples to agree on what types of decisions need to be made together and how they will go about making such decisions. If one person always insists on having the last say, that is a major red flag which should be addressed before marriage. It is also wise for couples to discuss how they will handle situations where they strongly disagree about a particular matter.
Should We Have Kids?
In most Western cultures, few individuals enter marriage without broaching the topic of kids—should they have any and if so, how many? The problem is that even when couples agree on these matters before marriage, their preferences could change afterward. How do they handle such a situation? What if they find out that they cannot conceive naturally? How do they feel about issues such as adoption, surrogacy, and in-vitro fertilization? Once children are in the picture, how will they be cared for? Will one partner become a stay-at-home parent? All of these are matters that should be thoroughly discussed before exchanging vows.
How do We Handle Jobs and Careers?
Since an individual’s job or career has many implications for family life, it is important that couples are clear on each other’s attitudes and expectations regarding work. Will both partners work after marriage or after having children? Is it expected that one or both partners will change jobs in the future, perhaps switching to a less demanding job or seeking a higher paying one? What if these expectations are not met? How committed are both individuals to their jobs or career? How will work affect the amount of time they spend with each other? What if one partner unexpectedly loses his or her job or suddenly decides to quit? And if one partner starts earning significantly more or less than before, how would that affect the relationship?
How do We Handle Personal Space?
Marriage is intended to be a close partnership between two people. But even the most devoted couples need a little space to themselves every once in a while. Whether it’s a few hours alone with the TV remote, a night out on the town with the girls, or a whole week away with the guys, couples must learn to acknowledge and respect this need in their partner. In many cases, problems arise because partners differ greatly in their individual need for personal space. Without communication and mutual understanding in this regard, one partner could be left feeling smothered, lonely, rejected or resentful toward his or her mate.
What Role do Family and Friends Play in Our Marriage?
It’s important to maintain a support system after marriage, but if couples fail to agree on appropriate boundaries, their friends and relatives may drive a serious wedge between them. Among the questions couples need to consider are: How comfortable am I around my partner’s extended family and close friends? Is it okay for my partner to discuss marital plans or problems with them? How involved will the in-laws be in our lives and how involved will we need to be in theirs? What if they become ill and need ongoing care and support? What if family members or friends ask for money? Am I comfortable with my partner communicating with his or her ex? What if my mate has a child with a previous partner, how will that affect our relationship? Needless to say, these are matters best discussed before, not after, marriage.
How do We Handle Conflict?
For couples caught up in a whirlwind romance, a discussion about conflict might be the last thing on their minds. But no marriage is perfect and once the honeymoon phase wears off, couples will have to put their conflict management skills to good use if they want their marriage to survive. Knowing how the other person handles disagreements is important when planning for the future. What if one person insists on resolving conflicts as soon as they arise but the other prefers to wait until he or she is calm? What if one person has a tendency to give the silent treatment or to withhold sex when there is an argument? Do partners tend to say or do things in the heat of the moment that they later regret? How easy is it for them to apologize to each other? And at what point in a conflict would it be okay to ask a neutral party to intervene?
How do We Approach Our Sex Life?
There’s no denying that sex is a big part of marriage. Yet, despite its significance, few couples spend enough time openly discussing their needs, desires, and expectations regarding sex. This is sometimes true even of couples who become intimate before marriage. But by avoiding a frank, honest discussion on the subject, couples risk becoming sexually frustrated and dissatisfied with their partners. How big a role is sex expected to play in their relationship? What if they differ greatly in terms of sexual desire? What if one partner’s interest in sex changes significantly due to illness, stress, or other factors? What are their thoughts regarding things like pornography and open marriages? What sexual acts are definitely off the table? True, it might be uncomfortable, if not difficult, to have these conversations but the benefits of doing so will be apparent long into a marriage.
Challenges of Premarital Counseling
The decision to engage in premarital counseling can arouse feelings of anxiety in some individuals. Whether it’s the thought of revealing one’s deepest emotions in the presence of a complete stranger, the possibility of uncovering hidden aspects of oneself or one’s partner, or the uncertainty of what to expect in therapy, persons may approach premarital counseling with a degree of hesitancy. Fortunately, they can overcome these fears with the help of a supportive therapist.
Other individuals might be uncomfortable discussing some of the sensitive topics typically raised in premarital counseling, such as sex and money. If these topics were never discussed before, some of their partner’s revelations may be experienced as shocking or hurtful. Nevertheless, if partners commit to working through their differences, they often emerge from therapy with a stronger bond than they had before.
The cost of premarital counseling can sometimes present a major challenge for couples. In light of all the expenses associated with planning a wedding, it is no surprise that some couples have difficulty finding counseling services that fit within their budget. It can also be a challenge for couples with busy schedules to find the time needed to attend all their sessions. This is especially true in cases where no suitable therapists are available in their area.
Premarital Counseling Online
In today’s technological age, an increasing number of therapists are beginning to see the benefits of offering premarital counseling online. This is often accomplished through the use of video conferencing programs such as Skype and FaceTime. When time, cost, and access to local therapists are an issue, online therapy may be the best option for couples due to the flexibility and convenience it affords. It is also ideal in cases where couples are involved in long distance relationships or frequently travel for work or other reasons.
Couples who opt for online therapy explore the same sort of issues they would in face-to-face sessions with a therapist. The advantage of doing premarital counseling online is that they may feel more at ease with the process since they can remain in the comfort of their own homes. However, if couples are experiencing major issues in their relationship such as addiction or abuse, or if tensions are running unusually high, face-to-face sessions might prove more effective.
If a couple is seriously considering marriage, it can be beneficial to speak to a licensed marriage and family therapist at Thrive Talk. Thrive Talk offers affordable premarital counseling online and all services are available in just a few swipes or clicks. Thrive Talk gives couples the opportunity to build for the long-term. Partners can learn how to resolve current issues and avoid future conflicts, today!
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