My wife, Michelle, and I went through six premarital counseling sessions with the pastor who conducted our wedding ceremony and his wife. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about why premarital counseling is a good idea. There are many benefits, and I’m sure I won’t cover them all. But here are at least some of the benefits of premarital counseling.
Will you have children? If so, how many? Will both of you work or just one? Where will you live? Who will be in charge of which chores? How much personal time will you give each other? Some of these questions may seem like they can wait until later, and many couples don’t discuss these things until after the wedding. It’s good to thoroughly discuss your expectations as early as possible before you’re actually married so you can prepare for what lies ahead. By talking about these things early on, you avoid the problem of misunderstandings and misconceptions later on.
Sure you’re in love, and you feel like you’re on top of the world after your engagement. But it’s highly unlikely that you and your future spouse are completely compatible in every aspect of your personalities, habits, viewpoints, and goals. Premarital counseling helps you identify the areas where you may be incompatible. Once you bring these issues to light, you can discuss them deeper and determine if there are any deal breakers. While it may not be fun, calling the wedding off now is much easier and better than a divorce in a few years.
Good communication is essential to a successful marriage. (I’d say it’s right up there with love. 😉 ) During premarital counseling, you’ll learn a little more about each other’s communication styles and discuss methods for effective communication. These techniques will greatly improve your chances of having good communication during marriage and your happiness as well.
Related to the communication issue is conflict resolution. When problems arise, and they will, how will you work together to solve them? How will you deal with each other when you have a heated argument? Premarital counseling will teach you ways to successfully resolve conflicts and help you set ground rules that you both agree to before any problems arise.
If you and your spouse have saved yourselves for marriage, you’ll want to understand each other’s intimacy expectations and comfort levels prior to your wedding night. It may be an awkward conversation to have with a premarital counselor, but again, setting expectations is key. Even if you have had sex before marriage, it’s important to discuss your expectations during marriage. Hopefully, you would have already discussed any past relationships, but if not this would be the time to bring them up. Skeletons in the closet can create disastrous problems in your marriage. Your pride is not worth the possibility of ruining an otherwise happy marriage.
Another major area to discuss is your long-term goals. What are your career prospects and how will this affect your marriage? When do you want to retire? How do you envision your lifestyle together? What are your most important goals? By discussing these questions prior to marriage, you can avoid finding out that your goals are not aligned at all. Most couples will have discussed these things before setting a wedding date, but they’re still important enough to cover once more.
What Does Premarital Counseling Have to Do with Personal Finance?
One major area of discussion is finances. You’ll talk about responsibilities and budgeting as well as any other financial issues that may be pertinent. Other topics may include your financial history, freedom to purchase items without your spouse’s approval, and your financial views. Preparing for your finances before marriage will help alleviate stress about money—often noted as one of the main causes of divorce. It will also help set you up for a successful financial future, since a budget and financial compatibility will form a strong foundation for finances in your marriage.
Additionally, research has shown that premarital counseling reduces the chance of divorce by 30%. Divorce can wreak havoc on your emotions and your finances, so any steps you can take to avoid it are good financial moves indeed. While premarital counseling can’t guarantee you won’t end up getting a divorce, the training in communication and conflict resolution and the discussion of expectations, compatibility, intimacy, goals, and finances will definitely help you deal with some of the main causes of divorce. It also gives you a chance to commit to each other that divorce is not an option – strengthening your marriage and encouraging you to work all things out together rather than seeking separation.
I highly recommend all couples go through premarital counseling before the wedding. If you’re going to spend so much time planning for your wedding day, it makes sense to take a little time to plan for a successful marriage to last the rest of your lives!
I would highly recommend using the same book we did if you’re going through premarital counseling. Most counselors will have their own recommendations, but if yours doesn’t you should check out Called Together. You’ll need two copies (one for each of you), but they’re only $13.86 a piece (or cheaper if you buy used).