Premarital counseling is a common practice amongst engaged couples, especially those who are affiliated with the Catholic Church or other spiritual institutions. It’s a way to make sure that each person is on the same page in terms of future life choices, including raising children and dealing with financial issues.
Sometimes the thought of seeing a counselor leaves people feeling uncomfortable, and many couples opt out of this team-building experience. They feel that “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” (see: How to Know if Your Relationship is Healthy) Another deterrent is the misconception that any sort of therapy is for people who already have issues. It can be scary to hear that your partner wants to seek professional help for your relationship before the marriage has even begun, so it’s up to you to put their insecurities to rest. The purpose of premarital counseling is not to tear the couple apart; it is to fuse them together.
With the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, begin by telling your partner than you don’t want to be a part of that statistic. If they love you as much as you love them, they will agree with you wholeheartedly.
Explain that premarital counseling isn’t meant to criticize the here and now. Rather, its sole purpose is to build bridges of communication so you can solve the inevitable problems that will come your way before they hit. It’s like having a game plan for the marriage.
*If the husband-to-be is the skeptical one, relate it to a football huddle!
Look at all of the successful marriages around you. Surely they’ve had their ups and downs, but the happy couple always pulls through with flying colors. Why is that? Start poking around and find out which of these couples partook in premarital counseling. You’ll often hear that couples came out of the counseling disagreeing on certain subjects, but just knowing that they felt differently made all the difference in how things were handled during married life. Opposites are known to attract, and what makes those couples work is a healthy understanding of their differences.
On the other hand, give your partner a precautionary tale or two. Show them couples who didn’t make it. Point out the major catalyst in the demise of their relationship, and explain in which ways counseling would have covered that issue.
Give a Head’s Up
Whenever a person is about to experience something unknown, it helps to let them know what to expect beforehand. The counseling isn’t meant to blindside you. Explain to your partner that the areas of discussion will revolve around raising children, personal values, religious beliefs, finances, sexual intimacy, emotions, household expectations, goals, personal hobbies, etc.
These topics may make you both squirm a little as you think about sharing the answers with a stranger, but knowing the areas of discussion ahead of time will ease you into the right mindset. In fact, knowing what’s coming will inadvertently get you both thinking about how you feel before even stepping foot in the office, which will in turn make the process go smoothly.
Engage in an Example
Give your partner some food for thought. In counseling, you may discuss how you want to discipline your future children. We either repeat what we were taught by our own parents, or we rebel and concoct our own way of parenting. See if you’re on the same page. If you aren’t, splice together your ideals and praise your partner for working with you. Once they see that you can solve a future problem by talking beforehand, they may not view the counseling as such an imposing negative.
If your partner is absolutely adamant about not wanting to see a counselor, there are other options—although, refusal to consider your wishes may be an issue in itself that will surface after the wedding.
There are countless self-help books in the world, and many revolve around marriage health. In fact, some of them are specific to premarital counseling topics. Meet in the middle by reading a couple of these together prior to the wedding. The point is to make sure you can accept the other person’s views on important issues so, if you’re both able to be completely honest without a professional guide, take responsibility and hash it out on your own terms.