You and your fiancé have worked hard to get all the preparations for your wedding just right. You have picked the perfect dress, rings, and cake. You have invested in a photographer, coordinator and of course the perfect honeymoon. But what preparations have you made for your marriage? Did you considered adding pre-marital counseling into your plans? Or do you just keep saying to yourselves, “There’s just no way! Our schedules are already so busy. Where in the world would we find time for pre-marital counseling between making all the reservations and addressing invitations? Besides, we have talked things through and know we are made for each other. Who needs counseling? It’s not really all that important is it?”
Unfortunately, that’s what many engaged couples are saying to themselves. But the fact of the matter is that one out of every two marriages will end in divorce…and most of them also thought that they were perfect for each other and that preparing for the marriage just wasn’t all that important. Research is showing that only about 25 – 30 % of couples take the time to invest in adequate pre-marital counseling. But, for those couples who do make this a priority, the risk of divorce is reduced by 30%. Just imagine the long term effects of taking some time out of your busy schedules right now to make sure you have all the skills you need to help your marriage defy all odds and really make it to “happily ever after.”
You may be nervous about evaluating your relationship at this stage of the game. You may worry that you will find out that you aren’t as compatible as you thought or that the counselor may tell you not to get married. But this is very seldom the case. Pre-marital counseling is not as much about evaluating whether or not your relationship will work as it is about giving you the necessary information and skills to help make sure it does. Good skill based pre-marital training or education can help couples prepare for the challenges and conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship. Becoming aware of your strengths as well as those areas that may need a little additional attention is the key to a long lasting and thriving marriage.
You may be saying to yourself, “That all sounds good, but why not just wait and see if we end up having problems and seek counseling then?” Well, here’s why. Researchers in the field of marital relationships have identified that there is a window of opportunity during which couples are best able to learn healthy habits that benefit their relationship. That window is the year before the wedding up to six months or so after. Waiting later than that causes negative habits and communication patterns to become more established and therefore much harder to resolve.
So just what are some of the benefits of pre-marital counseling? Here are just a few:
- You will openly discuss topics that influence every marriage, such as finances, children and parenting, sex, spiritual beliefs and family of origin issues.
- You will identify your strengths as a couple and be more assured of those parts of your relationship that are working well for the two of you.
- You will be able to identify areas of your relationship that need some extra attention in order for the two of you to reach a better understanding of each other and of how you want to resolve these differences.
- You will spend time preparing for the adjustments that marriage brings and working toward identifying, understanding, and evaluating each other’s expectations.
- With all that said, I would like to strongly urge you to consider investing now in a marriage that could last a lifetime. It very likely may be the best investment you ever make.
Debbie L. Cherry, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
President of Eaglecrest Counseling Center