The Right Start

By Christopher Crown

January 19, 2018 5 min read

It can be easy to lose track of the finer relationship details in the hustle and bustle of wedding planning and house hunting. However paradoxical it may seem, before you tie the knot, it can help to go to couples counseling. Though many couples entranced in the honeymoon phase brush off the concept of pre-wedding counseling, it can be an amazing tool for building stability in your relationship and exposing potential problems that would be easier to prevent than repair. Although it might not have the most romantic prenuptial flair or be the easiest on new couples' wallets, pre-wedding counseling can pay off in the long run.

Contributors from The Knot -- a resource, both in print and online, for planning healthy, cost-effective and long-lasting weddings and marriages -- state that the ability to discuss expectations is the main benefit from pre-wedding counseling. Whether couples dive headfirst into a marriage without discussing what their views on married life are or there are unspoken issues and miscommunications that have been present in the relationship thus far, it is easier to bring these to the table before the whirlwind of marriage than afterward. The Knot notes that after the wedding, there is an expectation that everything should be perfect for a while, and this mirage can make it hard to start dialogues on early problems. Solving these later, after years of unfulfilled expectations, can lead to a lot of struggle and much more time spent in counseling later.

Pre-wedding counseling provides a third-party view on the relationship and illuminates aspects of the relationship that could lead to stability or strife. Greg Smalley, a marriage counselor from Focus on the Family, an online database and outreach program for building healthy marriages, states that pre-wedding counseling can give valuable insight into whether the person you're dating is truly the right one to marry. In the excitement of getting more serious, some people overlook key relationship weaknesses. Having an unbiased person you didn't previously know analyze the effectiveness of your plans and communication can be invaluable. Additionally, when it comes to subjects that often get heated (children, parents, intimacy, finances), it can be very helpful to have a bystander to help mediate conversation and keep everyone focused on solving the issues, not on winning arguments, say contributors for GoodTherapy.org, a web-based project that helps people find the right therapist for them.

Studies show that beyond making the transition to married life easier, pre-wedding counseling helps couples stay together because they are able to lay important relationship groundwork. In a study published in 2006, University of Denver psychologist Scott Stanley found that among the people he surveyed, premarital counseling reduced the likelihood of divorce by 31 percent. Additionally, The Gottman Institute, a couples therapy clinic founded by therapists John and Julie Gottman, found that in the absence of pre-wedding counseling, couples waited an average of six years before seeking counseling about existing issues. Overall, it can be better to invest in the habit of counseling before issues even arise.

Although there are innumerable benefits of pre-wedding counseling, there are some challenges to this practice. Contributors for the Mayo Clinic's online database emphasize that couples can expect to discuss challenging aspects of the relationship during counseling. Whether it be potential areas of weakness that are easier to gloss over, past failed relationships or even childhood traumas that could influence married life, a tough topic can lead to some anxiety or discomfort in the short term. And not all couples can afford pre-wedding counseling. Certified couples therapists can be very pricey, and the additional resources, including books and videos, could stretch the budgets of some new couples. GoodTherapy.org advises couples for whom price could be a limiting factor to search local listings for discount therapy services or work through a place of worship.

It may not seem like the most instinctual step to slow down the fervor of a future marriage to focus on the trickier parts, but it can prove crucial to build the ark before the rain.

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