The Truth about Pre-Marital Counseling

Revised 5/11/20

There are a few fundamental truths in pre-marital counseling. The first one is that what goes around comes around.

By that, I mean that the very traits that endear your partner to you today might be your biggest complaint about them tomorrow.

Another is family. Decide early you will never allow yourselves to be separated by family members. Your goal in pre-marital counseling is to agree on your core values and develop a strong sense of “we.” Decide solemnly that you are first, last and always… a team.

Sharing values helps, but having values and talking about them intimately helps even more. The social science on the benefits of a spiritual orientation is quite robust and stubborn.

pre-marital counseling

The Kaizen of Your Relationship

Think about your intimate bond in a larger context. What do the two of you stand for? The Japanese have a word that means continuous improvement. That word is kaizen. Think about the kaizen of your relationship.

What could be better? What do you plan to improve together? If there is something either of you is experiencing that is uncomfortable, what could you do instead?  The conversations that you’ll have in pre-marital counseling will invite you both to explore all of this in great detail.

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts

Your relationship is going through and will continue to go through predictable stages. The earliest stage, symbiosis emphasizes your similarities. Pre-marital counseling can help you prepare for a richer and deeper relationship. This will help you as you both discover some real differences between you.

Remember that it’s a useful lie to believe that you chose your partner because they are perfect for you to work out all of the bad JuJu from your parents. Someone once said that marriage was a place to grow yourself up. They were right.

Working on an assessment tool such as the Big Big Book can help you uncover your partner’s goals and values are on a variety of issues. This will build confidence that you are a solid couple, and point out areas that might require deeper conversation and growth.

Crucial Guidance for Intimate Conversations

Religion, beliefs about drugs and alcohol, having children, finances, habits, in-law issues, and a bunch of other important questions should all be unpacked and discussed. Even if you can communicate well, there may be some predictable issues you’d like some help growing through. Pre-marital counseling will provide you with talking points and crucial guidance for these intimate conversations.

Assessment is crucial. The Gottman Method is a science-based couples therapy, but it can also help you and your partner understand exactly how your family, culture, and values have impacted you. Our clinical goal is to help you both reflect more deeply on the beliefs you have in common, and where areas of difference might create predictable challenges in the future.

Gottman pre-marital counseling will also help you debunk the 5 myths about pre-marital conflict, and help you both learn to manage conflict with skill.

Assessment for New Couples

When we do pre-marital counseling, we ask each partner to complete their own Big Big Book, just like married couples. We want to understand the impact on you both from your families of origin, and why the two of you made sense to each other as a chosen life partner.

The Big Big Book is a science-based diagnostic questionnaire. Science-based assessment will identify your strengths as a couple, your opportunities for mutual growth, and areas where a possible problem might show up in the future.

pre-marital counseling

Saving Before Starting…

In many cases, pre-marital counseling is more about saving your marriage before it starts, rather than treating serious ongoing conflict.

Pre-marital counseling promotes discussion and awareness of real and potential differences. With our help, you can address these topics in a direct and proactive manner as newlyweds.

We will review the findings from your Big Big Books, and help you to dig deeper into the lessons you learned from your parents about intimate relationships. Then we help you enter a heartfelt dialogue about your future, and what it will be like for you both to move through time together.

True Facts You Should Know About Premarital Counseling

  • Here is the big one…If you go into pre-marital counseling now, before your wedding, research says you will have a 30% higher marital success rate than if you decide against it. This is a huge difference. Science-based marital counseling is almost like an insurance policy against failure.
  • The average amount of time that a couple will spend in premarital counseling is only about 8 hours of actual therapy.
  • Pre-marital counseling has never been more popular than it is today.
  • 44% of couples today decide on some sort of premarital counseling before their wedding. Only about 7% of engaged couples wanted it 50 years or so ago.
  • 93% of Americans say a happy marriage is essential.
  • 40% of married couples report that their lives are happy.
  • Only 18% of people who are divorced say they are happy.
  • More than 1 million children become entangled in their parent’s divorce every year. Research tells us that this experience increases their chances in adulthood of also eventually divorcing, continuing the cycle to the next generation.
  • Children who come from married families are more likely to get a college education than children of divorce. Divorce has long-term financial consequences that parents don’t even realize.
  • Only 10% of children in a two-parent household have behavioral problems. Happy marriages mean happy and well-adjusted kids.

Is it a Good Idea to Get Pre-Marital Counseling?

Will premarital counseling help you? Are you a cross-cultural couple? Or do you just come from very different families of origin? How would you describe your ability to communicate? What is it like when the two of you struggle? Could you both be using the same words, but describing different things? What did your parents teach you about being married?

Every marriage will have its share of challenges. But right now, you’re probably in the honeymoon phase, excited to start your lives together as a married couple. Gottman pre-marital counseling will help you learn more about each other’s Love Maps so that you can stay connected. If you want help talking through the issues in your lives — and I mean really talking — it’s smart to get pre-marital counseling and learn how to do it early… while you are still engaged.

Ask Us About Science-Based Pre-Marital Counseling

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist and the blog editor. He currently works with couples online and in person. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and Developmental Models in his approaches. Daniel specializes in working with neurodiverse couples, couples that are recovering from an affair, and couples struggling with conflict avoidant and passive aggressive behavior patterns.

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