What You Should Know About Pre-Wedding Counseling

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By now, it’s hope­ful­ly at least four to six months before your wed­ding. Aside from con­tin­ued plan­ning, there’s also anoth­er valu­able task that’s worth your time and ener­gy: Pre-wed­ding coun­sel­ing. Yes, there may be a deep sigh in there some­where, and it’s like­ly you’re ques­tion­ing whether or not some­thing like this is even impor­tant. In all hon­esty, though, it’s prob­a­bly one of the most crit­i­cal steps you can take in prepar­ing for your mar­riage.

What is Pre-Wedding Counseling?

It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about your fiance like nev­er before. You may think you know enough already, espe­cial­ly if you’ve been togeth­er for sev­er­al years. There’s a good chance you do; how­ev­er, that shouldn’t be a rea­son to write-off the idea of pre-mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing. This kind of coun­sel­ing is valu­able because it digs deep­er to uncov­er feel­ings and opin­ions of life’s pleas­antries and dif­fi­cul­ties, all of which will undoubt­ed­ly sur­face dur­ing a mar­riage. Below is a size­able list of exam­ple top­ics dis­cussed dur­ing ther­a­py:

  • Affec­tion
  • Beliefs
  • Con­flict man­age­ment and res­o­lu­tion
  • Com­mu­ni­ca­tion
  • Deci­sion-mak­ing
  • Exes
  • Expec­ta­tions
  • Fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships
  • Finances
  • House­hold chores
  • Kids and par­ent­ing
  • Mis­un­der­stand­ings
  • Sex
  • Time
  • Val­ues
  • Work

The take­away here is that pre-wed­ding coun­sel­ing rec­og­nizes near and dis­tant future issues with­in a rela­tion­ship and address­es them through dis­cus­sion and engage­ment first. In oth­er words, it’s like tak­ing a rela­tion­ship skills class and adding all of life’s what-ifs into the mix. Con­sid­er it more or less, an invest­ment in your future, your part­ner, and your­self. Pre­mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing is also about shar­ing your vision for the future and com­ing up with a game plan to make it hap­pen.

bride and groom in black tuxedo getting married

Where to Start

The first step is to look for a licensed mar­riage and fam­i­ly ther­a­pist. Rec­om­men­da­tions from friends and fam­i­ly are always help­ful, but you can also find some­one through your health insur­ance provider; a work­place assis­tance pro­gram; your offi­ciant, or church if you belong to one; and men­tal health facil­i­ties in your area. As with any­thing, you want to choose a ther­a­pist accord­ing­ly. It’s ben­e­fi­cial to con­sid­er your therapist’s expe­ri­ence with pre­mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing, as well as ses­sion costs, and loca­tion and appoint­ment times. Keep in mind that if you’re get­ting mar­ried at a church, syn­a­gogue, or mosque, or you’re an active mem­ber some­where, pre­mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing is prob­a­bly avail­able there. It may even be free, but some do charge. Either way, typ­i­cal out-of-pock­et expens­es for ther­a­py can range any­where from $50 to $150 per ses­sion.

What Happens at Counseling

Ther­a­pists com­mon­ly admin­is­ter ques­tion­naires, which are usu­al­ly com­plet­ed indi­vid­u­al­ly, and reviewed and shared by the coun­selor after­ward. These ques­tion­naires iden­ti­fy strengths and weak­ness­es, as well as areas for con­cern, and cov­er a wide range of top­ics as pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed in the list men­tioned ear­li­er. While some of these ques­tions are fair­ly sen­si­tive, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that the ulti­mate goal for pre-wed­ding coun­sel­ing is to come up with an action plan for how you can han­dle life and dif­fer­ences togeth­er as a cou­ple.

For plan­ning pur­pos­es, you can usu­al­ly expect ses­sions to last an hour. Keep in mind, the num­ber of meet­ings vary. You may need as few as four ses­sions or as many as 16. This is usu­al­ly some­thing you fig­ure out as you progress in your coun­sel­ing. For more faith-based pro­grams, a spe­cif­ic num­ber of ses­sions or cours­es may be required.

bride and groom praying in church

How to Deal with Conflict in Counseling and in General

Pre­mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing pro­vides an excel­lent frame­work for tack­ling the big­ger pic­ture as a cou­ple, but often times it can lead to dis­agree­ments. Below are some rec­om­men­da­tions for how to han­dle con­flict dur­ing a ses­sion or in gen­er­al.

  • Dis­cuss the issue at hand and be direct. Avoid pas­sive-aggres­sive behav­iors, as well as mop­ing around and engag­ing in hos­til­i­ty.
  • Talk about your feel­ings. Use state­ments like, “I feel blank when you blank. I would like you to blank.” (Of course, you will fill in the first blank with the emo­tion you’re feel­ing, along with the hurt­ful action in the sec­ond blank, fol­lowed by the help­ful action in the third blank.) Avoid say­ings like “you nev­er” or “you always.” These tend to cre­ate blame and demon­strate crit­i­cism.
  • Stick with one dis­cus­sion at a time.
  • Lis­ten.
  • Push aside your objec­tions.
  • Be empa­thet­ic and try to see it from your partner’s view­point.
  • Strive for kind­ness and pos­i­tiv­i­ty.
  • Call for a time-out when and if things get too heat­ed.
  • Don’t make con­temp­tu­ous remarks. This means no name-call­ing, sar­casm, smirks or tak­ing part in any­thing that can belit­tle your part­ner.

Life hap­pens. Plan­ning a wed­ding and get­ting mar­ried is only the begin­ning chap­ter of your life as a cou­ple. There’s no way to know what lies ahead. As Allen Saun­ders puts it, “Life is what hap­pens to us while we are mak­ing oth­er plans.” You may always have the best of inten­tions, but there’s no way to avoid sit­u­a­tions in life that can chal­lenge the strength of your rela­tion­ship (and some­times to its core). It’s all in how you respond and work togeth­er as a cou­ple.

There are so many small details that go into cre­at­ing your dream wed­ding, but that does­n’t mean you should have to stress. Gen­er­a­tion Tux lets you sam­ple your cloth­ing before the big day, in the com­fort of your liv­ing room. See what we have to offer to make your union extra­or­di­nary.

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