Anxious about the idea of marriage and not sure why? Or just want to be sure you are making the right decision? Premarital counselling is growing in popularity and might be for you.
What is premarital counselling?
It’s just what it sounds like. It’s counselling to address all your concerns about making your relationship a long-term commitment and legal contract.
We aren’t engaged yet. Can we attend premarital therapy?
Of course. You don’t have to already be engaged or have set a date. Any couple who feels they could benefit from talking to someone about their issues before making a long-term commitment is free to attend sessions.
Is premarital counselling any different than couples counselling?
You will be working with a couples counsellor. The difference is that you will be focussed on discussing how you want your life together to look, and what your worries and concerns are about entering into marriage.
But, similar to couples counselling, you will find yourself airing and resolving old issues and learning better communication skills.
Do we have to do premarital counselling through a religious institution?
Any registered couples counsellor can provide premarital counselling. If you want to do counselling through, say, your church, and there is a minister who is trained to offer such a service it is of course your choice.
If you don’t share a religion, however, it’s not a good idea to do counselling with a church or temple where one partner goes. It means the counselling will be biased against the other partner.
What kind of things do people talk about in premarital counselling?
You can talk about anything you want. It’s your decision. You are, after all, paying for the privilege. Common issues are:
How will we really benefit if we decide to give it a go?
Can’t we just navigate all this ourselves?
You can try. But most couples get entrenched in patterns of conflict that can be very hard to end alone — it’s a ‘can’t see the woods for the trees’ situation. We are so caught up in our habitual behaviours we don’t recognise what we are doing or what our other options are.
If you were able to navigate conflict, disagreements, and the decision about marriage alone, the truth is that you probably already would have.
Why should I pay someone to tell me what to do?
You shouldn’t. A good therapist never tells you what to do. That would be futile. You’d leave therapy and then you’d go back to old habits.
A therapist is not there to give you answers but to help you find your own answers that work for both of you. They are trained at very advanced listening, and know how to ask just the right questions to help you shift perspective and understand each other. They also help you communicate better.
Can just any therapist offer premarital counselling?
They could, but they shouldn’t. Premarital counselling should be carried out by a therapist who is trained in some form of couples therapy or family counselling. And if you aren’t sure about a therapists training and experience, ask. You have every right to know, and should know. Use your first session to have all your questions answered.
What if I or my partner don’t like the therapist we have chosen?
Therapy is like dating. It’s hard to get to know someone over a quick coffee, and it’s hard to know a therapist over one quick 45-minute session.
Four sessions is usually the best target – a first session where you get your questions answered and give a background, then three sessions where you do real work. Many clients find a click happens on only the third or fourth session.
That said, you are the one hiring the therapist. If you really don’t like them, just be honest that you don’t think it worked.
But don’t hold one therapist up as proof others will not work for you. Again, it’s like dating…. If we all stopped dating after one bad date there would be very few couples in the world.
Are there any new advances in premarital counselling?
Yes. You can now do it online! And you can both be in different locations — your therapist can setup a video conference.
This is especially helpful if one or both of you is often travelling with work, meaning you can still keep your weekly appointments.
If you aren’t sure if video counselling really works or is for you, go read our article discussing research around online relationship therapy.
Ready to try premarital therapy? We provide top premarital counsellors in central London, or use our booking platform to find UK-wide registered therapists and online counsellors.
Still have a question about premarital counselling? Ask below.
Andrea Blundell is the writer and lead editor of this blog.