Couple in counseling

The decision to marry involves many important factors, including assessing compatibility, discussing the future, building trust, and deciding if the love is strong enough for a permanent union (via Brides). In Psychology Today, professor of social psychology Dr. Madeleine A. Fugère lists respect in a relationship and demonstrating multiple aspects of love (e.g. intimacy, passion, and commitment) as some of the biggest determining factors when deciding to get married.

Don’t venture into this choice lightly because love isn’t enough for a happy marriage. According to the CDC, about 40 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Therefore, it’s important to develop tools to tackle relationship problems, a trusting and deep bond, and strategies to improve the possibility of marriage longevity. To improve the odds of a stable and loving marriage, premarital counseling addresses all these elements of a successful partnership.

About 30 percent of couples who have premarital counseling reported more successful marriages than those who didn’t have it (via Health Research Funding). Premarital counseling can save a marriage even before it begins.

Counseling improves communication skills

couple discussing an issue

Marriage.com lists poor communication as one of the major factors that leads to an unhappy marriage. One of the ways premarital counseling helps unmarried couples is that it gives them useful tools and guidance on how to improve communication. A licensed therapist works with a couple to improve communication before miscommunication becomes a major issue. According to Psychology Today, not knowing how to properly communicate when conflicts arise is one of the main reasons that couples seek counseling.

Premarital counselors can help show couples a method of communication that allows both individuals to feel heard. A few skills they may learn is to not make their partner feel blamed by using "I" statements instead of "you" statements, to not bring up the past, and to look for nonverbal cues (via Marriage). Psychology Today also mentions that premarital counseling can help partners discover each other’s communication styles. One person may prefer to meditate on the issue before addressing it with their partner, while their partner may prefer to tackle the issue as soon as possible. A counselor can help the couple figure out how to accommodate each person’s communication style without causing more conflict.

Learn how to participate in conflict resolution

couple arguing

It isn’t just enough to know how to communicate during times of crisis, but how to find a solution. Dr. LaWanda N. Evans of Marriage.com highlights that marriage doesn’t solve existing issues, and even magnifies them. This makes it critical to know the steps to take when trying to solve a conflict within a marriage. Evans discusses how premarital counseling identifies areas that could become conflicts later, and how to resolve them before the issues spiral into bigger marital problems.

Past trauma, such as experiencing domestic violence or childhood abuse, can be a source of conflict in a person’s present, according to Evans. In turn, they may have a major impact on a marriage. A licensed therapist could help each partner address their past, potentially minimizing any negative affects on the relationship. During sessions, couples learn some useful and popular tips on conflict resolution.

According to Psychology Today, these tips might include being direct, actively listening, and less "yes-butting" statements. "Yes-butting" statements are when individuals respond "yes, but" to issues. For example, "Yes I understand it annoys you that I haven’t washed the dishes, but I made the dinner," or "But you didn’t do the dishes either." Some other important conflict resolution skills include viewing things from a partner’s perspective, or a neutral perspective, and picking battles wisely. Learning these conflict resolution tips can save couples time and stress.

Counseling sets realistic marriage expectations

a wedding ring

There are many great and underappreciated romantic comedies. These films make you swoon, cry, and anxiously await your happily ever after. However, sometimes fans view these films as guides to happy endings instead of just entertaining fantasies. This can become a problem in a relationship.

Premarital counseling allows couples to start an open and honest dialogue about their marriage expectations (via Marriage). They can discuss relationship deal breakers and how partners can realistically meet romantic demands. According to Psych Central, believing that a partner will stay the same is an example of an unrealistic relationship expectation. Professional and personal growth, such as changing a career or developing a new passion, may alter the dynamics of a marriage. Couples need to develop a realistic mindset for how to tackle these personality or professional possible changes.

Marriage.com lists expecting constant romance as an unrealistic expectation. If the lack of romance is a deal breaker, then its something an individual needs to share with their partner to find a compromise that establishes realistic expectations. Divorce Magazine believes that reasonable expectations may help develop commitment and respect for one another. Setting realistic marital expectations prior to marriage can help eliminate or decrease disappointment if someone doesn’t live up to a fantasy or high expectations. It may also help determine a couple’s compatibility.

What if marriage isn’t the right direction for the relationship?

a woman unsure of marriage

Marriage may seem like the logical next step if a couple’s goals align, hard times are behind them, both are committed to the relationship, and the couple sees a long and happy future together (via Brides). However, premarital counseling may highlight some fundamental differences that cannot be repaired. Psychotherapist Jousline Savra tells Brides that many couples don’t know how to ask the difficult questions, but premarital counseling allows them to dig deeper in their relationship.

For many partners, premarital counseling strengthens their bonds. However, some couples may discover that they or their partner is not ready for marriage, or their partner is not someone they see a long-term future with. A therapist may highlight that the relationship suffers from trust issues, a loss in romantic interest, a lack of intimacy, or many other major issues (via Women’s Health).

If the problems outweigh the solutions or benefits, a couple may decide to call off the wedding or relationship. It takes a while to get over a breakup, and calling off a wedding can cause some embarrassment, but some couples may prefer to end their relationship immediately rather than worrying about it ending in divorce.

Couples counseling helps a couple’s growth

happy older couple

Premarital counseling forces a couple to address many major topics. These topics include sexual compatibility, financial stability, values and beliefs, and relationship with each other’s family and friends (via The Knot). These important relationship factors, if addressed combatively and carelessly, can lead to problems for the couple. However, conflicts tackled with care and thoughtfulness can grow a relationship. Counseling can strengthen a couple’s bond, and allow growth together and as individuals.

Being able to communicate and resolve issues before a wedding can help prevent the marriage from growing stale. Premarital counseling can also highlight the couple’s love for one another and compatibility. This may make them feel more fulfilled and satisfied with their relationship.

Premarital counseling provides a preventative method to help eliminate problems before they start, or to tackle small issues before they grow into large complications. As Psychology Today mentions, premarital counseling helps couples prepare for what comes after the wedding. It helps build the foundation for a dream marriage, not just a dream wedding.