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What is Pre-Marital Counseling?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 17, 2024
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With divorce rates hovering at 50% in the United States, many couples are deciding to become better prepared for the reality and the challenges of marriage before taking the plunge. Pre-marital counseling is often a good first step. While there are many sources for marriage advice, pre-marital counseling on a case-by-case basis is more likely to be effective. Discerning issues of compatibility as well as values each person holds in high regard can be imperative for success.

There are certain issues people are unable to compromise on and if any of these are present, it is important to identify and address them before making a commitment. Pre-marital counseling is a good resource for learning more about each other and this type of therapy is intended to help develop a deeper level of communication. Good communication is important in any relationship but especially in marriage. When selecting a counselor, be sure to ask questions about the topics covered in pre-marital counseling sessions.

Many marriage education programs also offer courses of workshops similar to pre-marital counseling. While such sessions are more interactive than typical therapy, they are intended to offer similar benefits including determining compatibility and teaching more effective communication and problem solving techniques. Either system is a good start toward building a strong relationship with the one you love.

Many couples also look to their places of worship and their clergy for pre-marital counseling. This is a good idea for those who share the same faith and believe it is an important part of their relationship. However, it is also important for couples who don’t share the same faith or for those in which one partner is religious and the other is not. Religious compatibility can become a serious issue. Also, note that some churches prefer not to marry a member to a person outside that faith.

Make sure you choose an objective counselor to conduct your pre-marital counseling sessions. Some counselors can be on the subjective side and are more concerned with individual needs and desires than they are with finding out what is best for the couple as a whole. You may end up deciding not to get married after such a confrontation, and that may not be what is best in your situation. If you are uncomfortable with the type of pre-marital counseling you are receiving, seek out another counselor.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By googlefanz — On Jul 24, 2010

It is really important to get a good counselor though -- a bad one can make the whole thing just seem daunting and unappetizing.

A lot of people find that they benefit from a marriage counseling weekend, where there are multiple counselors and it's not just one-on-one.

By Charlie89 — On Jul 24, 2010

@galen84basc -- It usually depends on the counselor and the couple.

For instance, while many people used to get pre-marital counseling from their religious leader, now it is just as common to get it from a secular or non-affiliated counselor.

Some counseling sessions include skill-building, like improving communication skills, learning how to fight appropriately and non-abusively, etc.

Others are more discussion based, and may ask the couple to do an "inventory" of themselves to share with the other person.

This usually includes stuff like their expectations from the marriage, things that they feel they can and cannot compromise on, etc.

But like I said, every program varies, and a lot of it can be shaped by the counselor or couple -- there's no "one size fits all".

By galen84basc — On Jul 24, 2010

So what exactly usually goes in in pre-marital counseling?

Do they just talk about things, or are there activities or what?

By spasiba — On May 16, 2008

Probably pre-marital counseling should be a prerequisite to marriage. Since marriage is a serious step, especially because new life is brought into it, in most cases, it is important that when entering a marriage, people really know themselves, and know as much about their marriage partner as possible.

Usually not knowing oneself, and having unrealistic expectations can ruin a union.

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