Premarital Counseling: 6 Reasons to Get a Clue Before You Say, “I Do”

Exploring a relationship through pre-marital counseling takes some courage, but the benefits are irrefutable! Pre-marital counseling not only prepares partners for the challenges and opportunities of married life, it enriches the pre-marital stage and deepens their relationship, making them even more excited to commit to each other for life.

In fact, pre-marital counseling is so helpful and even powerful that some states require it before issuing a marriage license. The pastors of many churches (most consistently, the Roman Catholics) won’t marry a couple unless they first attend their pre-marital counseling program. These requirements may seem strict, but research supports the usefulness of pre-marital counseling. A frequently cited, comprehensive study by researchers from the University of Denver found that pre-marital counseling lowered the divorce rate by 31%.[1]

If you need more reasons to convince an adult child or fiancé of the importance of pre-marital counseling, the points below should do the trick.

3 Negative Motivations: Marriage Prospects for the Unprepared

1. The Divorce Rate

50% of all marriages end in divorce; the rate jumps to 67% for second marriages and 73% for third marriages.[2] Enough said.

2. The Specter of the Long-Term, Passionless Marriage

Young couples see empty, unhappy marriages all around them. How do they happen? Why do the partners stay? Ignoring them or rushing past them, hoping whatever funk they exude doesn’t spread, doesn’t help these images (and realities) go away. Rather than pretending not to notice, couples feel more empowered when they receive the marital education that explains how people get into these situations. (The good news is, with meaningful couples counseling marital funks are escapable and even opportunities for individual and relationship growth.)

3. Post-Marital Depression

Yes, it’s a thing. In fact, while it’s not an official diagnosis just yet, many counselors are sharing methods of treating it. Because a wedding often takes a year to plan, couples often structure their lives around the preparations. The identity even becomes “bride” or “groom.” Once the big event is over and real life sets in, many couples report a dip in mood. Research tells us that five to 10% even suffer remorse or sadness intense enough to seek counseling. Premarital counseling prepares couples for these feelings, normalizing them so that they don’t cause panic.

3 Positive Motivations: Marriage Prospects for the Prepared Couple

1. Research Proves the Power of Pre-Marital Counseling

As mentioned above, researchers from the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies found that couples who participated in premarital counseling or education programs are 31% less likely to get a divorce. Many states and churches believe in it so thoroughly, they develop programs to strong-arm young couples into marriage and relationship education.

2. Couples Learn the Concrete Communication Skills that Work

We are not born with stellar communication skills and most people never learn them in their entire lives. Much marital conflict stems from an inability to communicate effectively and handle conflict without panic. As renowned author Steven Covey explains, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Premarital counseling and relationship education teaches couples how to break this habit.

After learning the techniques of “intentional dialogue,” couples in my workshops are often stunned to realize how little they’ve been listening to and how much they’ve preparing their response to their partner as he or she speaks. Once they learn to receive information from their partner effectively and respond appropriately, problems become much more clear and are more quickly resolved.

3. Opportunity to Explore and Understand a Partner on a Deeper Level

While couples headed for the altar think they know and understand their partner thoroughly, often some subjects they may never have thought to explore remain uncovered. Pre-marital counseling raises awareness of:

  • each individual’s vision of the relationship as it blossoms over the years
  • problematic family of origin issues that could impact the couple
  • gender role expectations each partner may not even realize he or she harbors
  • financial values
  • intimacy and sexual assumptions

Premarital counseling and education is careful to bring each topic up in a gentle, practical way, avoiding threats to the stability of the relationship.

Questions about Pre-marital Counseling and Relationship Education?

Expectant parents often attend baby classes and read countless child-rearing books before the baby is due. Why then, does society think young couples can dive headlong into marriage no preparation whatsoever for such a dramatic life change? Were they supposed to have simply absorbed relationship tips from the families and the relationships around them?

[2]The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages.” Banschick, Mark, M.D. February, 2012.