All pre-marital couples have the best of intentions. People get married because they love each other, and hope (and intend!) to have a happy, healthy marriage that lasts a lifetime. They move forward, happily expecting all good things in their new life together and then… have the same experience that ALL couples have, which is that there are things to work through. Big things. Things that they didn’t always anticipate. And HOW they handle those big things can make a big difference in the trajectory of their marriage.
Denver Premarital Counseling (and Premarital Counseling Online) is Proactive and Positive
Hear this: All couples have things to work through. That part is inevitable. But some couples put time and energy into learning how to handle those things well. They develop their communication skills, their emotional intelligence skills, and learn how to care for each other in a way that works. So, they work through the inevitable issues, and then move on — stronger because of having worked though things. They have not just figured out an issue, they’ve moved into a new level of relationship for having done so. Evidence-based premarital counseling in Denver, and online premarital counseling teaches couples the skills they need to do this so that they can handle these moments successfully.
How To (Accidentally) Ruin a Marriage
Other couples, who have exactly the same, inevitable relationship issues that every couple has do not put time and energy into figuring out how to handle them. They wing it. They use whatever communication styles and ways of relating to people that they absorbed unconsciously from their families of origin, or past relationships — for better, or for worse. As I’ve discussed in other podcasts, there are lots of effective ways to destroy a relationship. But the greatest of these may be overconfidence that you already know all there is to know about how to “do” relationships.
Marriage that fail do so because the couple is doing what most people do: simply “reacting” to their partner (rather than utilizing constructive, effective relationship skills that they intentionally learned and practice regularly). As a result… they don’t get great results. Important conversations turn into unproductive arguments. Unresolved problems fester into resentment and avoidance. Emotional safety and trust erode. Toxic ways of relating and communicating can easily take over their interactions. Over time, even the strongest, most compatible couples will — due to not knowing how to handle normal relationship issues — start to wonder if they’re even compatible.
The most distressed, least effective couples do not actively learn how to “do” relationships or get help for their relationship until they are on the brink of divorce. They’ve bought into the false idea that “marriage counseling is only for when it’s really bad,” and as a result, by the time they do begrudgingly get help for their relationship it is actually too late. It’s so sad.
Relationships are just like anything else: You have to maintain them and put thoughtful, effective energy into them in order for them to grow and thrive. But this is much more than “spending time together” or “going on a date night.” Successful relationships require the development of relationship skills: Communication skills, emotional intelligence skills, behavioral adjustments, and more. We say all the time that great relationships don’t “just happen.” They’re grown, very deliberately, by learning how to have a great relationship.
Myths About Premarital Counseling
One of the biggest fallacies that has sunk many, many marriages (and that prevents some couples from seeking premarital counseling) is the myth that “Love is enough.” Believing that loving each other is the same thing as having and using specific relationship skills is simply not true. This idea is also destructive. Because when (not if, but when) couples experience the fact that just winging it and reacting to each other creates problems, they begin to doubt the relationship itself. It makes sense, in a way: If love “should” be enough, and it’s not enough in this relationship…. then maybe it’s the wrong relationship.
Not true! The only difference between happy, successful couples and those who ultimately separate is not a matter of love, or fundamental compatibility in a relationship. Successful couples simply invest in learning how to be good partners for each other, and then use those skills very intentionally.
Another (often unspoken) myth about premarital counseling is this irrational fear that premarital counseling might bring things to the surface that will destabilize the relationship, or make people realize they’re not compatible after all. I know that sounds silly when you say it out loud, but it’s true. That fear leads people to avoid premarital counseling. The irony, of course, is that research clearly and consistently shows that the number one most important relationship skills is talking, constructively, about important topics rather than minimizing them.
Oh, the irony: When couples fear that premarital counseling will cause problems, they inadvertently create the very circumstance that will actually damage their relationship long term — apathy and avoidance.
Questions About Premarital Counseling?
If your goal is to have a strong, successful marriage, high-quality premarital counseling is essential. Research shows that high-quality premarital counseling has a significant impact on relationship satisfaction and marriage longevity. Premarital counseling matters. However, some couples avoid premarital counseling. Even more couples do “premarital counseling” (emphasis on my pretend air-quotes) that is extremely superficial, and not skills-based. When I say “high quality” premarital counseling, I’m referring to premarital counseling approaches that are evidence based and founded on scientifically sound approaches to marriage counseling and couples therapy, such as the Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. These approaches have been shown by research to address the aspects of a relationship that really matter, long-term.
Proactive, smart couples are asking questions about marriage counseling and doing the research to make sure that their experience in premarital counseling is meaningful and effective. They’re asking questions like, “What happens in premarital counseling? What do you talk about in premarital counseling? Do you need a licensed marriage counselor for good premarital counseling? What are some premarital counseling questions we’ll be asked to talk through? What are some of the specific relationship skills you learn in premarital counseling? How does premarital counseling work? Can you do a premarital counseling class? How long does premarital counseling take? Do we need a premarital assessment? Does premarital counseling make couples break up? How much does premarital counseling cost? Can we do premarital counseling online? Why is evidence-based, non-religious premarital counseling often more effective than the “premarital counseling” and important to do in addition to the premarital counseling we get through our religious institution? Why is premarital counseling so important? What do experienced premarital counselors teach, that we might not already know?”
SO many good, thoughtful questions to ask about premarital counseling!
Your Premarital Counseling Questions, Answered
In order to understand what premarital counseling really is, and how premarital counseling works, I’ve invited two of the amazing premarital counselors on the Growing Self team to join me on the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
My colleagues Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT and Rachel Harder, M.A., LPC, MFT-C are both marriage counselors and experienced premarital counselors, and who both teach our Lifetime of Love premarital class. (Brenda teaches our premarital class in Broomfield, CO, and Rachel teaches our premarital class in Denver, CO). In addition to the class, both Rachel and Brenda offer private premarital counseling in Denver, DTC, and Broomfield, and they also offer premarital counseling online.
Brenda and Rachel offer incredible insight into what happens in premarital counseling, and share specific skills and tips that they teach their premarital clients. If you’re getting married soon, we hope you listen to find out what you learn in premarital counseling and why it’s so important.
Wishing you all the best,
Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT, and Rachel Harder, M.A., LPC, MFT-C
Ps: One of the resources we discussed in this episode is the free, comprehensive premarital assessment that we often give to premarital couples. This is a 200+ question premarital assessment that explores so many different areas of your relationship, in order to identify your relationship’s strengths and growth opportunities.
While that particular assessment is only available for our premarital counseling couples, we do have a “lite” version of this assessment available for you to take. It’s our “How Healthy Is Your Relationship” Quiz. Access our free relationship quiz right here! — LMB