Illustration of couple with heart symbolizing pre marriage counseling.

Premarital Counseling Questions:

Pre-Marriage Counseling

Takeaways: Pre-marriage counseling is a special form of counseling that can help you get clear about the future of your relationship and prepare to take the next step together. Learn about the difference between pre-marriage counseling versus premarital counseling, and signs that pre-marriage counseling might be right for you.

Pre-marriage counseling is not necessarily the same thing as premarital counseling, even though sometimes those terms are used interchangeably. Let’s say you’re in a relationship that’s already lasted a handful of months, or maybe a year or two, and you’re thinking about next steps. Perhaps you’ve recently moved in with the person, or at the very least feel pretty confident they are “the one.” 

Marriage seems to be on the horizon. 

But for one reason or another, something is holding you back, making you feel slightly uncertain about your future with them. You want to be with them, but before “making it official” for the rest of your life, you’d like to address some issues between you and your partner that have you feeling a little anxious about taking the proverbial plunge. Maybe both of you think the relationship needs some work before proceeding.

You and your partner sound like prime candidates for pre-marriage counseling, also sometimes called “pre-engagement counseling.

Why Pre-Marriage Counseling?

The goal of pre-marriage counseling, or pre-engagement counseling, can be summed up in one word: Confidence. 

Any relationship, even the healthiest ones, has issues to work through. But perhaps because the relationship is still in its early stages and feels a little shaky, or there are commitment issues, or one or both partners come from families of divorce, or have been divorced themselves and don’t want their lives to resemble that past, or any other reason, the couple that seeks in-person or online pre-marriage counseling ultimately wants to feel more confident in their relationship before moving forward, possibly toward a wedding. 

This is a wise choice.

When you embark on pre-marriage counseling, you and your partner simply want to feel more certain and secure in your commitment. You ultimately want to feel good about your decision, and believe the two of you can be together and have it be a great partnership because you’ve built healthy relationship skills that will set your love up for success. You’re seeking improved relationship health, growth, love and respect for each other, as well as hope for the future.

This means that pre-marriage counseling actually looks a little more like marriage counseling than it does premarital counseling. It’s kind of like marriage counseling before marriage.

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What Is the Difference Between Premarital Counseling and Pre-Marriage Counseling?

Sometimes the terms “premarital counseling” and “pre-marriage counseling” are used interchangeably by lay people. To make things more confusing there is also such a thing as “pre-engagement counseling.” While all are similar, there are important differences.

Here’s what to expect in premarital counseling. Whether they choose a premarital program, premarital class, or private premarital sessions, couples in premarital counseling have already committed to a marriage, and want to explore their strengths as well as their growth opportunities to ensure their marriage lasts a lifetime. Premarital counseling is about helping engaged couples navigate changes to their relationship, and build skills, strengths, and systems to set their marriage up for success. 

In premarital counseling, couples learn to manage finances together, keep the passion in their relationships alive, and generally, make sure their love endures.

No matter your commitment level, forgoing premarital counseling is a huge mistake: It’s more important than anything else you’ll spend time or money on in the lead up to your wedding. Premarital counseling can literally make or break your marriage.

[Learn more about how premarital counseling works, how long premarital counseling takes, how much premarital counseling costs, whether you can use your insurance to pay for premarital counseling, and other answers to your premarital counseling questions.]

In contrast, pre-marriage counseling comes into play even prior to that stage, and focuses on areas in the relationship where couples believe they need improvements in order for them to both feel confident about moving forward into marriage. Sometimes couples will think of this as “pre-engagement counseling” as in, “are we ready to get married?” 

Couples seeking pre-marriage counseling love each other and want it to work, but also know that, like all couples, they have things to work on. They might worry about whether or not they are compatible, if their values are too far out of alignment, if they are too different — maybe in terms of attachment and communication styles — or if they want different things in life.

Pre-marriage counseling helps you get all that out on the table, but it also offers you new growth opportunities that strengthen your relationship. The goal of good pre-marriage counseling is clarity and confidence. For example, many couples worry about moving forward because they have communication issues, unresolved disagreements, or unmet expectations for their relationships. Through pre-marriage counseling, they improve their communication and create agreement and understanding. 

With the issues successfully resolved, there is no longer an obstacle or a concern. They both feel good about taking the next step forward.

Pre-marriage counseling is a positive, empowering experience that helps you learn about yourself, while teaching you and your partner more about one another. It’s an opportunity for the two of you to get everything out into the open and can provide the lesson that you and your partner do not have to be the same in order to have a wonderful relationship. 

A pre-marriage counseling program helps you grow and improve in the areas where it’s possible to do so, while cultivating appreciation and gratitude for your partner as they are. The two of you can talk about the ways you can make a great life together, not in spite of your differences but because of them. 

In other words, you might learn how you both compliment each other, or potentially recognize over the course of the program that there’s a different path forward for you both. People can genuinely love each other but also realize that they’re not for each other.

One way or another, at the end of pre-marriage counseling, the couple will be more certain about the decisions they make regarding their relationship.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions

Sometimes, a relationship feels like a dark, messy closet and its members don’t want to shine a light on it. But avoidance won’t make the closet clean, will it?

Regardless, it’s understandable that a couple who’s interested in engaging in pre-marriage counseling might want to know a little bit about what’s in store for them. 

Some of the questions you and your partner might encounter in pre-marriage counseling are:

  • What would help you feel confident that long-term commitment is the right decision?
  • How do you each need to grow, or what do you each need to change in order to be exceptional partners for each other?
  • Are you fundamentally compatible? What does compatibility mean or look like in your case? (Differences can make a relationship stronger, if you appreciate each other!)
  • Are your long-term values, hopes and goals in alignment? If not, is it possible to build bridges to the center?

Pre-Marriage Counseling: Are You Ready For The Next Chapter?

The goal of couples counseling before marriage is to successfully resolve any issues that might be holding you back from taking that next step forward. If you choose to do this work here at Growing Self, you’ll have the opportunity to work with a true relationship expert — a marriage and family therapist with years of specialized training and experience in evidence based couples counseling.

They’ll help you uncover your relationship’s strengths and growth opportunities, and help you learn and grow together. You’ll learn about yourselves, and each other, and what it takes to have a happy, healthy relationship together. (And, most importantly, how to actually accomplish that).

I hope that this discussion of pre-marriage counseling vs. premarital counseling was helpful to you, and steers you in the right direction.

Your partner in growth,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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