Premarital Counseling Questions:
Premarital Counseling Questions
Do you have questions about premarital counseling? I’m here for you.
In this article I’ll answer common questions about premarital counseling, like: What exactly happens in premarital counseling? What do you talk about in premarital counseling?
But you may be curious to know more about the kinds of premarital counseling questions a good counselor will invite you to explore together. So I will also be sharing some common “premarital counseling topics” to give you and your fiancé a head start on thinking about the most essential things to discuss before marriage, in order to feel assured that you’re on the same page and well prepared to have a healthy, happy and successful marriage.
General Questions About Premarital Counseling
But before enrolling in private premarital counseling, a premarital program, or a premarital course, many people want to know two things: 1) What is premarital counseling? And 2) What happens in premarital counseling? You may have other logistical premarital counseling questions like:
- How long does premarital counseling take,
- How much does premarital counseling cost,
- Can you use insurance for premarital counseling,
- How to find a truly good premarital counselor,
- Can you do premarital counseling online (yes),
- And whether non-religious premarital counseling is a thing. (It is).
I put together this resource to answer all of your premarital counseling questions. In addition to the information here, you’ll find links to even more information about premarital counseling — everything you could want to know, and more.
So, let’s dive in!
What is premarital counseling?
Just like pre-engagement counseling, premarital counseling (also known as pre marital counselling, or pre marriage counseling) is a proactive step that couples can take, which offers you and your partner the opportunity for growth and a better understanding of each other. You’ll also develop various skills and strategies that will keep your new marriage healthy and strong for years to come.
It’s an important pre-wedding step that you don’t want to skip. Research shows that premarital counseling can make or break a marriage.
What happens in premarital counseling?
Here’s what to expect in premarital counseling. It’s a growth process that gives you and your partner the chance to address any concerns or pain points while there is still a great deal of love, respect, and appreciation for each other, at the outset of your partnership. In other words, it helps the two of you take care of potential problems before they begin to fester, potentially leading to divorce. You can get on the same page about your expectations for your relationship (which is especially for cross-cultural couples) and create important agreements around finances, housework, and other issues. Premarital counseling also builds confidence that you and your partner can deal with inevitable conflict whenever it does pop up.
How to choose a premarital counselor?
You should choose a premarital counselor who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and who specializes in evidence-based forms of couples counseling that have been shown by research to help couples stay strong. Here are some general tips for how to find a good premarital counselor, and why evidence-based counseling is important. One word of advice: If you’re hoping for pre marriage counseling to be a genuinely meaningful and growth-promoting experience, work with someone who specializes in relationships, like a marriage and family therapist.
Can you do “premarital counseling” for free, with your Rabbi, priest or some other religious official? Sure. Is it the same thing as working with a relationship specialist to improve your communication skills, strengthen your emotional bond, and become genuinely well equipped to proactively resolve potential problems before they start? No, not usually. You’re investing so much in your wedding, and premarital counseling is how you invest in the strength and success of your actual marriage.
I have included more links to other frequently asked questions about premarital counseling at the bottom of this page. But for now let’s look at some important premarital counseling questions to ask your partner before you get started creating a lifetime of love, and some premarital counseling topics that should be discussed with them as well.
Premarital Counseling Topics
When you are about to take the leap, it’s important to consider the most essential premarital counseling questions and topics to discuss before marriage, in order to be genuinely prepared for what lies ahead.
But do you really know the questions to ask before marriage? Do you know the things to know before getting married? We all have blind spots: Things that we’re not even aware of. Without the wisdom of experience, it can be difficult to know what the potential pitfalls ahead of you are, and what kinds of things you should be talking about before you get married in order to prevent issues down the road.
In order to help you go into the adventure of marriage with your eyes wide open, I’ve outlined some of the most essential premarital counseling topics, and questions to ask before marriage you’ll definitely want to talk through together. But I’d also like to caution you against skimming through these quickly, and depriving yourself of a much more meaningful and valuable growth experience in the process.
Premarital counseling is an opportunity to do genuinely meaningful growth work, together.
As an experienced Denver pre-marital counselor, I also am well aware that some couples look at these pre-marriage conversations as a check-the-box activity. (Like: “Yup, we both want kids someday. Check. Next question!”) However, really productive, meaningful premarital counseling is a growth experience that identifies your strengths, but also your growth opportunities.
Too many couples — even relatively sound ones — never invest time and energy into intentionally improving their process and strengthening their relationship … until they are experiencing problems. Sometimes these relationship problems can get really serious before people feel motivated to reach out to a marriage counselor for help. Sometimes, unfortunately, by the time they do, it’s too late for marriage counseling, because the relationship is headed for divorce.
The one and only chance that most couples have to do meaningful growth work that strengthens their relationship, and prevents them from having bigger issues down the line is premarital counseling — good, genuinely meaningful and impactful premarital counseling. In fact, most marriage counselors will tell you that skipping premarital counseling is the biggest mistake engaged couples make.
This is your opportunity! For that reason, I hope you don’t dismiss this as a box-checking exercise that has the same emotional significance as renting the venue for the party — just one more thing that has to be done. It can, and should, be so much more.
Asking each other premarital counseling questions like the ones I’m sharing below — including “How do we both feel about our communication with each other?” — is always helpful, but what comes next? If running through these premarital counseling questions together gives you the chance to express to your fiancé that you don’t love it when they get defensive when you talk about something that you’re bothered by, how do you fix it? (Especially if they’re getting defensive while you’re attempting to tell them how you feel about that!)
That’s when working with a good premarital counselor can turn this recognition into a true growth opportunity — a chance to learn, and to grow. Asking each other premarital counseling questions is turning over the rocks, and a good thing to do. But recognition of an issue is not the same thing as resolving it. That’s what professional premarital counseling is for.
With that important distinction in mind, here are some of the most common premarital counseling questions you can and should be asking each other before you get married:
Premarital Counseling Question #1: What are the strengths and growth opportunities of your relationship?
All couples have strengths, and all couples have things to work on. Do you have a solid awareness of your strengths as a couple? More importantly, how can you use those strengths to help you improve the parts of your relationship that aren’t quite as solid, at least not yet?
Many strong couples are in alignment around their values, are great at showing love and appreciation for each other, and are really good at working together as a team on important projects. However, they might have some tense moments where communication feels harder than it should.
Other couples might be great at solving problems and having emotionally supportive conversations with each other. But then they feel out of balance when it comes to managing household responsibilities. (Like, one person feels overburdened by all the things they have to take care of, or the other person feels nagged about doing stuff.)
Another common area of growth for many couples can be around finances, especially if you’re going to be combining finances in marriage. If you know that your strengths as a couple include communication and teamwork, you can use those skills to get on the same page around money management and avoid unnecessary conflict in the future.
Premarital Counseling Question #2: What are your expectations for marriage?
Marriage is not the fairy tale you see on TV or in the movie theater. Expectations for marriage are cultivated in real-life experiences — both good and bad — and of course, can vary greatly.
While uncovering marriage expectations in premarital counseling, you might be asked things like:
- What was normal in your home growing up?
- What were the family dynamics in your home?
- Do you want your marriage to look like that of your parents or something different?
- Who is a model couple in your mind and why? What do they look like together?
- What did you learn about “the family experience” through your family?
The often subconscious expectations we hold about what “should” be happening in a relationship, a marriage, or a family can have a big impact on how you treat each other, and how you react to each other. Bringing all of these out in the open, and intentionally managing your expectations of each other, can prevent a boatload of hurt, frustration and conflict down the road.
Premarital Counseling Question #3: How do you communicate?
Oh, it is definitely true what they say about communication: It’s key! Improving communication patterns can be challenging, but so worth it. If you can productively talk through premarital issues and have connecting conversations about really important things without getting defensive or frustrated with each other, that is a huge strength.
So, important questions to be asking each other are things like:
- How do you feel about the way I communicate with you?
- What are the hardest moments for you?
- How can I do this differently?
The hard part with this conversation is being able to hear, and take in, what your partner is saying without getting defensive or reactive. (Like if they say, “Actually, when you nag me about XYZ, I really don’t like that,” and then you say, “Well if you would only XZY when I asked you to, I wouldn’t have to nag you…” that’s not going to be productive.)
Working with an experienced, marriage and family therapist who offers premarital counseling can help you get under the hood and understand what’s really going on in those moments (it’s not actually about the XYZ) can provide you with new insight into yourself as well as your partner.
This turns into new ways of relating with each other, particularly during times of stress or need, that will be much more productive and less likely to create conflict.
Premarital Counseling Question #4: How do you stay connected?
If you want to keep your marriage — which most ideally will last the rest of your life — fresh, then you and your partner have to actively engage in it and with each other. To put it another way, the two of you have to pump energy into the partnership, making sure the connective tissues between the two of you are strong and resilient.
To help ensure your marriage lasts a lifetime, in premarital counseling you and your partner will work with the counselor to examine your respective expressions of and preferred forms of:
- Love and respect
- Love languages
- Sexual intimacy
- Emotional intimacy
- Emotional safety
- Mutual friendship
By talking about your hopes and needs for the softest and most significant parts of your relationship, you will be able to intentionally create a strong foundation for decades to come.
Premarital Counseling Question #5: What are your values, hopes and goals?
As I said earlier, heading into the big day, there’s a lot of happiness to go around for you and your partner. It’s wonderful to live in the moment, but your future will be built on the pillars of your respective character and personality traits, which need to be examined in determining courses of action and to prevent certain issues from springing up down the road.
You do not have to be exactly the same, or want the same things out of your shared life together. But if there are highly significant differences around what is most important to you, at the very least, you’ll need to have honest conversations about your plans to make space for each other’s priorities.
Get clarity around your respective expectations and thoughts surrounding things like:
- Home type and location
- Career paths
- Financial Goals
- Leisure life
- Boundaries with family
Understanding you and your partner’s respective outlooks on these aspects of your life together are absolutely essential to your long term happiness.
Quick story: I once worked with a couple who came in for premarital counseling. When I asked them about their plans for having kids or not, she said, “I don’t want children. I’m in medical school and really excited about my career.” He said, “I’m having children. She’ll change her mind, and be a fantastic stay-at-home mom.” They were not interested in discussing that further with me. I am not sure whether or not they are still married, but if they are, you can bet that there were battles, and likely a lasting resentment in the one who lost that war.
That’s an extreme example of a very black-and-white situation where there is not much room for compromise. But regardless, knowing what each other’s non-negotiable life goals are, and whether or not those are compatible, is important and must be talked about honestly and constructively.
Premarital Counseling Question #6: How do you work as a team?
One thing that can test that connection is how the two of you work together to navigate not just “problems,” but any aspect of the relationship that requires foresight, active listening, communication, and maybe even some introspection. A marriage brings about plenty of examples of those scenarios for sure!
Such common points of concern discussed in premarital counseling include how each of you think you might view and handle:
- Blended families, when children from previous relationships are brought into a marriage
- Couple finances
- Housework, the division of labor
- Work-life balance
Talking about your hopes and expectations for each other is really important in each of these areas. It’s also a really good idea to educate yourself about best practices when it comes to developing the systems for managing these different, and essential, parts of life.
Your relationship changes after you get engaged, when you have start thinking about these things. Like who, specifically, will be in charge of making sure that bills get paid and creating a family budget? Or will you do that together? What if one of you really wants to do a budget but the other thinks that you make plenty of money and that’s a waste of time? Or if you had strict, authoritarian parents and really like the idea of military school, but your partner was raised by hippies on an alpaca farm and believes in gentle parenting, where is the middle ground?
Many couples spend the first few years of their married life fighting over “The Right Way” to do something, after belatedly realizing that they actually have very strong opinions about how a dishwasher should be loaded, or how often the grass should be mowed (and who should do that). Strong couples co-create a set of agreements about how to run the show. You can create those the hard way (through a series of fights) or the easy way (through proactive, productive premarital counseling). Or not at all, and allow resentment and hostility to damage your relationship.
Especially if you are heading into a legitimately, objectively difficult situation like blending your families and creating a step-parent situation, it’s very important that you have a solid, reality-based game plan going in.
Premarital Counseling Question #7: What systems do you need to build?
This might seem like a somewhat abstract question and concept, but “systems” actually refers to pretty practical, day-to-day activities that couples have to engage in — and, thus, should really see eye-to-eye on how to handle. It’s one thing to be in general agreement about what should be happening (see question #6 about how to work as a team) but creating workable systems is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to daily life.
Things like keeping the house clean, keeping the refrigerator and cabinets stocked with food, paying bills, saving for retirement and other financial issues couples face, among many other elements of daily life, all need to be managed effectively for things to run smoothly.
The first couple years of marriage can be extra challenging because such systems, which help to keep a household running smoothly, aren’t in place. And again, if they aren’t, they become problems a new married couple have to face every single day.
Early in the relationship, during premarital counseling, these are not issues that need to be argued about. Instead, you and your partner are building these systems together from scratch, setting up a marriage where your household, routines, compromising, problem solving and more will run smoothly.
In your sessions with an experienced premarital counselor, either online or in person, they will probably bring up some systems you haven’t even considered yet. Trust me.
Household systems might include things like:
- Setting up a shared calendar
- Finding a budgeting app and implementing it
- Scheduling important activities (including time together)
- Creating a comprehensive “chore chart” that includes all the things that need to get done
- Parenting agreements
- And more!
It may seem overwhelming to see all of the “family life infrastructure” that needs to be created, but these systems are truly essential. Having the guidance and support of a professional marriage counselor to help you negotiate your way through their implementation will set you up for success in the years ahead.
Premarital Counseling Question #8: How do you respect and appreciate each other’s differences?
Many people are under the assumption that you have to find a person who’s very similar to you in terms of personality, approach to life, decision making, and other areas to ensure a marriage will be stable.
This is not correct.
There’s a contrast between “similarity” and “compatibility,” and the latter in a relationship can be very possible, even when your partner is different than you are in seemingly important ways.
How? By embracing your respective differences and seeing how contrasting perspectives and thought processes can be an asset, not a detriment, to a relationship.
In premarital counseling you’ll examine each other’s personality, love languages, differences and complementary strengths. You’ll learn strategies for coping with differences in sexual desire, a major issue in many relationships. You’ll also learn how to take ownership of what is important to you, how to allow each other to have space, and ways in which you can be supportive of each other.
Ideally, you’ll learn how to not just tolerate, but genuinely appreciate each other’s differences. This is especially important in the context of a healthy, lifetime of marriage where you will both change and grow into different people as the years go by. How will you get to know each other over and over again, and make space for where that personal evolution takes each of you while still staying connected?
As someone who has been married for nearly twenty-five years (and who has been a marriage counselor for a very long time, too), I know firsthand that people can and should grow and change through the years. Circumstances change, certainly, but we are also all fundamentally changed by the experiences we have in life. Even big things like major life goals, values, and priorities can change.
Having had the experience of growing together, learning about each other, communicating effectively, increasing your appreciation and emotional connection, and creating constructive systems to make life run smoothly is not just helpful in the short term. It’s also a practice run for being able to do this again, fifteen years from now, when you’re living in a different circumstantial reality — and both of you have grown and changed. It will be time to get to know each other all over again, learn how to have a great relationship with this interesting new person your partner has become, and redesign all the agreements and systems that used to work but don’t so much anymore.
This is a positive, normal thing in a healthy relationship. And you’ll be able to handle it beautifully … Because you’ve done it before, in premarital counseling. (And if there’s a couple you care about preparing for marriage, you can gift premarital counseling, believe it or not.)
I hope that reading through this information gave you some perspective about the most important things to consider before getting married, as well as some guidance about how to grow, together.
Wishing you all the very best on the exciting journey ahead!
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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