Premarital counseling is a counseling service designed for engaged couples or those who are in a serious, committed relationship. You do not have to be experiencing relationship problems to benefit from premarital counseling. In fact, many couples who receive premarital counseling report that spending time with, and learning about, their future spouse is the most helpful part of premarital counseling. The goal of premarital counseling is skills-building by bringing up issues and discussing them as a couple. You can focus more on areas of discussion if there are few areas of conflict, or if you are experiencing relationship conflict, your counselor can help you work through disagreements.
Research has found that couples who receive premarital counseling have better relationship adjustment compared with similar couples who do not. Premarital counseling can also help couples have higher levels of satisfaction and commitment to their marriage, and lower levels of conflict and chance of divorce. Studies suggest that premarital counseling is generally beneficial for a wide range of couples, regardless of race/ethnicity, income, and education level.
Popular Premarital Counseling Topics
- Communication and conflict management
- Attitudes and expectations for marriage
- Children and parenting
- Financial management
- Family backgrounds
- Personality differences
There are several programs designed for premarital counseling that are appropriate for religious or nonreligious couples (PREPARE and PREP are two such programs). You may wish to discuss these with your counselor and ask his/her recommendations for counseling. Reading books at home can also enhance the premarital counseling experience and give you plenty of discussion points. There are many excellent resources, both faith-based and secular, for engaged couples. Many books also have companion workbooks or discussion guides that you may wish to discuss together as a couple or with your counselor.
After premarital counseling, you can continue working on your relationship through groups in your church or community. Couples’ groups at church, marriage mentoring programs, and Bible studies can help you continue to grow together as a couple. You are also encouraged to schedule a follow-up session with your counselor a few months into marriage to “check in” on how things are going. If problems arise in the future, you are always welcome to revisit your counselor for additional guidance.
Written by Camden Morgante
Premarital Counseling Package
Genesis counselors can implement premarital counseling using the PREPARE inventory. Once the on-line assessment is complete premarital couples participate in 9 hours of feedback, education, and counseling in either 9 single hours or six 90-minute sessions.
PREPARE/ENRICH is a customized couple assessment completed online that identifies a couple’s strength and growth areas. It is one of the most widely used programs for premarital counseling and premarital education. But there are also customized versions of the inventory used for marriage counseling, marriage enrichment, and dating couples considering engagement. Based on a couple’s assessment results, a trained facilitator provides 4-8 feedback sessions in which the facilitator helps the couple discuss and understand their results as they are taught proven relationship skills.
Suggested Readings and Resources
The Hope Couples Project: The Hope Couples Project is a resource center for couples, pastors, and professional therapists using the Hope-focused approach to couples counseling or enrichment. Through a university-based research project, couples participate in an 8 to 10 week treatment protocol investigating the Hope approach to couples intervention.
Parrott, L. & Parrott, L. (1995). Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. This book addresses seven questions to ask before you marry, including such topics as marriage myths, love styles, personal happiness, communication styles, gender differences, conflict resolution, and spiritual intimacy. Couples will also find the questions at the end of each chapter, companion workbooks, and exercises helpful as they communicate their expectations for marriage with their future spouse.
Penner, C. & Penner, J. (2004). Sex 101: Getting your sex life off to a great start. W. Publishing Group: Nashville, TN. This book is meant as a guide for premarital couples to help them transition to a healthy marital sexuality. For those that have difficulty in this area, this book can be helpful. This book lays out the facts about sexuality as well as asking them to consider their moral and ethical beliefs about it.
PREPARE/ENRICH by Life Innovations: PREPARE/ENRICH is a program for premarital preparation and marital enrichment that is offered by both professional counselors and pastoral counselors. The program uses a comprehensive couple assessment combined with feedback and skill-building exercises.
Wright, H. N. (2005). Now That You’re Engaged. Ventura, California: Regal Books. This book takes you through thirteen “commitments” couples make to each other when they make a commitment to marriage. This book will help engaged couples learn how to make wise decisions together, understand each other, listen and communicate more effectively, resolve conflicts, forgive each other, prepare for common problems, and pray together.
Several of our counselors specialize in couples counseling and premarital counseling. Call Genesis Counseling Center at (757) 827-7707 to make an appointment today.