What To Expect From Premarital Counseling & Why It's Such A Positive Thing

You've done it: you've met the one, you're engaged, and your wedding is happening soon. You feel elated, nervous (in a good way!), and with all the wedding planning, definitely a bit stressed out. But as much time and effort we put into the "the big day," we sometimes forget that the wedding is just one day, whereas a marriage is a lifetime. Or, at least, it's supposed to be an "until death do us part" type of situation.

When we have a good thing and everything feels safe and secure, we don't tend to think we need outside input or advice. While the saying, "If it's not broken, don't fix it," definitely has its place, sometimes maintenance along the way can prevent things from ever breaking. That's where premarital counseling comes into play. You may think you don't need it, and maybe you don't right now, but sitting with a therapist as you approach your wedding day can help you iron out details about your future together — especially the ones you've maybe not addressed yet because they simply haven't crossed your mind.

Couples who seek premarital therapy are being realistic about their life together. They understand it's not just about the perfect floral arrangements or naming their firstborn after, say, Timothée Chalamet. These couples are in it to win it, to make a real go of their lifetime commitment, and know only positive things can come out of counseling. Here's what you can expect and why it'll make such a positive impact on your marriage.

Improved communication

As much as a couple might think they have their communication skills perfected, there's always room for improvement — especially with the changed dynamic that comes when you're married. If you haven't bought a house together yet, but plan to, that's an entirely different conversation than the one you might have had when it came to renting an apartment. Should you get a starter home with the intention to upgrade in the future or go all in with a house you plan to have for life? If you haven't had children together, but plan to after you're married, that's another discussion that's going to require some highly evolved communication skills. Will you have one kid or two? Will you splurge for private school or is public school doable?

Even if these topics have come up in chats, it's not the same as sitting down and communicating about them when decisions need to be made. But in premarital counseling, you can talk with your therapist about these subjects, and they can help guide you as to how to handle things when the time comes. You may not realize it now, but if you only want one child and your partner has their heart set on two, that's going to be a whole issue that needs thorough, open-minded communication.

Realistic expectations for the marriage

When you get married, you become a team in the eyes of the law. Even if you've always regarded yourself as a team, it's different now. You've made a commitment, one that should be taken seriously. It also means setting realistic expectations for the marriage and for both you and your partner as a couple.

Although expectations for every couple will vary and how you feel about certain matters may change in time, you still want to talk about where you see yourself in one year, three years, five years, and so on. Do you plan to buy a home at a certain time or try for a first child after three years of marriage? Will you pay off your student loans before investing in property or just pay the monthly minimum so you own a house? What about expectations for your sex life? According to a survey by Cosmopolitan of 20-something married people, sex frequency decreases considerably after marriage. If that happens, how will you and your partner handle it?

It's healthy and important to have expectations for yourself and your partner as long as they're realistic. Talking with a therapist about your expectations can help you see where things are reasonable and doable, and where things might need to be tweaked. Two kids and a new house in two years? That's the type of expectation that probably needs to be modified.

An opportunity to address any concerns

If either you or your partner harbor concerns you'd like to get off your chest, but haven't yet because you don't have time or you fear you're being petty, then premarital counseling is a great place to do that. What we may think of as small and insignificant now could evolve into something bigger down the road, leading to resentment or even hatred.

It's also worth considering that when planning a big affair like a wedding, a lot of different emotions can come out. It's not only about staying within a budget and the stress of sticking to a timeline, but you're dealing with two people's visions of what they want their wedding day to look like. If one or both of you have parents who can't stop giving their two cents, then that can create even more turmoil. Because there's so much involved and so much going on, you may see a side of your partner that you had no idea existed. Instead of letting something like this eat you up inside and hoping it will blow over after the wedding, this is another perfect example of why premarital counseling might be essential.

You're marrying your partner in their entirety. So, if you're suddenly exposed to aspects about them you weren't aware of, you want to tackle that now — in addition to the silly stuff like how their yawns are overly dramatic and they should have a limit on how many dad jokes they can tell a day.

How to navigate conflict resolution

One of the key aspects of maintaining a healthy and communicative relationship is being able to resolve conflict. If a couple can't argue in a productive and fair way, and in a way in which a positive resolution can be reached and respected, then you definitely need premarital counseling.

"If you want honest dialogue, you have to treat each other with respect and kindness," licensed marriage and family therapist Randy Brazzel tells Psych Central. "Everyone wins when there is an atmosphere of mutual respect ... When trying to resolve an argument, it is important to validate the feelings your partner has before trying to correct any misperceptions or misunderstandings."

When we reach a resolution, it means both partners have taken accountability, if that was a necessary part of the equation, and now the issue can be put to bed. Neither partner will wake up in the middle of the night to start in on the argument again, nor will anyone walk away with feelings of resentment. There's no winning or losing in conflict resolution. Instead, there's an agreement that everything has been settled.


Premarital counseling isn't just about your relationship, but about you and your partner as separate individuals in the partnership. If you don't have a clear understanding of your behavior, your reactions to particular situations, or why certain things trigger you, then being one part of a partnership won't be easy for either of you.

Although the counseling sessions involve both partners being there, it still allows for exercises that are individualized so the therapist can help each one deal with any potential challenges in the future together. People have different love languages, attachment styles, and even sleep languages. It's these personality traits that, when compiled all together, make us the people we are. While not everyone can be 100% self-aware at all times, in discovering aspects about yourself through couples therapy, you'll not only be a better version of yourself, but a better partner in your marriage. That's the ultimate goal with premarital counseling — and a goal that can be achieved if you go into each session with an open mind and the desire to excel and grow as a person.

Professional insight

When you sit down with someone who specializes in marriage, you're going to get to see behind the curtain, so to speak. Yes, you've probably heard the pros and cons of marriage from your friends and family, but a therapist — who just might be married themselves — spends their day helping married couples navigate their way through the struggles, just as much as they help them process the good times. No one really realizes just how beneficial their relationship with themselves and with their partner can be until they talk with a therapist who offers new perspectives on not just a few things, but everything.

We are all a work in progress and will be so our entire lives. There's no finish line to this work, nor is perfection ever reached. It doesn't matter how great you're feeling about yourself and your upcoming marriage, there's always room to be better, more mindful, and more present in your interactions with your partner. Seeking out therapy before the big day is one of the best things you can do to preserve — and build upon — all the great stuff you have in your relationship now.