Recently, I had a young couple walk into my office for couples counselling. I wondered if they needed it; they were so connected, had stars in their eyes for each other, and couldn’t complement each other enough. I was searching for what had brought them in when I noticed a significant ring on a significant finger. I then asked what their future plans were and they said: “Marriage!” Ahhh… the light came on. This couple was here for premarital counselling, and I was thrilled.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy helping experienced couples work through conflict, crisis or transitions. Watching two people take significant steps toward each other to rediscover their love or mend their marriage is a delightful part of my job. Even when a couple decides to part ways, there is still deep self-discovery and even healing that can happen in that process.
However, I do have a special place in my heart for couples who take steps to prepare for their marriages. Did you know that doing some sort of premarital counselling has been associated with higher marital satisfaction, improved communication, and better conflict-resolution skills, which can contribute to healthier and more enduring marriages (Carroll, Doherty, & Willoughby, 2003)?
And I get it; knowing your spouse’s strengths and weaknesses, their personality, how you both engage in conflict, and how you both receive love is really helpful before you get into the thick of marriage. As much as premarital couples think their marriage will be different, their love will last, and they will defy the odds, life happens.
Marriage is hard. People grow apart. Children come into the mix. Any number of factors can (and will) affect intimacy. Having a realistic understanding of yourself, your partner and your relational tendencies and emotional patterns is huge.
...some sort of premarital counseling has been associated with higher marital satisfaction, improved communication, and better conflict-resolution skills...
Premarital counselling allows couples to discuss some really significant parts of married life before they happen. For example; how will we handle finances? What about kids? How will we interact with our families? How do we manage under stress? What about our sex? What are our career plans? How do we make big decisions? What will keep us connected?
Frontloading these conversations allows me to help couples put a plan (or at least helpful ideas) into place. So, when the marriage encounters future obstacles they can think back and say “Oh! We talked about this!” It helps to not be caught off guard in the areas that tend to bring marriages down.
When the marriage encounters future obstacles they can think back and say, "Oh! We talked about this!"
Something that I just love experiencing with couples preparing for marriage is their profound appreciation for each other. Wow, is that refreshing! I love sitting in the room with them and soaking up the love. I want to urge them: “Hang on to this! Don’t lose those stars in your eyes!”.
Inevitably, I know their love will mature and evolve. There will be varied seasons in their marriage. But my deepest hope is that by talking about marriage before it happens, couples will be given a roadmap to connection that they can always come back to, again and again.
Liz Scott, M.C., M.T.S., R.C.C., is interested in helping individuals struggling with pre and postpartum depression and anxiety, chronic pain and health conditions, sexual abuse and assault, addictions, parenting, marriage, and relationship issues. You can read more about her here: https://www.arbourcounselling.ca/meet-liz-s
Carroll, J. S., Doherty, W. J., & Willoughby, B. (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs: A meta-analytic review of outcome research. Family Relations, 52(2), 105-118.