Following the excitement of your engagement, it’s easy to jump into wedding planning, but in the midst of cake tastings and dress fittings, there’s one crucial item to consider including on your to-do list: premarital counseling classes. Today, we have Virginia-based and licensed marriage and family therapist Erin Metheny to share five reasons to sign up for premarital classes. After all, once your big day has come and gone, it’s just you and your partner – so why not work on your wedding and marriage?! On that note, take it away, Erin

Photo Credits: Joyeuse Photography from Jenny + Rick’s engagement

Premarital sessions, either in an education format or in a counseling format can provide couples with a strong foundation through skill building, fostering necessary discussions, exploring expectations, and even through having some fun. Here are 5 simple and important reasons to consider attending premarital counseling.

Learn to Strengthen Communication Skills
Here’s the thing, we just don’t learn these skills anywhere else in our development. Gaining the skills to listen effectively and actively is not something that comes easily. Or, even if we know how to listen effectively, we often do not know how to respond to our partner with validation and empathy. In other words, communication difficulties are common, but we can learn how to strengthen those skills and have fun doing it. Couples that learn to communicate effectively can discuss and resolve issues when they arise, thus reducing their chances of future conflict or arguments and misunderstandings. This is one of the most important skills that leads to emotional connection, emotional security and greater intimacy between partners.

Learn to Resolve Conflict
I know no one wants to believe they will have conflict in their marriages, especially while you are planning the wedding. However, the truth is that all relationships have conflict at some point whether it’s disagreements, heated discussions, or more emotional arguments.  And, conflict is not such a bad thing. In fact, conflict can really be an opportunity for growth for each of you as individuals and as a couple. Learning to effectively de-escalate conflict and to repair and reconnect has been shown to reduce the risk of divorce and increase a sense of closeness and intimacy.

Discuss Marriage Expectations
We often get a sense of what we want or don’t want in our marriages from our families of origin, our caregivers. When your spoken and unspoken expectations do not get met by your partner, this can often lead to disappointments, and so having an open and honest discussion about what each of you expect from the other in a variety of areas leads to fewer surprises and disappointments down the road.

Identify + Discuss Family of Origin Issues
We can’t help but learn so much about how to interact with a partner from our primary caregivers. Couples who have an awareness of the potential existence of any problematic interactions are usually better at disrupting repetition of these learned behaviors and at replacing unhealthy patterns of interaction with more effective ones.

Establish Personal, Couple + Family Goals
Marriage is a long term investment with each other. It is incredibly valuable for couples to sit down and discuss how they would like their futures to look. Where do you want to be in one year, five years, ten years, and twenty years? How do you envision retirement? There are so many topics to cover and putting in the pre-wedding effort to learn, understand, and grow toward a wonderful life with your partner is a beautiful idea.

Photo Credits: Joyeuse Photography from Jenny + Rick’s engagement

It can be hard to know how to find a qualified professional to provide such a valuable service as premarital preparation. Here are three simple tips to finding the right fit for you during this exciting time in your lives:

  1. Counseling vs. Education: It’s helpful to consider a therapist that offers premarital education as well as premarital counseling, as the these can be two separate programs and some couples may not require counseling as much as they could benefit from education and learning.
  2. Program Offerings: Couples should ask potential therapists/professionals if the premarital programs offer an assessment inventory such as PREPARE. Other inventories offered are RELATE and FOCCUS. Couples also want to look for a therapist or professional that is trained and qualified to offer such programs.
  3. Flexibility: Finally, it is important to look for a program, class, or approach that is flexible to allow for each relationship and each learning style, rather than a one-size-fits-all type of program. During a time when you might be investing quite a bit of money financially for the wedding, finding a provider who offers programs of different price categories, allows you to find a program that won’t put you over your wedding budget.  Can’t invest in premarital counseling now due to finances? Some premarital programs can also be attended even after you are married.

Taking some time off from the planning of the details of the wedding day, to spend some quality time learning about each other, your skills, and your future, can be a great way to connect and have fun. Any other thoughts or suggestions you would like to provide? Feel free to comment below to help others find the right counselor for their premarital preparation.

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Thank you for sharing this vital (and wonderful!) marriage advice, Erin! If you’re interested in premarital and/or newlywed education or couples counseling, be sure to check out DC + VA-based and licensed marriage and family therapist, Erin Metheny!

For more wedding planning tips and advice from local wedding pros in the DC area, be sure to have a look around the blog. We’ve covered some really great, local wedding planning topics that you won’t want to miss!

 

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