(4 Months to 6 Months before the Wedding)
Studies show that couples who learn proven relationship skills and increase their understanding of each other before marriage, have happier and stronger marriages that last. Overwhelmingly, 92% of married couples that have taken pre-marital counseling programs have stated that the program has helped their marriage.
Some religious institutions won't even marry you unless you go through a pre-marital program first. Those couples who aren't affiliated with a religious institution often seek out a pre-marriage counselor. One thing to be sure, just about every religion, officiant, and pre-wedding counselor have their own unique way of approaching marriage counseling.
Most pre-marriage counseling programs starts off in a discovery realm, they start out asking questions about the couple. The first session usually devoted to getting the couple to relax, explaining how the counseling process works, lay out a schedule for appointments for the upcoming month, and might ask some questions from the couple and also have them fill out a questionnaire on a broad range of topics.
Depending on the counselor and the religious institute, many average about 4 pre-marriage sessions with the couple, but some places offer more and some less. Usually after the first session, the couple will be given something to read and have a homework assignment and might even be asked to perform an interactive exercise with their mate. In some situations, the couple will be asked personal questions when their partner is not in the room. The sessions could be one on one or with a group of mixed couples or with a group of the same sex. The couple may even be asked to fill out personality questionnaire.
Many of the sessions might be a little uncomfortable for the couple as personal probing questions may get asked. A session might go like this. How did the two of you meet? How long have you known each other? How long have you been dating? Are you formally engaged? How and why did you decide to get married? When do you plan to get married? Where? By whom? Why do you want to get married? Why did you agree to pre-marriage counseling? Do you desire a Christian ceremony and a Christian wedding? To the best of your knowledge, what is a Christian marriage?
Continuing, how does your family and friends feel about your engagement? Have any expressed concerns? If so, what are they? Have either of you been married before? Have either of you been in love before? How many times? How long ago was the last time? What is there about your present relationship that makes it different from past relationships which did not last? Describe the strengths and weaknesses of your mate? What is it about your mate that attracted you? What potential problems do you anticipate in your marriage?
Some religious institutions will have a session that will dwell deeply into their religious convictions and faith. They may ask you many questions about your faith and how you view God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit or if they are of other faith their views of the Supreme Being. They might dwell into their Holy Book and discuss their spiritual relationships. They may discuss spiritual passages and your thoughts about specific readings. They may ask how often so you attend a House of Worship? How do they exercise your faith? Do they attend religious programs outside of the House of Worship service? Do they read the Holy Book? Do they talk religious matters with their mate? How do they plan to raise their children from a religious perspective?
The marriage counseling sessions usually dwelve into a whole range of topics such as their communication skills. How does the couple communicate? Do they argue? Were there arguments in their families growing up? Did they argue when you were young? How did they handle conflict resolution? How close did they feel to each other? How flexible were they in their relationship? How do they both get along in terms of personality? How do they plan to spend their free time together?
Continuing, do they want children? How do they handle children? How do they see themselves as parents? How are their family relations? How are their friendship relations? What are their expectations for their marriage? What are your roles so they see themselves in their marriage? They may get asked a lot of questions in situational circumstances, such as their buddies want the husband to play on their softball team and the wife doesn't want him to and wants him to devote time doing stuff with her, what does he do? The wife may eat lunch almost every with a guy from the office, now that they are married, your husband does not want you eating lunch with the guy any more, what does she do? They may go through hypothetical questions, the counseling session sets up discussing situations with each other and an understanding of each other's viewpoint and some recommendations of how to handle situations from the counselors perspective. Many insights are addressed that the couple would have never thought about discussing amongst themselves on their own.
Many other topics will be brought up during the pre-marriage counseling. Other discussions will probably include goal setting, preference in lifestyle, career plans, reviewing parental skills, how to manage money, many counselors will even discuss, how your budget for your wedding. Other topics include prior relationships, further probing into conflict resolution , conquering fears, handling prior relationships with family, prior relationships and relationships with friends after they're married, and discuss sexuality matters.
The counselor will go back and forth, getting you and your partner's stand on a wide range of topics, hearing how the couple stands on each topic and with the counselor offering advice. At the end of the session, each couple may even get a personalized report along with a pre-marriage counseling guide. The counselor may leave the couple either with a written guide or give a verbal presentation on how to communicate and handle situations in their marriage and instilling a mindset for their successful marriage.
If the counseling is a religious session, the officiant will work with the couple on their wedding ceremony. Some religious institutions have strict ceremonies while with others the couple is allowed a lot of input into the wedding ceremony. The officiant will lay out how he runs the wedding. He will discuss the format of the wedding and discuss parts of the wedding the couple can provide their ideas and input. He/she may brainstorm with the couple, a topic for the sermon, such as relationships, communications, or compromising or other topics.
Is the ceremony to be very restrictive religious, semi religious with a lot of input from the couple, covering two distinct religions, or secular, not particular to any religion? The officiant will review the content, style, and tone of the wedding. Does the couple want to give wedding vows, and what readers does the couple want for the wedding, the officiant may offer suggestions? Also, what music and what decorations would the couple like for their ceremony and put them in contact with the church secretary.
Often it's not the couple that opts for pre-marriage counseling, very often one of the parent's pushes their son or daughter to take it. Much of the time, when issues arise in a marriage, the couple has learned how to handle the issue and understands their partners stand, whereas without the pre-marital session, issues that come up in a marriage that the couple has a hard time resolving, they don't know the other's stand.
When couple's first meet and fall in love, they see no faults in their partner. After awhile, the faults start to come out, and each person needs to compromise on each other's faults. Pre-marriage counseling addresses how to best handle many of the issues that arise in a marriage and how to tackle many different situations. Consider signing up for pre-marriage counseling and learn how to make a strong marriage. See you on the other side!