POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF PREMARITAL COUNSELING
Creating positive marriage resolutions. It's easy to get emotional when discussing heavy-duty topics like money, sex, and kids. An experienced counselor can help guide the conversation and prevent you and your partner from going off on a tangent, thereby losing focus and not accomplishing anything.
Learning (or improving) conflict resolution skills. If you've had some major tiffs or blowouts in the past (and who hasn't?) then you both know how you tend to react during arguments, whether it's wielding the silent treatment and pouting or yelling and name-calling. If you're being honest with yourself, then there's probably room for improvement. A counselor will teach you how to listen and communicate more effectively; more specifically, they'll also tell you what to say (and not say) in order to reach a happy solution.
Getting realistic expectations about timing. For example, if you come to an agreement that the kids topic is off the table for two years, then you won't be left anxious or frustrated when you want to delve into that plan and your partner isn't ready. This also applies to major purchases like buying a house.
Avoiding toxic resentments. Clear the air about resentments you've been hanging onto throughout your relationship. A counselor will help you resolve these issues and free yourselves from them so that they don't cause massive damage later on in your marriage.
Dismantling fears about marriage. One or both of you might come from a divorced family, or from a dysfunctional background where fighting and manipulation was the norm. Premarital counseling can teach you how to make peace with your past and break the cycle.
Identifying the "seeds" of future marital stress. With an experienced outsider's perspective, you can learn which behaviors and habits you need to adjust or quit cold turkey.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER DURING PREMARITAL COUNSELING
• How will we handle conflict?
• What are our zero-tolerance hot buttons (e.g. financial dishonesty, infidelity, drinking too much, gambling)? What are the repercussions of those missteps?
• What are the most important values that we’ll keep in our relationship?
• What are our career goals (e.g. getting a second job or traveling more) and what will it take for us to reach them?
• Do either of us plan to change careers, and if so, how will we adjust our lifestyle and budget to allow for a potentially lower household income?
• During busy times, will we be working late at night? On weekends? During vacations?
• What is our current financial situation, including our total debt, savings and retirement funds?
• How big of an emergency fund do we need to live well if one of us is out of work, or if we have an unexpected expense?
• What is our monthly budget?
• What can we establish as our individual "fun money" funds, and do we want to inform each other when we tap into them?
• Who will pay for which of our household expenses and bills?
• Are we happy with our current lovemaking schedule, or do either of us want more?
• If we’re not having as much sex as we would like, is it a matter of time or energy, and what can we do to remedy those barriers?
• What’s the best way for each of us to express that we’d like more sex?
• Do either of us want more romance? If so, what exactly are our most wished-for romantic gestures? More kissing? More hugs? Romantic dinners?
• When do we want to have kids?
• How many kids do we plan to have?
• If for some reason, we can’t have children, will we pursue adoption?
• Will one of us stop working after we have children, and how will that affect our lifestyle and finances?
• What do we want our children to learn from our relationship?
• Will we raise our kids with religious beliefs and traditions?
• What are our independently-held or shared religious beliefs?
• Would we like to re-connect to a religious or spiritual community?
• What are our spiritual beliefs and practices, and how will we include them in our life?
• If we each have different religious beliefs, how will we maintain our own traditions and combine them, if possible?
• Who will be responsible for which household chores?
• Can we revisit our job division list in a few months, if either of us is unhappy with the balance of effort needed?
• Do we have strong needs for our home to be spotless, or is a little bit of clutter okay?
• Who will be responsible for meal-planning and meal preparations during the week and on the weekends?
• Do either of us need and enjoy alone time? How will we make that happen?
• How often will we visit our parents on a regular basis? Every weekend, or once in a while?
• How will we divide the holidays fairly between our parents?
• How will we deal with our respective family dramas?
• How often will we vacation with our families, if ever? And if it’s not something one of us loves to do, how can we compromise (e.g. leaving after three days instead of staying the week)?
• How often will we spend time with our friends? Will we keep our regular Friday night happy hour plans with them or adjust to once a month or so to give us more time together as a couple?
• How will we deal with each other’s friends we don’t like very much?
• If a friend asks to stay at our house while they're in town, or if they're out of work, how will we handle that?
• How often will we have date nights?
• How often do we want to vacation together?
It’s important to look at these questions before you are married and periodically throughout your marriage. Allow yourself to make changes and adjustments as your marriage grows and matures. As you share your thoughts and ideas with your partner, try to listen with the purpose of understanding each other.