The Surprising Pros & Cons of Premarital Counseling

couple in counselingCouples used to "hear wedding bells." Now, it's a smartphone alarm reminding them that premarital counseling starts in 10 minutes. As many as 44 percent of couples today agree to go through premarital therapy together before they tie the knot.

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"Sometimes [couples] have identified specific concerns and issues that one or both want to deal with before making the commitment," explains Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, a psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Virginia. "Other times, they just want to improve their communication skills or get a 'wellness check' on their relationship."

Makes sense. It's exciting to date a rebel/bad boy, for instance. Married to him and raising kids? Um, not so much.

So what are the pros and cons of going through premarital counseling? What a coincidence! We were just about to tell you.

Pro: You're more likely to stay together.

In counseling, you learn to communicate and build empathy. And doing so gives your marriage a better survival rate. According to one study, couples who had a premarital intervention were half as likely to separate and divorce three years after saying "I do" than people who were like, "Eh, we've got this. No need."

Pro: You won't repeat history.

People who come from a background of divorce -- that is, either grew up with divorced parents or have been divorced themselves -- "are prime candidates for premarital counseling," says Coleman. "They don't want to repeat their parents' or their own mistakes and want to learn new tools and strategies for more effective communication."

Pro: You'll become aware of each other's fundamental differences.

Maybe you share different views about religion. Or money. Or some other core belief system. You'll find out now. Which is good, if it's something that's only going to become MORE of an issue as time goes on, says Nikki Martinez, PsyD, a psychologist and licensed clinical professional counselor in Chicago. "This is the time to get it all on the table and work through it, and walk into this commitment with the best chance possible."

More from The Stir: Going to Therapy Alone Can Help Your Marriage as Much as Couples Counseling

Con: There is a cost. (Financial, that is.)

Seeing a premarital counselor can set you back between $50 to $150 for a session that lasts 45 minutes to an hour. (Although some use a sliding scale based on income.) Some churches offer free counseling to couples-to-be, while others charge in the same range as a therapist.

Con: A lot of your success depends on finding the "right" counselor.

This isn't so much a "con" as a caveat. Just because someone is a good counselor doesn't mean he or she has experience and success working with couples. It's also crucial you and your partner both feel comfortable and respected by the therapist you choose. If you see one who doesn't know the drill, chances are you're going to feel like you're wasting your time and money.

Pro AND Con: You could realize you're totally wrong for each other.

"Most couples that I've worked with have gone on to marriage," assures Coleman. But she has dealt with some that ultimately DID decide to call off the ceremony. We know: The thought is scary. But in the long run, this isn't a downside, Coleman says. "However difficult this is, it's much easier than an issue presenting itself after saying 'I do.'"

 

Image via © iStock.com/alexsokolov

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