Premarital Counseling: When To Start, How Long It Lasts, And What It’s For

Getting married is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. And while marriage is a wonderful thing for many couples, you want to have the best possible chances of success when you embark on this journey with your partner. That’s where premarital counseling comes in. If you think you have to have relationship problems to benefit from it, think again. Here’s what you need to know about the practice and how it can set you and your partner up for a happy, healthy marriage.

What is premarital counseling?

Premarital counseling is a form of couples therapy used specifically by those in a serious relationship who are planning to marry. These sessions, which are attended by both people in the relationship and a licensed therapist, allow couples to have tough conversations and iron out any outstanding issues, and make their relationship as strong as possible before saying “I do.”

Contrary to what you might think, premarital therapy isn’t for troubled relationships. (In fact, if your relationship is having serious issues, you shouldn’t be considering marriage at the moment!) In fact, it’s a way for strong, committed couples to increase their bond. There’s always room for improvement, and that’s the spirit of premarital counseling sessions.

When should you start these sessions?

There are no rules that state you need to start counseling with your partner at a certain time. However, in order to receive the maximum benefit from these sessions, roughly six to nine months before your wedding is a good place to start. This gives you adequate time to cover all relevant topics that affect your relationship.

Of course, if you’re only able to begin sessions a few months or even a few weeks before saying “I do,” you can always request accelerated sessions if yours and your counselor’s schedule allows. Even two or three sessions can prove helpful for newlyweds.

What do you talk about in premarital counseling?

  1. Sex The likelihood that both people’s libidos will match up 100% of the time is slim. Plus, one person may value sex more than the other. Frank discussions about this topic will allow you to voice your concerns, feelings, and ideas about intimacy. This way, you’re more likely to remain on the same page moving forward.
  2. Friends and family Your relationship with each other is important, but so is the one you have with your loved ones. Premarital counseling provides a space to discuss your interactions with one another’s friends and family. After all, you’re never just marrying one person. The people they love and care about (and vice versa) are part of the package.
  3. Career If one person has lofty career goals that will require long hours at the office, that could become an issue. Same goes for if one person’s profession might require a ton of travel or occasional relocation. Knowing what you should expect and voicing your limitations can help avoid conflict down the line.
  4. Parenting and kids This is likely a conversation you’ve already had, perhaps multiple times. It’s also something you’ll talk about in premarital counseling. It’s vital that you’re both happy with your perspective on starting a family (or not starting one). The desire to be a parent or to remain child-free is not one you should compromise on.
  5. Spirituality/Religion Do you come from different religious backgrounds? Are you an atheist while your partner is a believer? Learning how to respect one another’s faith is important. This also comes into play if you plan to have kids together. Will they be raised with faith? How does the non-believer or agnostic person feel about this?
  6. Money A recent survey found that money is the most common cause of arguments between couples. Having different financial outlooks or even struggling with handling your money well can be a major problem. It’s important you’re able to talk frankly about money for the health of your marriage.
  7. Morals and character Our values are what guide us in life. Chances are, you and your partner share these values. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be getting married. While that might be the case, it’s still an important topic of conversation in premarital counseling.
  8. Compatibility Again, you probably already know you’re compatible. However, marriage changes things. Your chemistry and compatibility may not be enough to save your relationship.
  9. Conflict resolution Because all couples argue at times, you’ll need to know how to fight fair. Disagreeing once in a while is a totally normal part of every relationship. Knowing how to get back on track is something premarital counseling can help with.
  10. Communication It’s the foundation of every relationship. You might already do it well. Nevertheless, you can always brush up on your skills.

Why premarital counseling is beneficial

  • It helps to build trust.
  • It allows you to air and resolve any outstanding issues.
  • It gives you valuable communication tools.
  • It gives you a better chance of a healthy, happy marriage.
  • It helps you better understand your relationship dynamics.

How much does it cost?

A 60-minute premarital marriage counseling session can range anywhere from $100 to $300, with the national average coming somewhere between $125 and $175 each. However, how much you’ll spend depends on a variety of factors including where you live, how many sessions you require, and the experience of the professional counselor you choose. For reference, most couples choose to attend around five sessions.

If in-person premarital counseling is out of your budget, it may be worthwhile to take an online premarital counseling course. This is a more affordable option for many and will cost you anywhere from $50 to $400 in total. In addition to being less expensive than face-to-face sessions, another advantage is the ability to complete the coursework on your own schedule. From videos to e-books, the material you access can be done as and when your schedule allows.

Bolde has been a source of dating and relationship advice for single women around the world since 2014. We combine scientific data, experiential wisdom, and personal anecdotes to provide help and encouragement to those frustrated by the journey to find love. Follow us on Instagram @bolde_media or on Facebook @BoldeMedia