September 12th, 2015
The Importance of Premarital Counselling:
Four Reasons why Premarital Counselling is Critical to your Relationship
Every single engaged couple should participate in premarital counselling. Every single one. “But Melissa”, you may ask, “we are just starting out in our relationship and we don’t have any problems. Why should we be in counselling already?” To that, I say that premarital counselling is essential preventative work for every couple to lay a strong foundation for a lifetime together, and I will explain four reasons why.
Firstly, with the divorce rate close to 50%, we can’t afford not to take every measure necessary to prevent this from happening. Premarital preparation programs, such as PREP-Enrich, have been shown to decrease the divorce rate by as much as 30% (Stanley, Amato, Johnson & Markman, 2006). That is significant, and definitely worth the effort. There are many known benefits of marriage (health, financial, etc) (www.imfcanada.org, Waite & Gallagher, 2000) and known negative outcomes of divorce and marital conflict for adults and children (emotional, psychological, financial, academic, social, etc) (www.http://www.mdrc.org/publication/effects-marriage-and-divorce-families-and-children; http://www.thefamilywatch.org/doc/doc-0073-es.pdf), so if there is a way to honour the value of marriage by making it stronger, why not do it?
Secondly, in premarital counselling you have the opportunity to discuss areas of your relationship that you may not have otherwise talked about. Everything is on the table- finances, children, in-laws, household duties, sex, habits, family of origin, personality, etc. You discover your strengths and areas of growth as a couple. “The average participant in a premarital program tends to experience about a 30% increase in measures of outcome success” (Carroll & Doherty, 2003). I have never met a couple who did not have any areas of growth at all, so every single couple can benefit from this proactive work.
Even if you are already married or living together, you can still benefit from this approach. That is the “Enrich” part of the “PREP-Enrich”. The program helps to further enrich your relationship, no matter how long you have been together or what the status is of your relationship. It would give you the opportunity to talk about those things that have already come up in the relationship, and to further expand upon your existing strengths as a couple.
Thirdly, premarital counselling helps you to be feel happier and be closer in your relationship. You learn critical relationship skills such as communication and conflict resolution that you take with you for a lifetime. Learning these skills early on helps the couple to manage the inevitable stressors and issues that come up along their journey when they do happen. That way they can address the issues confidently and resolve them effectively before they turn into larger issues down the road. Couples who participate in premarital work significantly increase their satisfaction in their relationship. In a study done by Knutson & Olson, they found that couples improved in 10 out of 13 relationship categories (Knutson & Olson, 2003) after participating in the PREP-Enrich program, including marriage expectations, personality issues, communication, financial management, children and parenting, family and friends, role relationship, spiritual beliefs, couple closeness and couple flexibility.
Finally, fourth, participating in premarital counselling allows you the opportunity to get to know the counsellor and the process of counselling. It then feels familiar, so that if in the future you require further intervention, then you are already comfortable with the concept and have an idea of what to expect. The couple then recognizes that reaching out is helpful and healthy. Premarital counselling has been found to increase the likelihood that a couple will seek out and use future marital and family services at the first sign of distress, compared to couples who did not participate in premarital counselling (Knutson & Olson, 2003).
If you are engaged or in a relationship, I hope that my article inspires you to reach out for premarital or enrichment counselling. There are many resources out there. Feel free to check out www.enrichcanada.ca or www.prepare-enrich.com for more information on the PREP-Enrich program. Also feel free to check out my website for more information, at www.thecouplewellnessexpert.com
Feel free to contact me at 647-830-7473 or email@example.com I would be glad to answer any questions you may have, and offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation. My husband of 11 years and I both offer premarital counselling using the PREP-Enrich program, and also offer wedding officiant services.
Treasure your significant other, cherish each other and hold each other tight for life.
Melissa Johari, The Couple Wellness Expert
Carroll, J.S. & Doherty, W.J. (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs: A meta-analytic review of outcome research. Family Relations, 52, 105-118.
Knutson, L. & Olson, D.H. (2003). Effectiveness of PREPARE Program with Premarital Couples in Community Settings. Marriage & Family, 6 (4), 529-546.
Stanley, S.M., Amato, P.R., Johnson C.A., Markman H.J. (2006). Premarital education, marital quality, and marital stability: findings from a large, random household survey. Journal of Family Psychology, 20 (1), 117-26.
Waite, L.J., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage: Why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. New York: Doubleday.