A recent poll on The Knot Blog asked readers and brides-to-be whether or not they felt premarital counseling should be mandatory. Nearly half responded affirmatively, some indicated it was required by their religious institution, and the remainder did not think about it or were not planning on any counseling. So I thought I'd weigh in on the subject matter.
Let me start by saying that while I feel premarital counseling can be quite insightful, I don't think it ought to be mandatory for all couples. There may be a misconception that premarital counseling is only for people in rocky relationships or who are in need of help. But that is not the case. Premarital counseling is a wonderful way for couples to learn more about each other in (hopefully) a non-threatening environment. With the support and encouragement of a qualified professional or spiritual leader, newly engaged couples have a forum where they can address their concerns, ask questions, and discuss their future as husband and wife. People can also utilize it to give them better direction or achieve marriage goals. These are positive ways that premarital counseling benefits all couples.
For couples who find themselves having communication issues, numerous physical, religious, or emotional concerns, or anxiety about moving onto this next stage in life, premarital counseling is a good idea. It's always helpful to get your feelings out in the open and see where the issues truly lie. Having a professional sort through them with you and guide the two of you in the right direction can be invaluable in improving your relationship or helping you see that it may not be the best fit, if that's the case. Working together to resolve any underlying problems is a good way to start your marriage off on the right foot too.
Choosing to have premarital counseling is a personal decision. Couples who feel that they can benefit from it or learn more about each other should seek out a qualified professional who they feel comfortable with to provide the counseling. Ask up front about fees, number of sessions, qualifications, and what topics will be covered. If you already have an idea of what you want to discuss, see if it's okay to focus on that instead of a more structured program. Make certain that you and your fiance are on the same page too, as premarital counseling works best when you're both open to the idea and willing to participate fully and honestly.