But, despite the obvious benefits, some couples still avoid counseling. Why?
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Some are turned off by the stigma, believing that seeking professional help indicates they're somehow deficient. Others balk at the high cost of counseling, preferring to spend their money elsewhere. (A high-priced wedding veil, perhaps?) And still others, like Emily Scheu, a 28-year-old media buyer living in D.C., and her fiancé, whom she's been with for one and a half years, simply believe that they're prepared for the challenges of marriage, and wouldn't have anything significant to gain from the experience.
"We're not anti-premarital counseling," Scheu says. "[My fiancé and I are] just very much on the same page with everything." She mentions their similar values, their ultimate financial goals, their stance on children and religion. "We just feel there's not much that a counselor needs to delve into with us," she says.
When I ask her if she feels they're prepared to deal with the stuff that could happen down the line—job loss, infidelity, a big move, a financial hit—she's momentarily speechless. "That's probably a good benefit to going to premarital counseling," she admits. "In terms of coping mechanisms and strategies, that probably would be something that would be beneficial."
Chris Westfall, a sales and marketing specialist from Dallas, TX and married now for 17.5 years, also opted out of premarital counseling. He feels that this was a huge mistake.
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Westfall and his wife dated on and off for five years before getting engaged. By that point, they thought they were ready for anything marriage could throw at them. But then a job switch necessitated a geographic change, and their marriage began to crumble. "The move was stressful," says Westfall. "It caused tension. It was a huge deal for my wife, but not for me. I didn't have a frame of reference for where she was coming from."