Says Riechmann, "During an engagement, life can seem a lot like a fairy tale, but that inevitably wears off. It's best to have some discussions about money, sex and family planning before you are forced to endure tough times and realize that you are not adequately prepared to deal with those issues in your marriage." Is Couples Counseling Right For Your Relationship?
"It takes courage to go to counseling," adds Westfall. "The alternative is that you walk away from it. The person you care about walks out of your life. People go to therapy as a last resort. It should be a starting point."
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In a recent survey, 78 percent of YourTango readers said all couples should get premarital counseling.
If you're still unconvinced that premarital counseling is right for you, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know each other's financial history, and have you worked out a plan for handling finances going forward?
- How important is religion to both of you, and how will you honor your faiths going forward? If you plan to have children, what kind of religious education will they receive?
- What are the differences in how you were raised? How might these differences affect your marriage?
- How sexually compatible are you? What are your expectations when it comes to the bedroom?
- Are you in agreement about plans regarding children? What about careers? Living situation?
- Do you share the same core values?
- What are your expectations of marriage, and does your partner share those expectations?
- How do the two of you handle disagreements?
- How will the two of you negotiate any future roadblocks that may unexpectedly pop up, like job-loss, caring for an ailing parent or financial difficulty?
If there's even one question you have difficulty answering, it could be worth considering premarital counseling.
If you're unsure how to go about finding a counselor, one good place to start is your church or temple. It can also be helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and acquaintances, and especially from people with marriages you admire. Beyond that, there are plenty of qualified professionals among our YourTango Experts. Directories also exist at Psychology Today, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, Prepare-Enrich, etc.
Don't just go with the first counselor you meet. Once you've found some likely candidates, ask them about their credentials, their counseling strategies and their pricing, and also try to get a feel for whether or not you click. It's important that both you and your partner feel comfortable with whomever you choose.
And if your partner resists?
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"Don't say, 'I really think we need help,'" advises Dalgliesh. "Say, 'Look, I love you. I want to see us be successful at marriage. How about we talk to someone and see if they have tips? I value what we have. This is an investment in us.'"