Can Premarital Counseling Make Your Marriage Last Longer?

A lot of people don't know about their options for premarital counseling. But it could really help.

couple in marriage counseling / Shutterstock

Premarital counseling has the potential to benefit your marriage in the long run.

Consider this common scenario:

You’ve moved through the early dating phase and shifted from a place of liking each other to becoming smitten with one another.  

As you prepare for marriage, conversations with your beloved are more future-focused, dotted with questions such as, "Do you think you may want to have kids someday?" or "Where is your ideal place to live?"


RELATED: 5 Things You Absolutely Must Talk About Before Marriage

As your feelings for one another deepen, you realize that you want to be part of each other’s daily life. Now, you’re talking about making those thoughts of a long-term commitment become a reality.

Before you walk down the aisle, premarital counseling could be a critical step toward ensuring a successful and healthy relationship.

What happens in premarital counseling?

Premarital counseling is a type of couples therapy in which you and your partner can create a solid foundation prior to saying, "I do." 

Typically, premarital counseling provides a platform for communicating expectations and exploring individual differences. You can clarify your purpose for being together and create a vision for a relationship that meets both of your needs.


Premarital counseling sessions aren't just for engaged couples, they can begin as soon as you and your partner decide that you want a committed relationship.

How is premarital counseling a relationship saver?

While you’re in the getting-to-know-you phase of your relationship, you probably have blinders on when it comes to seeing one another’s strengths and weaknesses, delights, and annoyances in a realistic manner.

Through counseling, you can more clearly view your future spouse along with their character and values.

When areas of contention arise, premarital counseling will prepare you to understand and manage your differences.

Investing in your relationship via counseling makes common sense, as it is probable that you weren’t taught skills such as how to fight fair, or how to manage the ebb and flow of sexual desire.


Also, you or your future spouse may have been raised by parents who were distant, unloving, or perhaps argumentive in their marriage.

If that’s true, then you weren’t provided a role model of a healthy marriage or relationship in which partners put each other first, value transparency, and rely on each other.

If you've experienced heartbreak in previous relationships, you may be hesitant to say, "I do." Working with a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in premarital counseling can help you confront fears and worries about what being in a long-term relationship may entail.

You may find yourself feeling less doubtful and more hopeful that the person you love can have your back and that you're both worthy of long-term love.


RELATED: 7 Times You Should Seriously Consider Marriage Counseling (Some May Surprise You)

What can you expect when you start premarital counseling?

You may have some premarital questions that you'd like to have answered before tying the knot. Whether this is your first marriage or you’ve been married before, your counselor will want to talk with you about your goals for counseling.

They may meet with you individually to discern your background and relationship history prior to meeting with you as a couple.

You may be asked to complete a compatibility survey that addresses areas of agreement and potential differences within your relationship.


How long is premarital counseling?

Sessions are typically 60-90 minutes long. You may find that meeting with a mental health professional for three to five sessions is sufficient for your needs.

Couples who want to do more in-depth exploration may prefer additional sessions. On average, couples spend about eight hours in premarital counseling to prepare for marriage.

Common topics addressed in premarital counseling include fostering clear communication, sexual intimacy, decision making, money management, extended family relationships, spiritual/religious beliefs, cultural influences, parenting and step-parenting, and the ingredients of a healthy relationship.

The long-term benefits of premarital counseling.

Couples sealing their commitment are aiming for a happy marriage. Premarital counseling is one step that will help you achieve that goal.


In fact, research shows that couples who underwent counseling before getting married had a 30 percent higher marital success rate than those who didn't.

If you and your partner complete premarital counseling and come across a dealbreaker, you could save yourselves the pain of divorce later on.

Lastly, talking with your partner now about all aspects of becoming a couple will likely increase your relationship satisfaction and create deeper intimacy.

Types of premarital counseling available. 

Accessing counseling has never been easier with the addition of online assistance via telehealth.

You can reach out to a local counselor or consult a counselor directory — like the PACT Institute, the American Psychological Association, and PsychologyToday — and engage a professional counselor, even one who lives in another state.


Catholic premarital counseling is also an option, and it's available from many churches, synagogues, or spiritual communities across a broad spectrum of belief systems. 

If finances are a concern, reach out to your local mental health center, employee assistance program, counseling nonprofit, or college/university. Clinics in these settings often use a sliding scale based on income to determine fees.

Prior to making your selection, meet with each counselor candidate by phone or online.

Most counselors offer a free, brief consult to help you decide if they're a good fit. Be sure to ask if premarital counseling is a specialty area of theirs and inquire about the kind of training they received to prepare them to work with couples.


Verify that the counselor is licensed. Licensed psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors are all potential candidates to consider for premarital counseling.

You’ll spend months or perhaps a year or more making decisions about all the details of your wedding. Isn’t investing time to strengthen your relationship with your future life partner equally worth the effort?

RELATED: What Makes A Great Marriage Therapist? 9 Traits Of A Great Counselor

Dr. Beth O’Brien is a Licensed Psychologist who specializes in couples counseling and has helped countless couples create healthy, secure marriages.