I’ve been privileged to provide premarital counseling services in New York City for hundreds of engaged couples. Whether teaching in large workshops, running private mentoring programs or meeting with couples individually, I always consider it an honor to be able to participate in the health and growth of a couple’s relationship.
And while most couples are excited to dive into premarital counseling and develop a better understanding of their strength and growth areas, some couples have a bit of anxiety as they try to decide how and when to meet with a counselor. I want to make sure you succeed in navigating the premarital counseling process, especially here in New York City. So below I’ve outlined the top three mistakes I see couples make when starting premarital counseling. Look through the list and double-check that you are setting yourselves up well for this important step in preparing for marriage.
Top Premarital Counseling Mistakes for Couples in New York and Beyond
- Getting premarital counseling solely from your officiant or regular pastor.
I’m a huge fan of meeting with your officiant before the wedding and I think pastors are a valuable part of the marriage preparation process. Think about it. It’s important for your officiant to know you’re ready before they (literally) co-sign on your marriage, and it’s useful to seek out spiritual guidance before saying I do. However, don’t confuse these types of meetings with the help a trained relationship expert can provide. Specifically an expert trained in marriage and family therapy is your most helpful asset to navigate the engagement season. These professionals have spent countless supervised hours working with couples to build relational health. Based on their years of experience working mainly with couples, a relationship expert has the greatest chance of quickly identifying the red flags in your relationship that could cause problems later. As therapists, they are also trained to give you the psycho-education and techniques needed to build a solid marriage.
- Delaying premarital counseling until too close to the wedding date.
Most couples wait way too long to begin premarital counseling. While saying yes to the dress and choosing centerpieces can be more exciting, I recommend making premarital counseling one of the first steps you take together as a newly engaged couple. Quality premarital counseling should allow you to fully explore the various aspects of the life you intend to establish together. That means talking about how you’ll handle finances, where you’ll live, what you think about children and more. If you wait until the month before your wedding to have these intense discussions, you’ll likely either fail to go to the depths needed for it to be beneficial or you’ll have a more difficult time having these conversations amidst the stress of wedding details. Start premarital counseling at least 3 months before the wedding to relieve any pressure. There is no such thing as starting too early when it comes to counseling.
- Avoiding tough issues in sessions.
You would imagine that if a couple signs up for premarital counseling, that would mean they are ready to talk about the real issues. Unfortunately, I find that more often than not couples are so set on getting married, by the time they see me they try to avoid any major conflicts that might tear apart the relationship. Don’t make this mistake! Premarital counseling is the time to address all your relationship concerns in the safety of meeting with a trusted professional. I often joke with clients that I’m not there to save their relationship but rather to “break” it. By that, I mean I am there to highlight any potential areas of growth or any cracks in their foundation so they can enter marriage with confidence, knowing their partner better and equipped with the skills to manage any future challenges.
The work you put into your relationship prior to marriage can save you a great deal of unnecessary distress after the wedding. Make sure to start preparing for marriage now.
A great way to get started is by taking an online relationship assessment (like the reputable Prepare Enrich version) to evaluate your current relationship. Or you can start by booking your first session with a counselor.
My next premarital counseling workshop is February 24th and we have a few seats left. You can get all the details at lifeplan.nyc/premarital or investigate private counseling there as well. Not yet ready to bring someone else into your relationship discussions? Grab my free list of 10 Helpful Relationship Books to Read Right Now. It’s a great primer covering how to manage major issues like communication, conflict resolution and sexual intimacy that cause many marriages to fail.
Congratulations on your engagement. I'm cheering for you!