What Does Pre-Engagement Counseling Mean And Do You Need It?

By Mary Elizabeth Dean|Updated May 3, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Aaron Dutil , LMHC, LPC

You may think that you already know everything you could need to know about your special someone and you're absolutely in love, right? That may be the case, but maybe you've also started to notice some little things that you didn't know about. Perhaps it's something small that they do or something that the two of you seem to argue about quite a bit. Perhaps you want to be sure you're marrying the right person. If any of this sounds like you and you're thinking about getting married, pre-engagement counseling might be the right thing to do.

What Does Pre-engagement Counseling Mean?

Pre-engagement counseling is a forum where a couple is present with a third party (relationship counselor) to explore the concerns and emotions surrounding engagement freely. This counseling is done BEFORE engagement, not after.

Premarital counseling is not the same as pre-engagement. Premarital counseling occurs after engagement and just before marriage.

Those who have already gone through engagement are less likely to be successful with premarital counseling. They have an investment in time, money, and each other and have a much harder time walking away. The social stigma of canceling a wedding also plays into walking away from a bad premarital relationship.

With pre-engagement counseling, both parties have a more open mindset with less commitment. They are more willing to examine things in depth.

What Does Pre-Engagement Counseling Cover?

Pre-engagement counseling generally spans several sessions. The counselor asks the couple to fill out an inventory of various things relating to a lifetime commitment. Once both have completed the inventory, their counselor and the couple discuss each item.

Pre-Engagement Inventory

  1. Have you ever been previously engaged or married?
  2. Do you have children from previous relationships?
  3. Your views and ideas on committing.
    1. Engagement
    2. Wedding
  4. What is your idea of a good marriage?
  5. Views on having children.
    1. Do you feel abortion is right or wrong?
    2. Do you like children?
    3. How many children can you see yourself with after marriage?
    4. What are your perspectives about disciplining children?
  6. Expectations you have towards the other person in the relationship/marriage.
  7. How do you foresee your interaction with in-laws and family after marriage?
  8. Your Personal History
    1. Trauma
    2. Health
    3. Emotional baggage
    4. Past relationships with significant others
    5. The debt you are bringing into a marriage
    6. Lifestyle
      1. Leisure/recreational interests and activities
      2. Daily routine
      3. Bad habits
    7. Religious views and values
      1. What is your religious preference?
      2. How do you feel about marrying someone of a different religious background?
      3. What role will your religion play in your marriage?
    8. Fears
  9. Finances
    1. Are you in debt or securely able to provide for a marriage?
    2. What are your views on spending money?
    3. What are your views on using credit cards?
    4. How should paying the bills be handled?
  10. Employment
    1. Should both partners equally contribute income after marriage?
    2. How do you feel about your spouse traveling a lot for work?
    3. Should one partner stay home to raise children or work and use childcare?
  11. Housing
    1. What kind of home do you envision living in after marriage?
  12. Solving problems.
    1. How do you solve problems?
    2. After marriage, should you talk a problem through or brush it under the rug hoping it will go away?
    3. If you argue with your spouse, what should you do afterward?
    4. Do you believe it's ok to argue in public or in private?
  13. Goals in life.
    1. Where do you see yourself 20 years down the road after marriage?
    2. Do you want to retire at a certain age?
    3. Do you want to get an education?
    4. What do you dream of doing?
  14. Relationship with family.
    1. How close are you to your parents?
    2. How close are you to other family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents)?
    3. Do you dread or look forward to having in-laws?

What Are The Benefits Of Pre-Engagement Counseling?

Think, if you will, about buying a home. Do you buy a house without looking at the inside? Potential homebuyers research the neighborhood, inquire about the house's price, and tour the home. Walking into the front door, you proceed into each room, opening doors, looking into pantries, etc. Afterward, you then have enough information to decide to purchase the home or not.

Pre-engagement counseling is similar to touring a home. Different areas of your life are the rooms that you and your counselor visit. You will open doors that may reveal things in closets and pantries that the other person may not know about you or vice versa. Once you have pre-engagement counseling behind you, you can determine if you want to pursue engagement and make a lifetime commitment to that person.

  • You get a more in-depth picture of the other person.
  • The couple will discover each other's strengths and weaknesses.
  • Counseling brings all the skeletons out of the closet, so there are no surprises down the road.
  • You may discover things about yourself that you did not know.
  • The couple will grow closer if they choose to continue with the relationship.
  • Counseling exposes red flags in a relationship.

Pre-Engagement Counseling Unveils Cultural Differences

When we meet someone, we rarely consider all the moving parts that influence the relationship as it grows. Cultural differences can play a big role in how successful a dating relationship, engagement, or marriage is.

What Are Some Cultural Differences?

  • Being from a different country as the other person.
  • Not having the same religion or religious views/values as the other person.
  • Having a different skin color than the other person.
  • Having a different socioeconomic status than the other person.

How Do You Address The Differences In A Relationship?

  • Educate yourself.
  • Discuss your concerns with the other person.
  • Respect their differences.
  • Find the things you both have in common.
  • Consider how these differences will impact a marriage.
    • What are the positives and negatives?
  • Decide if you can marry that person and make a lifetime commitment to them.

Pre-Engagement Counseling Reveals Red Flags In A Relationship

The last thing anyone wants to do is end up marrying someone abusive, angry, unfaithful, or dishonest. Here are some red flags to look out for.

Red Flags That Should Not Be Ignored

  • Constant flattery, compliments, or praise
  • Making you feel inferior
  • Calling you names and making fun of you
  • Trying to control your time spent with family and friends
  • Inappropriate touching at inappropriate times
  • Talks badly about 'exes' or overindulges in constantly talking about them
  • Does not handle finances well; defaults on loans, overspends, have no money
  • Unpredictable
  • Lacks the ability to communicate
  • Insecurity
  • Requires constant praise or assurance
  • Past abusive behavior

If you or someone you know is experiencing any abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for support and resources.

Pre-Engagement Counseling Quashes Concerns

Couples that are in love that consider engagement is full of joy and excitement. They discuss marriage with anticipation. Some may quietly struggle with fears of the struggles that come with marriage.

  • Concern: Is there something wrong with our relationship if we have issues now?
    • Truth: Every relationship has issues regardless. It's how you work through the issues that determine if your relationship will be successful or not.
  • Concern: What if the other person does not meet my emotional needs?
    • Truth: When two people are in love and have a healthy relationship, they strive to meet the core needs of the other. You may have a' red flag' warning if you find that the other person presently does not do this.
  • Concern: What if we fall out of love after marriage?
    • Truth: Love at the beginning of a relationship is different than after many years of marriage. After many years of marriage, that 'feeling' transitions into a much richer level of love. It is secure, safe, and strong.
  • Concern: Can I change the other person to be a better marriage partner?
    • Truth: Not. Not only is this a dangerous notion to entertain, but it sets you up for failure in marriage. If someone is not the right person before engagement, they won't be after marriage.

Engagement And Marriage FOMO

For many, rushing into engagement and marriage comes from FOMO (fear of missing out) on something magical. Often, instead of allowing a relationship to grow organically and naturally, couples fast-forward things. A relationship built with patience on a solid foundation withstands time, whereas one built quickly on sand does not.

Pre-engagement counseling helps put things into perspective to allow couples to gauge where they are and how patient they are willing to be to "build that house." You can't get to know someone unless you give the relationship time.

Rushing things only leads to incompatibility. When this happens, some will settle for less and be miserable or seek a new partner in life, leading to divorce.

The Takeaway

Counseling in any form most always benefits a person. Having a neutral third party present as you discuss your inventory list provides an objective viewpoint of the relationship.

The benefits of pre-engagement counseling are well worth the time and effort. The biggest advantage that counseling gives you is an insight into yourself and what you perceive the ideal relationship to look like. That's why companies like Regain.us are setting up systems for you to find a therapist right online and talk to them that way too.

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