Why Pre-engagement Counseling Might Be Right For You And Your Partner
Updated April 27, 2020
Reviewer Nicole Gaines, LPC
In most cases, the goal of a relationship is to find love with another person and to maintain that love for as long as we can. When we find the individual who we believe to be "the one," the next step to take is to propose to them, marry them, and then live happily ever after. After all, the perfect relationship is one where there is only a happily ever after and there are no conflict or sadness, right? Unfortunately, these picture-perfect relationships don't exist and relationships are hard work that requires your constant care and attention. Those who come into a relationship believing this harmful misconception will often be surprised when they do run into their first issue with their partner and are unable to handle it. That is not to say that couples aren't successful but they do need to be prepared and ready to work out their problems.
Given that the US has a staggering 50% divorce rate, many couples opt to receive pre-engagement counseling as a way to reduce the risk of divorce becoming a reality later on in the marriage. This type of counseling may help couples to prepare for engagement mentally, will give them the tools necessary to help with communication and conflict resolutions, and, eventually, prepare them for their life after marriage. Overall, pre-engagement counseling is less common than pre-marital counseling but it is quite popular among religious couples and it helps to provide an extra layer of security before engagement. Some couples who are very close to their church may even receive pre-marital and pre-engagement counseling through a member of the church. Many couples have reported significant benefits from engaging in this type of therapy, including a higher success in marriage.
Is Pre-Engagement Counseling Right for You and Your Partner?
Pre-Engagement Counseling Is for Everyone
Although many religious couples that know they will be married one day will receive pre-engagement counseling, this type of counseling is not reserved solely to religious individuals and other couples seeking to understand themselves, their partner and their relationship better can benefit as well. Many couples seek counseling to reinforce their feelings and assure themselves that their partner is truly the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with.
Unlike a home environment, which could easily lead to feelings of hostility and judgment if a partner says something that the other partner doesn't take too well, pre-engagement counseling happens in a safe space where each partner can talk with their partner openly and honestly about their feelings and the future. It is important to understand that counseling is not necessarily just for couples that are having problems. Pre-engagement counseling may just help to put you and your partners' minds at ease regarding compatibility and plans. However, for couples who are experiencing problems, counseling can provide an opportunity to work through the issues before any longer-term commitments. A counselor can help couples figure out if the issues are serious or are relatively minor and temporary and provide the couple with the best course of action. If you are going through counseling together and are working through your issues, this can provide an even better look into how the relationship will work out in the future and whether or not your partner should pursue marriage. Our relationships are forged by what we endure together, not by how many great, stress-free times we have.
Benefits of Pre-Engagement Counseling
So, you and your partner have decided that pre-engagement counseling is right for you. Congratulations! However, the questions typically don't end here. Many couples want to know what to expect after they have decided to make this choice and what they will be receiving from their counseling sessions.
For couples that experience a "surprise" proposal or who are anxious to get married, pre-engagement counseling may not be an option. (Keep in mind that you do still have access to pre-marital counseling to ask those important questions still and receive help.) However, there are many reasons to seriously consider receiving pre-engagement counseling or counseling early in the engagement. Most engaged couples will agree that the engagement period can be stressful, particularly as the wedding date approaches and existing issues between the couple can also add to the problems two people are facing.
Here are some of the benefits that couples can expect to receive when they choose this type of counseling for their relationship.
It Prepares Couples for The Reality of Marriage and Life Together
Depending on your age and your dating experience, this may not be true for you, but for the majority of individuals, a relationship is a much more relaxed experience in comparison to more serious forms of commitment. Relationships are focused on passion, togetherness, and fun, and they often lack the same responsibilities and expectations that come with engagement or marriage. For example, couples who have just started a relationship or have not been in one for too long don't have to deal with things such as living together, sharing finances, managing schedules, and dealing with the many other stresses that come with adult life. Counseling can provide them with a better look at this future and the many challenges that come with handling all of this with another individual. When they are more prepared for the future, they can take these things as they come and handle them successfully.
It Helps Couples Realize That Divorce Is Only One Option to Marital Issues
Couples who do not have extensive experience with serious relationships or those who have not had to deal with issues in their current relationship will often not know what to do when problems arise in marriage. More often than not, one issue can lead to another, creating a chain reaction of problems that slowly build up and become worse over time. Faced with these massive issues and lacking the tools or knowledge to tackle these issues, unprepared individuals will go for the easiest way out that provides them with a solution to their problem: divorce. It is an unfortunate fact of life that many will marry another individual without knowing how to maintain a relationship or how to resolve conflicts. However, those who pursue counseling are not only equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate marriage but they know that divorce is not an effective solution and that both partners can work towards keeping the relationship up with the proper drive and strategy. This is why those who undergo counseling reduce their chances of choosing divorce as an option.
Pre-Engagement Counseling Covers All Aspects ofA Relationship
Pre-engagement counseling, like any good type of counseling that involves married or non-married individuals, does not focus on only one subject. Relationships are complex and involve the joining of the lives of two individuals. These two joined lives now must work through different things such as finances, intimacy, family planning, and child raising, careers, communication, future goals, and values, just to name a few. Generally, pre-engagement counseling helps to provide you with a comprehensive overview of all of these related topics and will give you tools and resources to help you navigate through these kinds of life situations. Even better, pre-engagement counseling can help you focus on some of the current issues you are dealing with and how these may develop later on after you have engaged and married your significant other. Certain counselors will specialize in specific areas and will help you to target these areas to better prevent these areas from becoming an issue for you in the future.
It Helps You Realize That Relationships Are More Than Just Passion and Attraction
Most relationships start with intense sparks and we become heavily interested with the other partner physically, which translates into passion emotionally. However, when that passion burns away, are you sure that you are as interested in your partner as you believe you are? Passion is an important aspect of any relationship but love is just as important and love is what sustains the relationship as time goes on. More often than not, we believe that we are in love with our partner when what we are truly feeling is lust. Pre-engagement counseling helps us to explore this concept better by helping us to dive deeper into our partner's personality and habits to learn more about who they are and how we fit into that puzzle. Are you able to accept your partner for all of their faults? Can you enjoy doing some of the things that they do? Will you be able to peacefully coexist with this person and keep that love going long after your engagement and marriage? These are all important questions to ask and ones that will help you discover the true depths of your current relationship and whether it would be wise and possible to move forward with your significant other or whether it would be a smarter choice to go your separate ways until you find someone you are truly compatible with and share a stronger bond with.
Pre-engagement counseling can also help couples better understand if they are compatible before any stressors that might occur. Many couples feel pressured to push aside issues during the engagement period, but these may, unfortunately, arise later in the marriage. Additionally, for couples who plan to wait until marriage before having sex for the first time, this type of counseling may help ease apprehension well before the actual wedding day. This type of counseling can provide a judgment-free environment and allow couples to feel safe and honest when discussing issues or potential anxieties regarding marriage. To put it simply, pre-engagement counseling is one of the best first moves for any couple who plans on being together for a long time.
How to Receive Pre-engagement Counseling
Many religious couples may want to receive counseling from their church. While beneficial, this may not be an option for some or perhaps the person in charge of counselling believes a professional counselor could be of better service. There are licensed counselors available who are religious and certified in providing pre-engagement counseling and there are also plenty of non-religious counselors out there for couples who may be seeking non-spiritual counseling as well. Some couples may find that they do not have a counselor they trust or want to speak to near them. Fortunately, online counseling has become very common and has helped many couples prepare for successful engagement and marriage. Online counseling allows couples to be flexible in their schedule and allows them to choose from a variety of counselors until they find the right one for them. If you and your partner are planning on becoming engaged, consider receiving pre-engagement counseling from one of many certified online counselors and start your search today.