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Is Prewedding Counseling for You?

Photo: Abby Rose Photo

Think counseling is just for people with problems? Think again. As far as we're concerned, you've got nothing to lose, everything to gain. You'll strengthen your chances of staying together if you learn the skills needed. This is especially relevant in today's climate; with divorce so prevalent, many couples don't have role models to follow. Counselors can step in and become your relationship exper.

Timing is Everything

Prewedding counseling has one distinct advantage: Learning how to communicate and work through problems is a lot easier before rather than after the wedding. Once you're married, you both already have unspoken expectations for each other, never mind the often wacky ideas you got growing up about what married life should be like. Before marriage, you're still in a building stage -- the expectations are there, but it's easier to be open about the issues that threaten difficulty. And by learning how to talk through differences, you will form good habits that will carry you through the years.

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Find an Ear

There are several ways to tackle this sticky subject. You might decide to visit a psychologist or marriage and family therapist to thrash out issues that plague you. But you may not even have to go that far: Most houses of worship require to-be-weds to participate in counseling sessions before they'll let you march down their aisles.

Out the Issues

Counseling can help you recognize where your partner stands on a variety of topics, and where his or her priorities lie, which will confirm your sense of yourselves as a couple -- or, in some cases, open your eyes to the fact that you might be making a mistake. What's there to talk about? Religion, children, finances, habits, and family issues, among other things. And even if you generally communicate well, there may be specific issues you'd like some help working through.

Face the Facts

So how do you know if premarital counseling is for you? It depends on your existing ability to communicate with each other. Every marriage presents difficulties and obstacles, and communication will be what helps you overcome them. If you have trouble talking through the issues in your lives -- and we mean really talking -- it's smart to learn how to do it now, when you're engaged.

Where to Go

If your house of worship doesn't provide premarital counseling -- or you're having a civil ceremony -- check our local listings to find a premarital counselor in your area, or call the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy at (703) 838-9808 to find a certified therapist near you. If you're uncomfortable about professional therapy or unable to afford it, contact local community centers, colleges, or universities to inquire whether they offer marriage-building workshops.

-- Donna Lambeth

See More: Wedding Planning Basics