Planning your wedding typically consists of picking a date, securing the venue, chosing a wedding dress, and hiring your vendors. But what about booking premarital counseling sessions? Did that task end up on your to-do list? Though far less romantic and sexy than other parts of planning a wedding, the benefits of speaking to a professional before you exchange vows is arguably one of the most important boxes to check-off. Why? Instead of merely preparing you for the 24-hour period when you're the belle of the ball, couples' counseling will give you the insight and techniques you'll need as you start to create a happy, healthy, and harmonious marriage. Here, three couples who made time for counseling share what they learned from the experience and how it's strengthen helped their relationships.
How to articulate the "why" instead of just the "what."
It's normal to feel annoyed with your partner sometimes, but instead of simply pinpointing what is bugging you about your soon-to-be-spouse, you should be able to articulate why it's a sensitive topic. For Morgan and Brent, premarital counseling has helped them to understand the reasoning behind why they think and feel the way they do. This individual research into their personal psyche gave them a smarter glimpse into how old viewpoints and emotions may impact their marriage. "Through this, we have been able to dig deeper and develop a real understanding of where we are coming from," Morgan shared.
How to handle disagreements so they don't end conversations.
Even if you are still starry-eyed over the way your partner views the world, how he analyzes current events, and his taste in classical music, you might be less than thrilled to argue with him, especially when he's making some solid points. For Morgan and Brent, realizing that disagreements don't have to shut down communication helped them to explore the source of their arguments instead of shutting down. "Counseling has showed us that just because we disagree on things, doesn't mean the conversation is over. When we spend uninterrupted time discussing difficult—or even the not-so-difficult—topics, we are always amazed at the mutually agreed upon outcome," Morgan shared.
How to set ground rules for arguing.
Depending on your upbringing, your zodiac sign, your Meyer's-Brigg personality type, and which side of the bed you wake up on in the morning, how you want to approach a tiff can vary. While you want your partner to be mindful of what hurts your feelings, it's just as important to offer them the same courtesy. As Jennalee and Matthew explain, premarital counseling taught them that it's okay to argue, but it's important to be considerate of how you argue. As an example, Jenn "never wants to name call, mock, or stone wall one another and would rather have a fair argument and fully communicate." Setting some basic boundaries on fights may set you up for success, instead of paralyzing your relationship.
How to be patient with each other, yourself, and your marriage.
For Jenn, accepting her own shortcomings was the first step in creating a happier union. Through premarital counseling, she was able to realize she had a short fuse. "I have a very short temper and very little patience. But I'm self aware of this and in the heat of the moment, I try to remind myself to take a breath and remember life is too short to let everything upset you," she explained. "Counseling taught me that sometimes you have to let the little things go and focus on what is most important. And that's sticking by one another's side through the ups and downs. We're in it together."
How to be partners in every aspect of life.
Since Matt and Jenn own a business together, premarital counseling wasn't merely about their romantic connection, but about strengthening their professional partnership, too. "The best thing about counseling was that it didn't stop outside of every session, but it has opened the conversation and given us the tools to craft an amazing marriage, friendship, and business together," Matt shared. Even if you and your spouse-to-be aren't in the same field, premarital counseling can map out strategies for successful working methods, allowing you to handle everything from the little things, like a flat tire, to the life-altering surprises, like having a baby, with ease.
How to examine your expectations.
For Nikki and Addison, the greatest lesson they took away from premarital counseling was that everyone has a marriage expectation ingrained within them. Leaving those expectations at the door has helped make their marriage happier. "Being able to identify your expectations and then verbally communicate them with your partner is key. You can avoid a whole slew of hurt feelings by simply being on the same page," Nikki shared. "For example, my family always made a big deal out of holidays and his didn't, so when he downplayed them, I was sad—and I didn't even realize this was a thing that could make me sad. Getting ahead of issues like that and learning to discuss things is what premarital counseling is all about."
How engagement isn't reality.
Another lesson Nikki took away from premarital counseling was how delusional they both were while engaged. As Nikki says, understanding that not everything will work out as planned is essential for getting through the ebbs-and-flows of her marriage. "We had to write down what chores were his and mine and agree in advance. Let's just say he promised to clean the toilets and five years in, I've realized there are more important things than arguing about toilet sanitation," she shared.