Premarital Counseling/Education

Objectives

  • Identify current strength and growth areas across multiple scales
  • Strengthen communication skills so that you can talk to each other in the future without resorting to corrosive negative interactions such as blaming, defensiveness, and stonewalling
  • Determine how you are different and alike as individuals and how this can work to your advantage as a couple
  • Take home full-color, research-based materials on over a dozen subjects

Duration

Premarital counseling/education takes approximately 6 sessions, but you can attend as many or as few as you choose.

Scheduling

  1. Monday-Friday: Schedule one-hour counseling sessions, whether once per week or more often
  2. Monday-Friday: Schedule a block of 2 to 3 consecutive counseling sessions
  3. Saturday: Schedule a block of 3 consecutive counseling sessions
  4. If you would like to complete 6 sessions quickly, we can accomplish this in less than a week if you call to reserve appointment times at least two weeks in advance

Description

Premarital counseling/education is designed to help couples build a strong foundation and equip them for a lasting, nurturing partnership in which they can grow and thrive together. When a marriage is in trouble, it is often due to years of compounded resentment that could have been prevented with the right communication and conflict resolution skills. While it is true that premarital couples are generally happy with their current relationship, it is important to identify any weaknesses that could grow into bigger problems in the future if they are not addressed. The process of premarital counseling/education will help you discuss important issues such as finances and goals you each have for you as a couple and for yourselves as individuals.
Clergy will often ask couples to complete premarital counseling with a licensed therapist prior to the wedding date. Additionally, the content of my premarital counseling/education meets the state of Georgia requirements set forth in Code 1981, Title 19 (Domestic Relations), Chapter 3 (Marriage Generally), Article 2 (License and Ceremony), Section 19-3-30.1. Premarital education. The Code stipulates at least six hours of instruction to be completed in order for the marriage license application fee to be waived.
A typical six-session program consists of (a) a relationship history interview, (b) a comprehensive online assessment, and (c) feedback sessions. If there are specific concerns you may have before marriage, it may be helpful to have additional sessions. This decision is up to the couple.

A. Relationship History Interview.  Commitment to building a life together is not the same as dating. You may each have goals and expectations for this new phase of your relationship that you haven’t shared with your Partner or haven’t even acknowledged to yourself. In addition, each Partner brings into this commitment an already formed adult personality, the dynamics witnessed in respective families of origin, as well as a myriad of life experiences, including perhaps prior marriages. Together we will consider these topics to determine possible challenges or areas of the relationship that need special attention in order for you to successfully incorporate two individual journeys into a long-lasting partnership.

B. Online Assessment.  Prepare/Enrich (P/E) is one of the most versatile and customizable online assessments. Once both partners have completed the questionnaire, a comprehensive report is generated with graphs and detailed analyses of multiple scales that are customized for the couple’s unique characteristics. 

Prepare/Enrich specs:

  • Access: The same link and password are sent by P/E to each Partner’s individual email address. However, neither Partner can access the other’s answers
  • Devices: A desktop computer/laptop/tablet will work better than a smartphone when it comes to formatting, but you can complete the questionnaire on any device with Internet access
  • Number of items: About 200, depending on customized categories (at any point, you can save your answers, take a break, and resume when ready)
  • Time to complete: 30-45 minutes
  • The cost: $35 per couple, payable to P/E upon initial login
  • The report: About 25 pages, depending on customized categories. Must be administered by someone who is certified by P/E (I obtained this certification in 2006)

Prepare/Enrich benefits:

  • Increases awareness. Research has shown that taking the P/E assessment improves relationship quality and brings increased awareness across multiple aspects of the relationship
  • Reduces risk for divorce. Research has shown that taking the P/E assessment prior to marriage reduces risk for divorce by 30%
  • Encourages discussion. The results of the assessment will help you celebrate your strengths as a couple, use them to gain momentum in the growth areas of your relationship, and prime you to have meaningful conversations as you continue to grow as a couple

C. Feedback.  All P/E inventories measure satisfaction in categories such as Relationship Dynamics, Family & Friends, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Financial Management, Leisure Activities, Spiritual Beliefs, Partner Character Traits, and Relationship Expectations. Partners also receive a Personal Stress profile, a Family Map that explores the dynamics within the family of origin, and a Personality Scales assessment based on the Five Factor Model of Personality (the most widely accepted trait theory of personality). In addition to these standard categories, the assessment generates questions from over 30 customized categories, including previous marriages, step-parenting, current living arrangements, impending parenthood, and intergenerational issues for middle-aged couples.

During feedback sessions, we will go over the strength and growth areas indicated in the report, focus on any sections that need extra attention, and get each partner’s input on the results.

Practical Tools to Learn and Keep

As the final part of your premarital counseling/education, you will be given full-color handouts that you can refer to in the future on over a dozen subjects including assertive communication; active listening; compassionate conflict management; personality differences and gridlock; effective processing of past arguments and repairing of emotional wounds; compromise and problem-solving; parenting; financial management; personal, couple, and family goal-setting. You will even receive a handout with over 70 scripted phrases you can use to de-escalate arguments. These are research-based materials from Prepare/Enrich as well as from the Gottman Institute. The Gottman Method Couples Therapy was created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, world-renowned pioneers in relationship science and recipients of numerous awards.