Premarital Counseling

You may have hired the officiant and the wedding planner, secured the venue, chosen the font for your invitations, picked out the dresses and tuxes for you and your “best people,” selected the flowers, created your dream wedding registry, and pondered the guest list and most diplomatic seating arrangements, delighted in creating a perfect play list, and now you’re good… right?  You’ve been busy birthing the Perfect Day!  But what about the Marriage?

 Did you make endless lists of qualities desired in your Perfect Partner?  Is this The One? 

Have you believed you’ve been careful and judicious in your selection process?  Would it surprise you to know that researchers have found that the brain process we think of as "falling in love" takes about one-fifth of a second (which explains why we may have fallen for that person who doesn't believe the moon landing really happened…)?  But here you are… getting Married. 

 It may be that choosing the perfect person is less important, in the long run, than both of you having the right skills to navigate the waters ahead in changing weather conditions.  From the Gottman research, we now know that 69% of the things couples argue about in the beginning they will be arguing about in 50 years.  Those are differences in personality, temperament, how you grew up, etc., and are somewhat less important than whether you both can self-regulate the intensity of your feelings, express yourselves, maintain your sense of humor, and accept influence from one another. 

 So, while it is more a matter of how the two of you steer the ship in all kinds of waters, are there things that would be nice to know about each other as you embark on this journey?  Sure!

 What Things Might You Talk About Before Getting Married

 ·         Do you wonder what questions to ask each other before you walk down the aisle?

·         Do you want to feel more confident that you are both compatible with the most important areas of life?

·         Do you wonder if you have the same expectations of what it means to commit to marriage?

 Couples that are newly engaged can find it both an exciting and stressful time. We can wonder if we are doing all we can to ensure that we are prepared to create the life and family we want.

 Premarital counseling is a powerful tool that has been proven effective for couples looking to start their marriage off on the right foot. It can help you and your partner learn the skills and have the conversations you need to make your marriage thrive for a lifetime. In all that you and your partner do to prepare for your wedding, make sure you are also preparing for your life to come—the marriage and family you will build together.

 Premarital Counseling Boasts Big Benefits and Can Help Prevent Divorce.

We keep getting married in hopes that we will “live happily ever after.”  From the most conservative recent statistics, however, the chances of first marriages ending in divorce (within a 40-year period) range between 50% and 67% (Martin & Bumpass, 1989; National Center for Health Statistics, 2012).

About 60% of all marriages that eventually end in divorce do so within the first ten year (

And, statistically, second marriages are a consistently worse gamble.   

So why, despite such sobering data, do we so fiercely maintain that we will be the lucky ones who make it?

Well, one reason is that, in the throes of early love (and planning weddings, etc.), our brains are flooded with dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin—all associated with arousal and euphoria.  Brain areas governing craving, obsession, reward… and recklessness… are activated as we are driven to “win” the object of our passion.  During this stage of love, we may find we can’t eat, sleep, or concentrate on anything but the beloved.  We write bad poetry and happily sing out of tune.  The dopamine gush in our brains is mildly hallucinogenic, causing “crystallization” of the beloved... Thus, rather like the branch of a tree that glistens when covered with ice and snow.

But this form of love is only sustained with a perfect ratio of hope to uncertainty and marriage is the ultimate form of reciprocation, hopefully eliminating uncertainty and, at some point within the six to eighteen months, the elevated levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin will drop.  It is then that “the honeymoon is over”, and the experience of an oxytocin-based, attachment form of love may begin, so long as the couple knows how to successfully maintain friendship, affection, and attraction, and to navigate conflict productively, and work cooperatively to realize their (individual and collaborative) hopes and dreams.  And yet, most of us have been given little, if any, training that could prepare us to “do the footwork” of a long term loving and passionate relationship.

We train and get tools for our professions… Why not do a bit of the same so we can do our best in love?

How Can Premarital Counseling Help My Marriage Thrive?

1) Improved communication and conflict management skills. Difficulties in communication may be the number one reason couples seek out marriage counseling. Often, the ways we naturally use to make our voices heard during conflict or to manage the emotional intensity of our conversations, can be counterproductive and even damaging. Our therapists at Pathways to Wellness can teach you specific skills to better deal constructively with conflict in your marriage, potentially preventing challenges you may face down the road.

2) Better understanding of core values and differences. What do you do when you discover your dream of a quiet country life is at odds with your partner’s desire for urban hustle and bustle? If you allow them to sneak up on you, your differences can feel threatening or impossible to reconcile. They don’t have to be, though. Our differences can enrich and enliven our relationships if we know how to approach them with openness and honesty and find ways to collaborate and compromise so that both of you feel seen and honored.

3) Better understanding of communication styles and needs. When she’s stressed, she needs space. When he’s stressed, he needs to talk it out. If she gives him space when he’s stressed because that’s what she would need, he may end up feeling resentful and alone. Sometimes, marriage can feel like two people who speak completely different languages living under the same roof. Premarital counseling is a perfect opportunity to deepen your understanding of your partner’s communication style and needs, including how you give and receive love, your different approaches to managing stress, and what you need from each other during conflict.

 4) Experience working together as a team. In order to be successful, marriage requires the ability to work together as a team throughout your lives. Seeking out help as you begin your life together sets a strong precedent for how difficult times will be handled in the future.

5) Creating a deeper sense of shared meaning. Marriage is more than owning a home, saving for retirement, and having a family. Marriage is about being better together than you would be alone. Marriage is about having someone by your side who loves you deeply even though they’ve seen you at your worst. As you begin your life together, premarital counseling can help you create a deeper sense of what you want the purpose and meaning of your marriage to be.

If we can answer further questions for you, just call 714-432-9856 or email and will be happy to help you.