The importance of premarital counseling before marriage

Abstract: It is imperative to note that marriage is fundamentally important. However, it calls for legitimate interest to strengthen it since it is the major platform in which the family and society is built. Individual differences among couples often result into disruptive consequences in marriage institutions.

This has largely resulted into rise of myriad of divorce cases. It is thus essential for couples contemplating to enter into a binding contract to go through premarital counseling program in order to get skills and knowledge on how to maintain their marriage. Research has proved that premarital counseling is effective in helping couples understand the challenges and uncertainties in marriage institution.

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Therefore, it acts as a foresight and thus guide couples on how to establish a stable marriage and to reduce marital discord. It is arguable that premarital counseling should be made mandatory in all societies since it has helped in fostering marital permanence. This paper therefore explores the importance of premarital counseling before marriage by reviewing various sources literature.

Introduction: It is evident that we are living in a society that is experiencing changes in all facets of life such as relationships, leisure, marriages and lifestyles (Carroll & Doherty, 2003).

In this case, we are past the decades when marriage was perceived as an obsolete and old-fashioned aspect in the society. Research has shown that in the late 20th century, marriage has taken a different dimension where partners have taken the initiative to determine their marriage life by themselves.

Clinton and Sibcy (2006) are quite categorical that unlike the case in the past centuries where parents chose marriage partners to their sons and daughters, there has been a tremendous shift where young adults personally meet and select their lifetime partners. Therefore, both the groom and the bride take initiatives to make their marriage perfect (Lee, Lisa & Van Dyke, 1999).

In this case, premarital counseling has been perceived as a crucial tool that helps couples to learn and cope with their vast differences before they venture into a binding contract. Stanley (2001) notes that failing to plan is similar to planning to fail. From this assumption, it is certain the premarital counseling is important before marriage. It is against this ground that this paper explores the importance of premarital counseling on marriage.

Carroll and Doherty (2003) argue that Christian scholars perceive premarital counseling as an investment for couples who are in a serious relationship. Nevertheless, there are people who give a lot of attention to planning their wedding ceremonies and pay little attention to efforts that can make their marriage strong (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006).

It is also notable that premarital counseling programs have significantly enhanced rise of strong marriages. In this case, premarital counseling programs give couples time to interact, ask questions and learn from each other before they commit themselves to marriage. In line with this, young adults get a window of opportunity for self clarification, adventure and binding with their partners (Stanley, 2001).

In addition, the counseling process requires a trained family and marriage therapist to take charge and address normal challenges and issues that couples face before their enter into marriage (Lee, Lisa & Van Dyke, 1999). It is certain that if there is little or no effort made in preparing couples for marriage, there is higher probability that the relationship will not work (Lee, Lisa & Van Dyke, 1999).

The fact that individual differences are inevitable in any given relationship, the situation is subject to change resulting into better outcomes through pre-marital counseling (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). In this case, it is arguable that diversity and intimacy are the key focus in marriage and families that make premarital counseling important bearing in mind that couples who intend to get married often come from different backgrounds with various perspectives.

It goes without saying that God instilled the institution of marriage in human beings to flourish but not to fail. In this case, Carroll and Doherty (2003) compliment that marriage education should be made intentional to ensure that couples build a firm foundation for their marriage.

Research has revealed that pre-marital counseling help couples to communicate and indentify their interests, fears, values, dreams and beliefs, a factor that fosters the strength of marriage institution. Of important to note is that this type of counseling must be handled by persons with diverse knowledge and skills related to marriage and families (Groom, 2001). In this case, premarital counseling is conducted by therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical officers.

It is imperative to note that there are two major functions which premarital counseling serves (Olson & DeFrain, 2005). First and foremost, premarital counseling assists couples to develop skills and knowledge on how to make a successful navigation in their marriage. Furthermore, it helps them to identify and resolve conflicting issues that arise due to individual differences that occur during their interaction with each other (Scott et al., 2006).

Commonly, there are specific areas that are included in premarital counseling. For instance, premarital counseling focuses on interests, activities, role expectations, finances, sexuality, communication and personal adjustment. Research has shown that premarital counseling is the most effective step that couples should take before they venture into a binding contract (Carroll & Doherty, 2003). From a careful review of literature, this program allows couples to develop effective communication tools that eventually strengthen their relationship.

Empirically, communication skills are essential for a successful marriage. Therefore, premarital counseling provides an avenue for partners to learn the communication styles used by each other (Olson & DeFrain, 2005). Moreover, the professionals concerned with the program can as well teach couples who are in a serious relationship leading to marriage how to communicate effectively.

As a matter of fact, this can be carried out even after they venture into a binding contract. Pointless to say, research has shown that more than 50% of divorce cases occur due to poor communication skills among couples (Lee, Lisa & Van Dyke, 1999). From this observation, one can deduce that couples who receive premarital counseling before marriage are less susceptible to divorce than those who do not get the counseling.

That notwithstanding, one can claim that premarital counseling is a precondition for marital permanence among couples who are intending to marry. Lee, Lisa and Van Dyke (1999) assert that whenever a couple goes through premarital counseling, they are able to know whether their marriage will work or not (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). This is due to the fact that couples often discuss about their long-term goals with their counselors. To some extent, their career prospects are likely to affect their marriage either positively or negatively.

In this case, premarital counseling gives couples a chance to envision their lifestyles interests and goals together prior to marriage. If this does not happen, most people in relationships or marriages feel that their goals are not being aligned and this result into conflicts (Scott et al., 2006). It is definite that premarital counseling acts as an avenue to foresee and therefore prevent conflicts that might emerge once a couple gets into a binding and lasting contract (Olson & DeFrain, 2005).

This is one way of conflict management that has to a larger extent, helped people to escape the trauma of broken marriages. In most cases where marriages fail to work, it has been established that lack of compatibility is usually a major cause of concern. The latter is preventable if couples get to know each other better prior to settling down in marriage.

It is imperative to note that problems in marriages are inevitable especially when couples have not adequately prepared to get into the binding contact. Scott et al. (2006) assert that premarital counseling serves the purpose of orienting couples and boosting their readiness for marriage.

There are couples who are not aware of their liabilities and assets in a relationship. Research has shown that some individuals enter into relationships without knowing whether the spouses they have selected are good for them (Groom, 2001). In addition to this, the most confusing issue is when to marry or get married.

At this juncture, premarital counseling is not just meant to help couples to plan their marriages but also how to cope with emerging issues. Notably, 30% of couples who endure challenges in marriage often get the skill from premarital education (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). Needless to say, such education gives couples a strong support line to endure and overcome challenges that they may eventually face while living as husband and wife.

Besides this, premarital counseling has been considered as a source of strength and refreshment for people in relationships. Research has shown that premarital counseling programs help top boost the level of intimacy in couples. According to Carroll and Doherty (2003), premarital counseling helps to exhibit a positive correlation between couples, a factor that results into successful marriage. Couples get to understand what intimacy is all about and how to maintain it even in the marriage institution (Stanley, 2001).

It is obvious that people fall in love and get engaged to each other. However, their commitment to develop an intimate relationship will determine how compatible they become. Intimacy helps couples to learn each other’s habits, personality, goals and viewpoints (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). When couples are intimate with each other, they have sets of expectations from their relationship.

This involves sharing responsibilities and parenting duties. Research has shown that most couples refrain from tackling the issue of intimacy and postpone it until at that point when they will be married. This is a gross misconception bearing in mind that there is hardly any time for such deliberations when couples are already in marriage since they are overtaken by other more urgent issues that arise in their marriages.

Groom (2001) confirms that this does not always happen since majority of the couples give attention to other issues and thus their marriage is vulnerable to misconceptions and misunderstanding. Furthermore, financial issues have of late succinctly become a major point of focus in premarital counseling. This is due to the fact that a large number of marriages have broken due to financial-related conflicts.

Thus, scholars argue that premarital counseling should effectively address the issue of finances before couples enter into marriages. Olson and DeFrain (2005) recommend that psychologists and therapists should address in details the issue of responsibilities and budgeting of pertinent issues. It is important to consider the financial history of a couple and also the financial views.

Groom (2001) reiterates that most couples do not know how to prepare budget and allocate finances in marriages. Consequently, such couples suffer from financial stress not because they do not have money but they do not know how to spend it. Research has shown that young couples need guidance on how to establish a successful financial future (Stanley, 2001). It is therefore evident that financial compatibility and good budgeting creates a firm foundation for an organized marriage.

Conclusion: To reiterate on this, it is reasonably beyond doubt that premarital counseling is vital in marriage. Subtly, premarital education focuses on key aspects that are involved in marriage such as sex, intimacy, finance, conflict resolution, interests, goals and personal adjustment.

With this information in mind, one can argue that venturing into marriage without premarital counseling is synonymous to starting a business without knowing what it entails. This is due to the fact that premarital counseling is based on reality in marriage institution. Moreover, it should be taken seriously and ample time should be provided for the couple to receive full benefits. Finally, it is definite that premarital counseling is the gateway to a happy, long lasting and successful marriage.

References

Carroll, J. & Doherty, W. (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs: A meta-analytic review of outcome research. Family Relations 52(1): 105-118

Clinton, T. & Sibcy, G. (2006). Why You Do the Things You Do: The Secret to Healthy Relationships. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Groom, J. (2001). What works in premarital counseling? Journal of Pastoral counseling, 36(1): 46-48.

Lee, W., Lisa, R. & Van Dyke, D. (1999). An empirical approach to designing marriage preparation programs. American Journal of Family Therapy 27(3); 271-276.

Olson, H. & DeFrain, J. (2005). Marriages and Families: Intimacy, Diversity and Strengths. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Scott, M., Amato, P., Johnson, A. & Howard, J. (2006). Premarital Education, Marital Quality, and Marital Stability: Findings from a

Large, Random Household Survey. Journal of Family Psychology 20(1): 117-126.

Stanley, S. (2001). Making a case for premarital education. Family Relations 50(1): 272- 280.

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