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November 27, 2023

5 Benefits of Premarital Counseling According to a Therapist

G. Nathanael Carela
a lesbian couple in wedding dresses smiles at each other; benefits of premarital counseling
November 27, 2023
13 min to read
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While we believe that therapy is for everyone at Best Therapists, we also know that choosing whether to start therapy can be a huge decision. That goes for premarital counseling as well.

In this post, I’ll explain:

  • What premarital counseling is,
  • Who premarital counseling is for,
  • Common myths (and facts) about premarital counseling, and
  • How exactly premarital counseling can help.

Most of us wouldn't sign up for a show like "Married at First Sight" to find our forever person. The dread of not knowing their financial health, decision-making abilities, or emotional intelligence would be too risky for many of us. There are things in life we can just go for, and others that require calculated risks.

I'm Nathanael Carela, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps couples feeling disconnected and divided to strengthen their bond and grow closer again. If you are reading this and hoping to avoid common marital pitfalls, then I invite you to learn how premarital counseling can support you and your relationship goals.

Understanding premarital counseling

The benefits of test-driving a car before making a purchase are many. This often occurs after extensive online searches, reading reviews, and comparing prices. In romantic relationships, this is similar to the"dating phase" where we spend time asking personal questions, assessing how our partner treats us, and exploring all facets of our chemistry.

After learning we're a great fit, many couples solidify their relationship through marriage. So, why opt for premarital counseling if we already know that we want to get married? Like buying a car, there are various ways to invest time and energy in making this crucial decision.

Pre marriage counseling offers partners the chance to view their relationship objectively. It helps highlight what's working well (such as our strengths), notice barriers to further growth (like unspoken conversations), and address issues that may be part of our married life for years to come.

Types of Premarital Counseling

Here are some examples of research-based pre marriage counseling programs:


  1. Focuses on prevention and resiliency.
  2. Customizable program that can be completed online or with the guidance of couples counselors during joint sessions.
  3. Offers tailored programs for military, faith-based, and Spanish-speaking couples.
  4. Learn more about PrepInc.

Gottman Relationship Advisor

  1. Begins with an online assessment followed by a helpful report and recommended tools to strengthen your relationship.
  2. The program can be guided by a marriage counselor, and the research is applicable to LGBTQ+ couples.
  3. Learn more the Gottman relationship advising.


  1. A personalized, confidence-building program.
  2. Can be completed as a couple or with the guidance of a religious leader or couples counselor.
  3. Helps couples, regardless of religious background, to uncover idealism and establish a solid foundation.
  4. Learn more about Prepare/Enrich.

Other approaches

In addition, there are several couples counseling approaches that a premarital counselor can use to assist couples, including Emotionally Focused Therapy, Imago Therapy, and Psychodynamic Premarital Couple's Therapy.

Who premarital counseling is for

Similar to couples therapy, premarital counseling is not for people who are forced to attend. Each partner needs to willingly participate to gain the most from counseling sessions. In my role as a family therapist, I've observed individuals initially attending their first session reluctantly, only to feel comfortable enough by the end to schedule future appointments.

While this transformation is possible, it's not always the case.

Most couples in a healthy, committed relationship will face issues when getting on the same page, managing realistic expectations, and seeking productive conflict resolution. Therefore, seeking premarital counseling with a counselor is for everyone who wants to:

  • Learn how to address issues with positive conflict resolution skills
  • Enhance the quality of their communication skills, especially around difficult or taboo topics
  • Set a strong foundation for a healthy marriage by building on their relationship's positive attributes
  • Develop rhythms and habits that foster connection, intimacy, and clear goals for the future

Benefits for diverse people groups

Engaged couples from diverse backgrounds can particularly benefit from participating in premarital counseling due to unique challenges they may face.

Mixed People/Interracial Couples

Managing one culture is challenging enough, but individuals belonging to two or more face additional unique challenges not commonly experienced. Interracial couples also navigate additional dynamics, assumptions, languages, etc., which can create potential challenges. Having honest dialogues about our identities, customs, and desires can improve our marriage foundation.

Sexual/gender minorities

Most premarital advice and research are geared towards heterosexual and cisgender partners. Providing a safe space where each partner's sexual and gender identities are valued—which empowers them to create their own path—stands as some of the biggest benefits for these couples.

Interfaith couples

As the number of people professing no religious rises in the U.S., many still practice major religions (1). The religion(s) a couple affiliates with (or not) influences their roles in marriage, their perception of what marriage entails, and the rituals performed in their wedding ceremony. Counseling provides space to understand, negotiate, and create shared agreements around these issues.

Common myths about premarital counseling

The reality is that all couples share common issues and concerns, but the difference between a healthy and unhealthy marriage lies in how we manage them. Here are some myths and misconceptions about premarital counseling.

"It's for religious folks"

While many programs are offered by churches and religious institutions, marriage is a right fought hard to be available for all consenting adults in the U.S. Any premarital work is not about a third party's preferences but about what the two of you, religious or not, are willing to create.

"A stranger can't help"

Surprisingly, we routinely choose strangers to provide various services, from dentists to bus operators, cashiers, food preparers, package deliverers, child caregivers, or car mechanics.

We trust them despite only knowing parts of their lives or none at all. A counselor working with couples creates a neutral space to offer insight and help address present and future challenges.

"It's for those who don't know their partner well or are on the fence about marriage"

Yes and yes. Counseling can be beneficial in these instances, but it's not limited to them. We continue learning about our partners throughout our lifetime together, as we observe their struggles, habits, and expressions of love and commitment. As we struggle together, resolve issues, and grow together.

"You have to be in constant trouble or conflict"

Counseling can help couples tremendously both pre marriage and afterwards. However, premarital counseling is like car tune-ups; even if you drive well, cars still need maintenance. Making sure your relationship is operating in a healthy way can improve your odds at a successful marriage.

5 premarital counseling benefits

Numerous peer-reviewed studies and high quality sources demonstrate the benefits of pre marital counseling. We know it's not a diluted version of couples or mental health therapy. So here are only five of the many benefits of premarital counseling.

1. Check your blind spots

All partners make assumptions about each other; it's a decision-making shortcut to save time and mental energy in a world that competes for our attention. However, slowing down during counseling allows you to analyze the quality of your relationship, notice where it's headed, and be influenced by your marriage counselor. A mental health therapist can share feedback, highlight potential barriers, and collaborate to identify a better idea or course of action as you approach marriage.

2. Setting realistic expectations

It's common for couples to have expectations for their relationship, but some of these have never been communicated (2).

Even in married couples, both partners may be acting on these expectations, assuming the other will "get it by now" (i.e., mind-read). Premarital counseling provides opportunities for hidden dreams to be revealed, emphasizing that understanding must precede resolution. From that point, each partner can collaborate to create joint expectations.

3. Prevent divorce

While there's no way to fully prevent divorce, there are skills couples can learn ahead of time to weather future storms. According to Dr. Howard Markman, research shows that divorce rates are between 43%-45% for first-time marriages (3). Additional research found that participating in "premarital education is linked with later help-seeking by empowering couples to take steps throughout their marriage to maintain their relationship" (4).

Addressing issues while they're still manageable can increase the chances of a marriage succeeding. Dr. Julie Gottman shared that "surfacing hidden experiences and feelings often leads to a breakthrough between [partners] with deeper understanding, compassion, and even healing of pain you've harbored inside" (5). This is a benefit that couples counseling provides right before marriage.

4. Conflict resolution skills

Our life experiences matter, and many of us have evolved into the person we are through trial and error. So it's easy to be closed off from our partner's influence or to desire control over the outcome of a specific situation. Conflict resolution isn't always pleasant, especially if we grew up in chaotic homes. Learning how to communicate our needs and respond those of our partner is vital for a healthy marriage.

Dr. Daniel B. Wile wrote in his book After the Honeymoon that "among the major things that partners need to get across, and in a way that doesn't merely lead to arguments, are feelings, worries, and dissatisfactions about the relationship" (6). This is how we address potential concerns.

5. Highlight your strengths

An often overlooked aspect of premarital counseling and couples counseling, in general, is that your relationship's strengths will be celebrated. Mental health therapists take pleasure in recognizing the positive aspects, highlighting your sense of humor, displays of affection, commitments, values, and qualities expressed verbally and non-verbally. It's crucial for every couple engaging in premarital counseling to be confident in what's going well in their partnership.

The Gottman Institute introduced a model for viewing healthy relationships called The Sound Relationship House (7). The foundation of the house includes our friendship (how well we know each other, the amount of respect and admiration reciprocated, and the quality of our interactions). The walls represent commitment (willingness to work through the high and lows of married life) and trust (knowing that your partner has your back and acts for "us").

There are four additional categories of a healthy relationship that I assist couples in navigating and strengthening in couples counseling. For more information on the Gottman Method visit their website or contact me.

Connect with one of our vetted premarital counselors

If you're still on the fence about premarital counseling, I understand. The decision to seek professional guidance is an important one that can impact our future marriage, children, and family relationships. I encourage you to find a therapist vetted through Best Therapist and get started on pre marital counseling. I'm confident that you'll be a step closer to the future marriage you desire.

If you are located in Florida or Michigan, contact me for a pre-marital counseling consultation.

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Written by
G. Nathanael Carela

Nate is not only bilingual (fluent in Spanish and English) but also embraces his multicultural background (hailing from Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage). He is deeply committed to broadening his own beliefs and perspectives to connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds. He actively seeks opportunities for personal growth in this endeavor. Nate leverages his diverse life and educational experiences to provide support to individuals, couples, and marriages as they navigate through their unique transitions and challenges. When working with individuals, he places a strong emphasis on helping them identify their life's purpose, effectively manage anxiety disorders, enhance emotional regulation, and cultivate healthier interpersonal relationships, whether romantic, familial, or friendships. In his work with couples, Nate addresses various issues, including communication challenges, effective problem-solving, premarital counseling, healing from infidelity, and guiding them through life transitions such as divorce, blended families, or the arrival of a new child. Nate's extensive professional background spans across different settings, including the school system, dependency courts/child welfare systems, community mental health agencies, private therapy practices, and in-home therapy services. He has a wealth of experience in supporting people of color and individuals from multicultural backgrounds. Nate's therapeutic approach is grounded in evidence-based practices, and he actively collaborates with his clients to find tailored solutions to their unique situations.

Reviewed by
Kristie Plantinga

Kristie Plantinga is the founder of Best Therapists. Along with being on the client-side of therapy, Kristie has had the honor of working directly with therapists in her marketing agency for therapists, TherapieSEO. While working alongside therapists, she learned about the inequities in our mental health system that therapists face on a daily basis, and she wanted to do something about it. That’s why Best Therapists is a platform designed to benefit not only therapy-seekers, but therapy providers. Kristie has a Masters degree in Written Communication and a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Music.

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Show sources and research articles
  1. Mitchell, T. (2023, October 5). About Three-in-Ten U.S. adults are now religiously unaffiliated | Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/12/14/about-three-in-ten-u-s-adults-are-now-religiously-unaffiliated/
  2. Waller, M. R., & McLanahan, S. (2005). “His” and “her” marriage expectations: Determinants and consequences. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(1), 53–67. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-2445.2005.00005.x
  3. Center for Science and Society. (2019, November 21). Changing two minds is better than one - Howard Markman [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3kMiewrTXk
  4. Williamson, H. C., Hammett, J. F., Ross, J. M., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2018). Premarital education and later relationship help-seeking. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(2), 276–281. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000383
  5. Lisitsa, E., & Lisitsa, E. (2020, December 8). Make life dreams come true: Dreams within conflict. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/make-life-dreams-come-true-dreams-within-conflict/
  6. Wile, D. B. (2008). After the honeymoon: How Conflict Can Improve Your Relationship.
  7. Scott, J., & Scott, J. (2022a, May 18). What Is the Sound Relationship House? The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/what-is-the-sound-relationship-house/