You’re getting married! Congratulations! You’ll be one of the 2 million people in the United States who will take the plunge this year. This is an exciting time in your life, and the next few weeks and months are going to be filled with coordinating everything about your big day.
Still, building a solid foundation before you make the ultimate commitment to each other can feel a bit overwhelming. Maybe premarital counseling fits into the equation for you — and that can be a really smart decision, given the fact that there’s a 30% increase in satisfaction in marriage when couples complete premarital counseling. Additionally, according to research by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AMFT), more than 97% of couples say they got the help they needed through therapy. Visiting a premarital counselor has also become more accessible with online premarital counseling.
You probably have questions, though. The biggest one might just be: how long is premarital counseling? The truth is, there really isn’t one set answer to that question. Determining how long premarital counseling should last really depends on a couple’s unique needs.
That said, there is at least some general consensus about the subject. Most therapists agree that anywhere from 8 – 10 weeks up to 3 – 6 month is sufficient when it comes to premarital therapy.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that how long it takes to complete premarital counseling really depends on the issues you want or need to cover throughout your sessions.
How Long Does Premarital Counseling Usually Last?
Different major issues will contribute to how long your premarital counseling lasts. While sometimes it can take up to six months to resolve differences, many couples choose to speed up the process by doing multiple sessions each week, rather than just meeting with a therapist once per week for a longer overall time period. There are a few issues that can extend the length of time therapy takes.
Factors That Can Impact the Length of Premarital Counseling
There are a number of factors that can impact how long your premarital counseling takes. While you can cover dozens of topics throughout your sessions, there are a handful of bigger issues that might take longer to successfully overcome.
Some reasons why people may need a longer time to fully address their issues can include communication, family problems, religious and cultural differences, financial issues, trust issues, and more. When to start premarital counseling can also be impacted by these factors and what your relationship goals are for each.
Communication can be a tough one to tackle. It’s key in your relationship, but it can also be the foundation of productive therapy. If you can’t effectively communicate, you aren’t going to get the most out of each counseling session.
Before you can even begin to deal with any of the premarital topics you’d normally cover, a therapist may begin by breaking down and rebuilding how you and your partner communicate. This will likely include communication exercises for couples. Learning how to communicate effectively can be wildly beneficial in all areas of life. It’s worth taking the time you need to build better communication skills across the board.
How long should premarital counseling last for communication issues?
Since communication is so essential, you should be willing to take as long as you need to learn how to effectively communicate in your relationship. Therapy has proven very successful in helping people understand how to communicate so they can build strong connections. It’s definitely worth the time you invest to focus on communication in your premarital counseling.
Family problems can be daunting to work through. Family challenges, either in your own life or in your partner’s, can easily extend the time your therapy takes to complete. While premarital counseling shouldn’t be about pleasing your family or your partner’s family, it can help you establish boundaries and trust between the two of you to hopefully prevent issues in the future.
Family issues can stem from cultural or religious differences (which we’ll touch on next) and can be deeply embedded in each of your psyches. It makes sense then, that the time to complete therapy could be longer when you’re dealing with families.
How long should premarital counseling last for family issues?
When trying to navigate serious family issues before your marriage, therapy might take six months or more.
Religious or cultural issues
Religious or cultural differences can be hard to resolve. Marriage really is about blending two people’s lives, but when religious or cultural differences come into play, it might become a bit more challenging.
The best way to overcome deep-rooted cultural and/or religious differences between two people is to really focus on communication. If work there is the backbone of your therapy, you can find common ground and learn to understand each other’s culture or religion. You can then begin to accept one another so you can find a way to make the differences work in your marriage.
How long should premarital counseling last for religious or cultural issues?
Cultural or religious differences in a relationship can take 6 months or longer to fully resolve in some cases. Working on these cultural and religious differences with your future spouse early on can be beneficial to your marriage and possibly promote a healthy relationship as well as a healthy marriage.
Simply put, financial problems can be challenging. While not every financial issue will mean more therapy, sometimes finances can stem from great amounts of debt, or very big loans, that can make a partner nervous. If you’re going to therapy to establish a plan around finances that are complicated, you should expect it to take a bit longer to resolve.
The biggest thing to note about addressing finances in therapy is that without transparency, not much progress will be made. If you both go into it willing to be completely transparent and open about your current situation — as well as how you want to move forward — you’ll undoubtedly see greater success.
While premarital counseling won’t solve all of your financial issues, it can definitely help each of you see the other’s perspective more clearly. With compassion, trust, and understanding, you can move forward with a common goal about your finances.
How long should premarital counseling last for finance issues?
The nature of the financial issues will dictate how long therapy might take. You may expect to meet with a therapist for six months or longer to fully address and overcome financial issues in a relationship. You might even need to meet multiple times a week.
Trust issues can be difficult to overcome. Trust can be a tough topic to tackle at any point in life. Heading into a marriage, it might be even more so. Ironically, since we talk so much about communication in relation to therapy, communication may be the biggest barrier in some cases when dealing with trust issues.
People may be afraid to trust because they’ve been hurt or experienced trauma. They might have underlying difficulties opening up, making therapy a bit more intensive and time-consuming. You might need to focus on communication skills prior to making much, if any, progress on the trust front. With each premarital counseling session, you can slowly work to trust each other.
Keep in mind, though, it can be done and with great success. Your work toward building solid communication skills and establishing trust in your relationship can lay the foundation for a positive connection that lasts. Couples counseling, premarital counseling, or similar is beneficial in building a healthy relationship free of trust issues.
How long should premarital counseling last for trust issues?
Sometimes trust issues can take an extra 2 – 3 months of counseling so you have time to focus sessions on both trust-building as well as effective communication.
Some research shows that some divorces resulted from problems that were there at the very beginning of the relationship. Premarital and marriage counseling can help you identify and then address issues that may interfere in your relationship for years to come. Counseling is worth the time it takes if you want to build solid ground to grow your relationship.
Online therapy with Talkspace can help you and your partner prepare for this exciting new chapter and marriage journey together. Establishing a strong foundation before marriage is one of the many fulfilling benefits of premarital counseling. Reach out today to get started.
1. FastStats. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm. Published 2021. Accessed October 4, 2021.
2. Carroll J, Doherty W. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Premarital Prevention Programs: A Meta-Analytic Review of Outcome Research. Fam Relat. 2003;52(2):105-118. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2003.00105.x
3. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Aamft.org. https://aamft.org/. Accessed October 4, 2021.
4. Williamson H, Nguyen T, Bradbury T, Karney B. Are problems that contribute to divorce present at the start of marriage, or do they emerge over time?. J Soc Pers Relat. 2016;33(8):1120-1134. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285236624_Are_Problems_that_Contribute_to_Divorce_Present_at_the_Start_of_Marriage_or_Do_They_Emerge_Over_Time
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