There is a lot of buzz about the best way for engaged couples to prepare for getting married, including workbooks, structured premarital counseling programs (secular or religious), weekend retreats, and a whole lot more. However, the same thing that helps couples in dire situations can also be incredibly useful for couples in advance of a huge commitment—couples therapy. While couples therapy is pretty much always a good idea, it’s an extra good idea when your relationship is going through a transition. There is no better time to start (or resume) working on your relationship than before a significant step like marriage. Here are five reasons why couples should go to couples therapy before the wedding:
1. Get on the same page about what marriage means
Planning a wedding, no matter how simple, can create a significant strain on a relationship. While the real and sometimes stressful logistics of the wedding can reveal differences of opinion, couples can also be surprised by ways they don’t see eye to eye on the symbolism of marriage. Getting married can mean lots of different things. Before jumping in, it’s best to talk with your partner about what marriage means to each of you and to the two of you as a unit. A couples therapist can help guide these conversations, allowing you and your partner to make even more meaning of this milestone.
2. There is always more to know about each other (no matter how long you’ve been together)
Many people, especially couples who have been together for a long time, assume that they know their partner inside and out. However, couples can underestimate their ability to be surprised by each other. Even the most well-worn relationship can benefit from the type of curiosity that couples therapy offers. Working with a skilled couples therapist can help you learn about yourself and each other in a way that creates more closeness. There is something especially beautiful about speaking vows to someone who has participated in a risky-feeling exploratory process with you: “I know you well and I choose you fully.” When you know more, your choice is more meaningful.
3. Destroy as many third rails as possible
Over time, partners often collude, knowingly or not, to avoid specific topics or issues. When these issues aren’t discussed, they can take on a life of their own, leading to resentment, anxiety, and disconnection. What starts as being tactful or mild conflict avoidance can turn into a full-blown taboo subject. This commonly happens with subjects like sex, money, or substance use but can also include parenting, in-laws, careers, and political views. With a wedding approaching, couples often wish to ignore these pain points, but leaning into them together with courage in couples therapy can result in a more honest and fulfilling relationship. Working with a couples therapist can help you and your partner better understand what isn’t working well and what to do about it.
4. What is hard when you’re dating becomes harder after you’re married
In the joy and excitement of planning a wedding, it can be easy to brush past or intentionally ignore things that bother you about each other. Those things, though, rarely go away on their own. Instead, they can snowball into an increasingly toxic mix of anger and disgust, which grows into a much bigger obstacle than it was earlier in the relationship. As the years go by, a minor annoyance can transform into a huge point of contention. Going to couples therapy can provide a space to talk about these things, work through them together, and discover a path forward.
5. Talking about intimacy creates more intimacy
Talking about your relationship with your partner is an incredibly vulnerable activity that can bring a feeling of connection and closeness. Couples therapy can encourage or reinforce a healthy norm of talking about feelings, broaching hard conversations with compassion, and continually tending to the relationship. Giving your relationship the love and attention that it needs can help deepen intimacy between partners. This is especially important if the possibility of kids exists since raising children can take the focus off of (or at least complicate) the relationship, which can lead to trouble. Couples therapy is a great way to get some guidance on how to have these conversations.
Many thanks to Kelly Scott, LMHC at Tribeca Therapy