Which is it, premarital counseling or premarital education? There is a huge difference, and his article will help you see it. Then you can decide what to choose. We will begin with counseling.
What does the word “counseling” mean to you? To me it suggests I need help, or correction. I think of counseling as something I need if and when I’m in trouble. Some couples may need counseling. If you are fighting, if there is abuse, or if there is cheating; maybe.
I may be projecting. But if someone told me I needed counseling just to have a good marriage I might be offended. Or I may get defensive. I may tell that person “we are fine”. I wouldn’t want anyone to know we have trouble. Even if we argue or are fighting all the time. That’s our business. I have to believe, from what I have seen time and time again, most people feel this way. You may, or may not,
Sure, some people are more open to “counseling”. In fact, they are hungry for any help, no matter what you call it, that will benefit their marriage. But those couples are rare!
We know, all too well, premarital preparation is not as popular as it should be. Why is that? Shouldn’t it be obvious that every couple needs to understand marriage before they start their married life? This is where the difference is important. Everyone needs to learn about marriage!
Premarital Counseling or Premarital Education?
So, to be clear, we think you need premarital education, so you never need any marriage counseling! I cannot recall one couple I helped who would have been in my office looking for marriage help if they had premarital counseling or premarital education.
So why do we call our program premarital counseling? Well, this is a dilemma, but it is because its how it came to be known. My best guess is because clergy, who counseled couples to raise their kids according to their religion, called it that. Of course I am not certain of that. And you still can get “counseling from your clergy; but that is not what will make your marriage happy.
Counseling is a fundamentally incorrect term for what a couple needs for marital happiness. Couples need to be educated. Taught about what they can expect. They need to learn what to do when things come up. They need to learn what the best, and hidden, benefits of marriage are. They need to learn how to get the most happiness from their marriage, and how to keep that happiness growing till the end of time. I prefer the term education for all of that.
Why not compare marriage to other things? You are forced to get drivers education before you get your license. And, if you want to fly a plane you better get pilot training. It would be crazy to try and fly a plane without it. This is common sense! In fact, anyone should be educated in anything they want to do well. The statistics prove the same thing is true for marriage!
Premarital “counseling” should mostly be premarital education; like 95% of it. Without the marriage education part, counseling is useless. What you hear in counseling will not be retained. A combo approach is great, but for many couples the education part is all that is needed.
The premarital education part is a must. On the other hand the counseling part is useful too, but has a different purpose. Its a way of getting in front of a marriage expert who makes sure you are on track. They answer questions, and bring clarity to important points.