There are so many things to consider as you prepare for that walk down the aisle. Flowers, rings, cake flavors – these are just the tip of the iceberg. But lurking beneath the surface may be something bigger that needs addressing. Should you add finding the right therapist for premarital counseling to that growing list of decisions to be made?

“What we call ‘premarital’ counseling is really counseling for anyone who is considering stepping up commitment in a relationship, whether they plan on getting married or not,” said Royal Oak-based psychotherapist Matt Sweet. “All relationships go through milestones in which connection is increased. For example, people may buy a house together, or co-parent, or begin to share finances.”

Marriage is arguably the biggest milestone a committed couple can reach. And in the hopes of building a long and lasting union, premarital counseling might be a beneficial tool.

“I believe the reason most people seek premarital counseling is to identify and address any issues or problems that may arise as the relationship grows,” said Sweet. “While this is a good reason, it’s important to know good premarital counseling also aims to strengthen the bond in the relationship by building a sense of connection, understanding and affection between the partners. While people who are in the beginning stages of a relationship may be in a place where they feel they do not need this it is very common that partners begin to take each other for granted and begin to drift apart in small but important ways over time. Ideally, premarital counseling teaches the couple how to guard against this.”

It’s all about looking out for the long-term health of your relationship and protecting your prospects for success in the marriage. Premarital counseling “breaks the seal on couples therapy,” said Sweet. “So if couples therapy is needed later in their relationship it may not be intimidating. Couples therapists often say that people wait way too long before getting couples therapy. Having gone to premarital counseling is a way to get comfortable with the process of seeing a therapist.

“An additional benefit is that a trained therapist can also diagnose if one or both of the people in the relationship would benefit from individual mental health treatment,” Sweet added.

So while premarital counseling might not have been at the top of your lists of decisions to make about your big day, it could prove to be one of the important choices you make.

“Premarital counseling aims to facilitate the creation of a long-term relationship endowed with joy, intimacy, mutual support and kindness,” said Sweet. “Good premarital counseling will help identify any conflicts they may have and provide them with a way to engage around these conflicts. Even if a specific conflict is not resolved in therapy, the couple can learn to manage and cope with it in their relationship.

 

“Finally, and this is sometimes surprising, premarital counseling is often enjoyable for the people who do it,” Sweet continued. “Many of the couples I’ve worked with tell me they look forward to their sessions because it is a specific time that they set aside to learn about and connect with each other.”

Sub/Financial Counseling Can Be Beneficial Too

One of the topics that might come up in premarital counseling is whether a couple can benefit from having a prenuptial agreement in place before saying ‘I do.’

“A prenup is a contract that’s entered into before the marriage,” said Angie Martell, an attorney whose practice, Iglesia Martell Law Firm, PLLC is located in Ann Arbor. “It sets out what will happen in the marriage and provide a guide for what happens in the case of death or divorce. Prenups protect spouses and they can also protect businesses, children – especially children of a prior relationship – and it can be written to benefit a less privileged spouse.”

Martell said she has worked with a great variety of LGBT clients on drafting their prenups.

“It’s really a personal choice,” she said. “For some clients, prenups are considered just standard in that they feel very comfortable about discussing their finances with each other. Usually, it’s for people who have established a business or an economic situation before they are married. It’s usually not a lot of couples in their twenties. But if a couple is married and one has a lot less money than the other or there’s an age disparity, it’s good to have one.”

For couples who have been together for a great many years before marrying it may seem that a prenup is not needed. But Martell said it could be just the opposite.

“Because we haven’t been allowed to marry for very long the prenup might be helpful so that you can establish this is a long-term relationship and the spousal support should be calculated not only on the length of the marriage,” she said. “Say you have a couple who’ve been together 30 years but only married one year. In the prenup you can say that the couple has been together for 30 years so that spousal support should take that into account.”

For more premarital counseling information, contact Matt Sweet, LMSW at 5600 Woodward Avenue, Suite 205 in Royal Oak, call 248-930-2137 or visit his website at http://www.mattsweet.com.

For questions about prenuptial agreements, visit the Iglesia Martell Law Firm, PLLC at 17 N 1st St #111 in Ann Arbor, call 734-369-2331 or visit their website at http://www.iglesiamartell.com.