7 Benefits of a Good Premarital Course
You may feel a premarital group class is a way to go for premarital counseling, and there are many reasons to think that. For some, it is financial practicality, others desire to interact with other couples especially if newly relocated, and still others prefer an interactive environment where learning can be enhanced.
“Not every class is created equal.”
Unfortunately, this appears to be true in premarital counseling as well. Having worked with many couples over the years, many seemed shocked and surprised by the problems they've encountered after marriage.
Couples later recognize that they did not thoroughly discuss, explore or have awareness of the potential for these problems. Some couples I’ve worked with participated in a premarital course, but were still unprepared for some fundamental issues.
Reasons for not benefiting from a premarital class are: - not fully engaging in their pre-marriage counseling classes due to a lack of relevance, style of presentation , or facilitators use a top down approach leaving couples feeling uncomfortable in discussing concerns. Many also see their premarital course experience as judgmental or cursory.
One couple I worked with who were previously engaged, took a premarital course elsewhere. They still felt so unprepared they considered postponing their marriage. The couple shared that they felt shut down in their previous course after asking a question and being told “this is the way it is.” After participating in my 4 hour premarital course, they expressed the class was significantly more relevant. They appreciated the ability to participate in a way that was guided, while providing information and coaching on practical and useful skills. They left the course feeling prepared and more confident.
Realizing that many couples were not being prepared adequately, I set out to present and provide an enhanced experience for clients utilizing Prepare-Enrich, a nationally recognized premarital assessment and couple strengthening program.
An excellent premarital group course should provide the following:
COMPREHENSIVE COUPLE ASSESSMENT
1. A comprehensive pre-assessment tool helps couples see in black/white how they view, value, and understand significant aspects of their relationship. It allows couples objectivity in considering each other’s perspectives with neutral language, sparking less emotional reactivity in areas that may be hot button topics for the couple.
Benefit: I find in many cases when couples have a personalized report to consider, they are more likely to focus on the report, and collaborate effectively to address challenging areas of their relationship vs. pointing fingers at each other. It almost becomes a project that they can work on and explore and engage in together.
SAFE SPACE TO EXPRESS
2. A safe space for couples to interact with other couples facilitates learning from each other. For example, before presenting a topic such as Sex and Intimacy, I ask couples to share briefly the most romantic date they've had together. The stories shared are often poignant, touching and empowering for the individuals and the group as a whole.
Benefit: The power of a small group provides support but allows them to share their commonality of experiences, and ways of handling challenges while sharing in each other’s successes and solutions.
STRONG FOCUS ON COMMUNICATION
3. An intentional focus on communication skills including active listening and assertiveness skills are vitally important. Couples should be able to practice between themselves while witnessing other couples doing the same. Since good communication is a foundation for a healthy relationship, it is important that couples learn and feel comfortable with this skill. I like to say that with good to great communication, couples can help a navigate issues and solution-build around challenges and life issues quicker and more effectively.
Benefit: Practicing and observing others enhancing or tweaking their communication skills helps couples to learn and reinforce that skill more effectively than doing it on their own. This will make changes more long lasting and support the health of the couple relationship.
UNCOVER POTENTIAL PROBLEM AREAS
4. I recall in one class a partner of a couple shared that even though she and her fiancé had been living together for over three years, she had no idea he felt the way he did about a particular area of their relationship. For the couple this was not only eye-opening but was instrumental for them to begin a healthy dialogue regarding their differences while learning how to honor each others perspective.
A therapist or facilitator's level of experience can help the couple with uncovering and exploring potential problems while creating a space for open communication. Couples should participate between themselves which not only promotes engagement, it allows the couple to recognize previous areas that may cause challenges later. The couple can practice and reinforce effective communication, assertiveness and resolution skills to discuss or solution build around those potential challenges.
Benefit: An environment that promotes safety can help a couple to uncover a previously unrecognized area that may need the couple’s attention before marriage.
5. A helpful premarital course should provide a clear, structured well-timed format allowing couples to adequately explore key areas such as communication, conflict resolution, finances, marriage expectations, roles, couple goals, sex, intimacy, and parenting expectations.
Benefit: Balance and structure help couples to not only learn or enhance skills but also to review their issues objectively, have open discussions, and gain guidance from the facilitator or therapist.
6. Appreciating that there are different learning styles is vital when presenting new information. That holds true for a premarital class. Therefore, it is valuable to couples to have a variety of modalities of learning, such as video, questions and discussion, worksheets, relevant examples, quick in-house surveys, private time, and sharing times.
Benefit: Addressing different learning styles keeps each participate engaged and helps to increase each person's comfort level in a group setting, thus gaining the most benefit possible from the class.
PROVIDE GUIDANCE AND REASSURANCE
7. While every married couple's journey will be different, an experienced therapist or facilitator can help the couple prepare for typical issues that couples tend to encounter. For example, it is advantageous for couples to understand how life stressors or the addition of children can significantly challenge or change their relationship dynamics. Guidance by the facilitator can also help the couple increase awareness proactively prepare so that they don't fall into the trap of feeling helpless and hopeless when challenges arise.
Benefit: Experienced guidance can help couples more clearly understand and explore some of the challenges they may face, and provide reassurance to the couple while imparting relevant skills, tools, and resources to promote their success.
These are some essential characteristics and benefits of a good premarital group class. If you are preparing for marriage, I invite you to consider participating in one of my upcoming Prepare-Enrich pre-marriage classes. You can find out more by visiting here.
Simone Finnis, LMFT is a solution-focused systems therapist providing positive therapeutic solutions for individuals, couples and families. She specializes in helping in helping couples thrive and is a certified Prepare-Enrich facilitator. Simone tailors her therapeutic approach to the unique needs of each of her clients. To find out more about Simone visit her website here or call today 954-356-2903.