February 27, 2023

Is Pre-Marriage Counseling Different from Marriage Counseling?

Written by Sara Lane

couple holding hands premarital counseling

Whether you’re just getting started in your relationship or you’ve been married for decades, starting a counseling journey with your partner is a great way to strengthen your relationship.

Depending on where you are in your relationship, two options to consider are pre-marriage counseling and marriage counseling.

While the two therapies have similarities, there are notable differences and those differences will determine which therapy it right for you.

This article explains why and when you would seek pre-marriage counseling and why and when you would seek marriage counseling.

The 411 on Pre-Marriage (Premarital) Counseling 

  • Are you engaged?
  • Getting married?

Premarital counseling is an investment in building a loving, lasting, healthy relationship.

Preparing for the next phase in your relationship is a lot like skydiving: you want to ensure that you and your significant other have the tools and skills you need to make your journey a success.

By entering into pre-marriage, or premarital, counseling together,  you’re building the best foundation you can for your future marriage –  even before it starts!

Investing in a solid foundation is well worth it for the long-term!

Similar to the parachute being the “safety net” in a skydive, healthy communication is the “safety net” in a relationship. Communication is central to ensuring that you and your significant other are on the same page and communication also helps maintain connection.

And connection is what we’re all about.


couple just got engaged

What to Expect in Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is an opportunity for you and your partner to:

  1. Get on the same page
  2. Learn good communication techniques
  3. Learn how to fight fair
  4. Heal your past
  5. Make each other happy/happier

Common Topics in Premarital Counseling:

  • Your love for each other
  • Your goals and expectations for the future
  • Your relationships with family members
  • Your approach to problems and your plan for dealing with stress
  • Life & family building
    • Where do you want to live?
    • What are your career plans?
    • Do you want to build a family?
  • Spirituality & Religion
  • How to handle money
  • Discipline (for children)
  • Intimacy and connection
    ◦ What is your love language?
    ◦ What is your partner’s love language?
  • Conflict resolution

If one or both members of the couple have children from a previous relationship, pre-marriage counseling can also address your questions and concerns about blending a family, step-parenting, and how to help your children transition smoothly.

And one last benefit of premarital counseling? Your marriage license fee is waived upon completion of pre-marriage counseling.


pre-marital counseling can waive the marriage license fee lesbian couple at therapy

The 411 on Marriage Counseling

  • Having arguments or misunderstandings?
  • Are you feelings hurt?
  • Is your time together defined by anger?
  • Has infidelity or other stressors affected your relationship?
  • Perhaps you are just feeling disconnected from your partner?

Marriage counseling can help you at any stage of a relationship, no matter the conditions. You do not have to wait until you are on the brink of divorce to start marriage counseling.


What to Expect in Marriage Counseling?

Similar to pre-marriage counseling, conversations can revolve around:

  • your love and connection with each other,
  • finances,
  • child rearing and discipline,
  • conflict resolution,
  • future plans and concerns,
  • life and family building,
  • and more.

Marriage counseling also offers some additional benefits:

  • Improve communication so that you feel heard and respected
  • Deepen intimacy with each other and rekindle love
  • Increase connection with one another
  • Enjoy couple time with one another, again
  • Build trust with one another
  • Learn conflict resolution skills and resolve conflict easier
  • Understand your needs as well as your partner’s
  • Maintain, recover, and strengthen your relationship with your partner
  • Increase satisfaction with your partner


With pre-marriage counseling, couples are generally focused more on their similarities and are more likely to reach out to a mental health professional proactively.

With marriage counseling, couples have identified their differences and are more likely to reach out for help after an issue or reactively.


woman with heart premarriage counseling what are your goals for the future?


Before Going to Marriage Counseling, Ask Yourself:

You’ve decided it’s time to go marriage counseling.

In order to maximize your therapy experience, ask yourself and your partner the following questions before you go:

  1. Do we need marriage counseling?
  2. Could we benefit from marriage counseling?
  3. What do we hope to achieve through counseling?


John Gottman and The Four Horsemen

In a nod to the end of times prophecy in the New Testament (Revelation), marriage expert John Gottman refers to four communication styles as “The Four Horsemen” as a metaphor for communication styles that will end a relationship.

According to Gottman’s research, relationships that utilize these communication styles are highly likely to end in divorce. They are:

  1. Criticism – Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. It is an attack on your partner at the core of their character.
  2. Contempt – When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean—we treat others with disrespect, mock them with sarcasm, ridicule, call them names, and mimic or use body language such as eye-rolling or scoffing.Most importantly, contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated.
  3. Defensiveness – Defensiveness is typically a response to criticism.
  4. Stonewalling – This is usually a response to contempt. Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down, and simply stops responding to their partner.

The Gottman Method

John Gottman’s work is like the gold standard in relationship counseling. Together, he and his wife founded the relationship training program, now called The Gottman Institute (TGI).

The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy.

The Gottman Method is a highly effective couples counseling used for couples experiencing persistent conflict and gridlock in their relationship.

If you and your partner find yourself using The Four Horsemen, consider using The Gottman Method to:

  • Disarm and de-escalate
  • Increase intimacy and affection
  • Remove emotional barriers
  • Build healthy communication patterns
  • Create a heightened sense of mutual respect and empathy within the relationship


couple premarriage and marriage counseling online therapy in-person therapy in Houston, TX

Connection and Communication are Key

To start your premarital counseling or marriage counseling journey, our therapists at Eddins Counseling Group are here to help you. We also offer LGBTQ+ Couples Counseling.

Call us at (832) 559-2622 or text us at (832) 699-5001 to set up your intake assessment or to schedule an appointment with one of our Houston, Montrose, or Sugar Land therapists.

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