By: Sarah Zucker, Psy.D.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make is who you choose to marry. Although plenty of people are not interested in marriage or do not get married for various reasons, 86% of women and 81% of men will be married before the age of 40 in the United States (CDC, 2009). With the divorce rate in America hovering around 50%, many people are inadvertently picking a partner with whom they are not compatible. There are many factors at play, but spending ample time getting to know a partner and communicating openly about potential issues BEFORE taking the plunge is the best way to ensure a happy, healthy, til-death-do-us-part marriage.

 Premarital Therapy in San DiegoMany religions often recommend (and sometimes require) couples to do pre-marital counseling prior to getting married in their place of worship. But whether you’re a religious or secular couple, pre-marital therapy is a great idea. Couples who are planning to marry and even couples who are just planning to move in or make a long-term commitment can benefit immensely from pre-marital therapy. Addressing concerns ahead of time and making sure everyone is on the same page can prevent a lot of future heart ache and disappointment. Therapists understand that discussing the nitty-gritty details of a relationship is not always the most romantic, pleasurable endeavor, and it is precisely for this reason that having an experienced professional to guide you through is so valuable. You’re only job is to be as open and honest as possible.

Here are just a few examples of the basic topics your psychologist/religious leader/therapist will likely guide you through during your pre-marital therapy:

Children and Family Planning: Too many couples have not had a thorough conversation about this essential subject. Do you see yourself having kids? If so, how many would you like to have? How old would you like to be when you have children? Who do you envision raising the children and what are your views on childcare? What is your parenting style and how will you implement it? What are your views on discipline? If infertility arises, what are your options? Do you and your partner agree on sensitive key issues such as IVF, abortion, birth control, adoption, genetic testing etc.? How will religion and/or spirituality be incorporated into the lives of your children if at all? If either of you already have children from a previous relationship, how will you work together to make sure these children continue to feel loved and supported?

(You see what I mean? It’s not a light-hearted discussion. There are a lot of serious and sometimes uncomfortable details to examine.)

Finances: Finances are the biggest stressor in most relationships. How do you manage money? Is it compatible with how your partner manages money? Who will pay the bills, choose how to invest income, balance the checking account, decide if something is affordable? Will both partners have equal say regarding the finances? Will you have separate checking accounts, a joint account, or a combination of both? To what extent are you savers and/or spenders? Do either of you have credit card debt, student loans, or other financial obligations that will impact the marriage? What was your financial situation growing up and what messages did you receive about money when you were a child?

Managing the Household: These questions seem so obvious that they often are not addressed. As a result, partners often make incorrect assumptions which can lead to conflict. In what city will you live? Do you prefer the suburbs or do you want to be in the city? Is either partner willing to relocate for a job, to care for aging parents, or just for a change of scenery? Will you have pets? What sort of residence would you like to have? How important is neatness and cleanliness? If you live together already, are both of you happy with the division of labor when it comes to taking out the trash, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn etc.?

These issues may seem mundane and overly-detailed, especially as you prepare to plan your San Diego dream wedding. However, these matters arise in relationships all of the time. Maybe they’ve come up already but you’re hoping they will sort themselves out. Unfortunately, that’s not likely. If left unresolved, problems often become worse and lead to resentment. But if you’ve discussed these topics, you’re both informed and there are less unwelcome surprises. Both partners have a chance to evaluate whether there is anything that may be non-negotiable for them and they can prepare for potential conflicts.

Have you thought about these things before in regards to your relationship? What other topics would you want to be sure to discuss in pre-marital therapy?