Interview by Alexandra Dillard | Photography by Bryte Media LLC
In the radiant glow of engagement, it’s easy to become consumed by the whirlwind of wedding planning. From choosing the perfect dress to deciding on the ideal venue, there’s a thrilling journey toward matrimony ahead! Yet amidst the excitement and anticipation, one often-overlooked aspect can make a profound difference in the success of a marriage: the relationship’s foundation.
Couples seeking not just a picture-perfect wedding day, but a lifetime of happiness might consider premarital counseling. Premarital counseling isn’t just for troubled waters, but it’s a tool for forming a more resilient and harmonious partnership. We turned to Operations Director Bailey Kraft, MS, LMFT and Clinical Director Mike Connell, MA, LMFT from Balanced Life Counseling to explore the keys to establishing a solid foundation for a flourishing marriage.
Chicago Style Weddings (CSW): What is premarital counseling and why is it important for couples?
Balanced Life Counseling (BLC): Premarital counseling uses both structured and unstructured conversation to cover a broad range of topics designed to help committed couples prepare for marriage. Its primary objective is to equip couples with the necessary skills, tools and insights to build a strong, healthy and enduring partnership.
CSW: How can relationship and/or premarital counseling contribute to a successful and lasting marriage?
BLC: It provides couples with a solid foundation to navigate the challenges of married life, fosters better understanding and empathy between partners and encourages proactive problem-solving. By engaging in these conversations prior to marriage, couples are able to develop a deeper understanding of one another by identifying potential growth areas, while also celebrating their strengths.
CSW: In your experience, what are some key factors that contribute to a successful marriage?
BLC: The most important factors vary from couple to couple, but a few key factors typically include open communication, a foundation of trust, and engaging in empathy with one another. In our experience, couples need to prioritize their friendship first. It’s from building a healthy friendship that these factors necessary for a healthy marriage are fostered and continue to grow.
CSW: What are some misconceptions or myths about premarital counseling that you encounter?
BLC: The most common misconception that we see is that premarital counseling, or couples counseling in general, is only for couples with severe doubts or concerns about their relationship. Engaging in premarital counseling is a proactive step that will only benefit relationships in the long term. Premarital counseling primarily focuses on existing strengths, as opposed to solely looking at growth areas. We hope that couples will see premarital counseling as an investment in their future, not a last resort before disaster.
It’s important to note that couples who participate in premarital counseling are statistically 30 percent more likely to stay together than couples who do not.
CSW: What are some examples of strategies you use in your premarital counseling sessions that help couples build a strong foundation for their marriage?
BLC: One of the most important skills, and typically where we start with couples in sessions, is using “I” statements. Talking only about what I feel instead of what you did is the best way to avoid a disagreement spiraling into a full blown argument. In addition, if those “I” statements don’t work and couples start to feel overwhelmed, taking a break or timeout can be crucial to de-escalate the situation and lead to a productive resolution.
CSW: What are some of the most common challenges couples come to you with?
BLC: Some of the most common challenges couples face in premarital counseling are communication barriers, difficulties resolving conflicts effectively, differences in values and goals, and navigating wedding stress.
CSW: Are there any particular resources or books you recommend for couples who are considering premarital counseling or looking to strengthen their relationship?
BLC: A few books we commonly recommend include:
- “7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver
- “Come As You Are” by Emily Nagoski
- “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Additionally, there’s a great app called the “Gottman Card Decks” that we encourage most of our premarital clients to explore with each other.
About the Contributors
Balanced Life Counseling | balancedlifechicago.com