The word “counsel” comes from the Latin “consilium,” which means “plan.”  The first job of premarital counseling is to give a couple purposeful opportunities to talk about all of the things people should talk about before they marry.  Its second job is to provide training (or refresher training) in the skills couples need for the journey ahead.  That’s how planning for a successful marriage happens. 

Assessments

PREPARE

Our primary assessment tool is the Premarital Personal and Prelationship Evaluation, aka PREPARE*.

PREPARE is a survey.  Each partner completes an online survey of about 200 questions, asking how much each agrees with statements, such as:

  • My partner is a very good listener.
  • To end an argument, I tend to give in too quickly.
  • We have a specific plan for how much money we can spend each month.
  • My partner gets along with most of my friends.
  • And so on…

The kind of questions PREPARE asks are tailored to each couple’s circumstances, such as whether they are cohabiting, have children from previous relationships, have children from this relationship, come from different ethnic backgrounds, etc.

After each partner completes his/her/their survey, PREPARE creates a report that details levels of agreement and satisfaction in areas such as:

  • Communication
  • Forgiveness
  • Problem-solving
  • Family dynamics
  • Relationship dynamics
  • Parenting
  • Financial management
  • Leisure activities
  • Expectations
  • Family & friends
  • Assertiveness
  • Stress
  • Commitment
  • Conflict resolution
  • Partner styles and habits
  • Relationship roles
  • Sexual expectations
  • Family history
  • Decision-making
  • Health & wellness
  • Temperament

PREPARE also reports on each partner’s view of their own:

  • Assertiveness
  • Self-confidence
  • Avoidance
  • Stressors
  • Decision-making style

Finally, PREPARE creates a two “maps” that describe the dynamics of flexibility, closeness, and communication in the couple’s relationship, as well as in the families the couples grew up in.  (It’s called the Olson Circumplex Model, in case you feel like looking it up.)

The purpose of reporting these details is descriptive, not judgmental.

MYERS & BRIGGS

Each couple completes a Myers & Briggs type survey.  It produces a report that describes:

  • What charges and drains each partner’s battery
  • How each partner organizes her/his view of the world
  • How each partner prefers to make decisions
  • How much planning and open-endedness each partner wants out of life

Other assessments

Depending on what is discovered and uncovered during premarital counseling meetings, a couple might be encouraged to complete assessments on such topics as:

  • Enneagram
  • DISC
  • Markvoa stacks
  • Personal strengths
  • Attachment
  • Emotional intelligence

What do we do with all this information?  See Process.

 

—————— *PREPARE has been in use around the world since 1978 by wedding officiants, clergy, and couple’s therapists.  Over those 40+ years, PREPARE has (mostly) evolved along with normative attitudes toward marriage and knowledge about what makes for successful marriage.  PREPARE is not as LGBTQ-affirming as it should be, which is why Wedding to Marriage uses a number of tools in addition to PREPARE.  Wedding to Marriage’s Vicky Jones is a certified as a facilitator of PREPARE-ENRICH

The premarital counseling process

The first meeting

Couple and counselor meet in person or online.  There is talk of hopes and dreams, values and beliefs, marriage and weddings.  Questions get asked and answered.  If everyone agrees this is a journey they want to take together, then the couple gets signed them up to complete the PREPARE inventory.

Assessment review

Once the couple have completed the PREPARE survey, the PREPARE folks send us a report.  In the second meeting, everyone compares notes about their experience with survey.  We talk about strength and growth areas as a couple.  We look at how dynamics of closeness and flexibility played out in the families they grew up in and how they influenced the dynamics of their own relationship.  We take note of the areas we’ll want to spend more time with in future meetings.  The couple goes home with a workbook and  homework for the next meeting. 

Meetings and exercises

Over the following weeks, we work on skill-building in areas including:

  • Assertiveness
  • Active listening
  • Communication styles
  • Stress management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Marriage expectations
  • Financial management
  • Leisure 
  • Sex and affection
  • Relationship roles
  • Values and spirituality
  • Children and parenting
  • Goal setting

How long the process takes depends on what the couple wants to work on and how much time everyone has.  Couples typically schedule meetings for every week or every other week to keep up the momentum and give them enough time to do homework.   

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