I love working with premarital couples. They are usually very engaging, interested in information about marriage, and are hopeful about their relationship. At the same time, this is the easiest time to intervene in order to adjust, correct, or align individuals in relationships prior to marital problems occurring.
One perspective about premarital counseling I would like to focus on is understanding expectations for each individual as well as relational functioning. What I have seen over the years is that there is one expectation for the current dating relationship, and then people have expectations for how the relationship should be different once they are married. Being able to identify what the current expectations are for couples who are considering marriage, as well as what their expectations are for after they are married, will provide the opportunity to address concerns now, as well as help people become aware of how they need to adjust their expectations based on who they are, who their partner is, and what kind of marital experience they would like to have.
A wonderful place to start is to discuss where each partner obtained their perspective about what a marriage should look like. Each partner received some type of example from their parental influences, and they have either embraced aspects of that relationship, or have determined to do the opposite of specific aspects which were modeled to them. Once a couple is able to have conversations about the origin of their expectations, as well as their reactions to those experiences. As a couple begins to have these conversations, they are able to then explore, understand, and negotiate how they want to define their own marital interactions. This kind of empowerment is an outcome of being deliberate prior to entering into marriage, rather than allowing default interactions to define the relationship.
Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE