How Premarital Counseling & A Prenup Can Positively Impact Your Marriage

When you're in a relationship that's headed in a serious direction, whether you've been dating for a while or have actually gotten engaged, you're probably soaring with a sense of expansion, possibility, and joy. You share exciting moments, quiet intimacy, and go on adventures together. If you're in the pre-honeymoon phase before the actual honeymoon, probably the last thing on your mind is meeting with your respective attorneys to craft a prenuptial agreement or attending premarital counseling. But doing this will settle any fears that may be lurking in the background.

The truth is, for both a prenup and counseling, the earlier you deal with these topics in your relationship, the better. One or both conversations might feel awkward and uncomfortable to discuss, especially a prenup. There can be a persistent sense that openly talking about a prenup or putting one in place signals a lack of trust or an expectation of divorce. But it absolutely doesn't have to — in fact, confronting your partner about potential financial issues will protect you both.

Benefits of a prenup to your marriage

Considering that about 41% of marriages end in divorce, opening up a friendly dialogue about money can prevent problems before they start. A Harris Poll conducted between May 2022 and May 2023 found that in the U.S., 42% of the population is in favor of creating prenuptial agreements, and 35% of those who are single signaled their willingness to get one in the future. That's a huge increase since 2010 when only 3% said they'd signed one. 

A prenup legally defines who owns what and how both parties' assets will be shared in case of a divorce or legal separation. One benefit is that you'll be protecting your individual assets, businesses, inheritance money, real estate, and so on. By defining everything clearly, you'll avoid a huge potential expenditure of emotional drama. Celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder shared with CNBC, "If you want to make sure that a prenup sticks, the guide is transparency. People should state what they have, what they may have, [and] what's down the pike..."

A prenup can ensure that you won't be saddled with your spouse's debt. The agreement can also define how each partner will contribute to the household, like utilities, groceries, etc., and how you might like to co-finance big purchases like cars and homes. In the unfortunate case of a divorce, a prenup speeds the process and also protects any inheritances meant for your children. It's meant to provide a sense of ease.

How premarital counseling is helpful

Traditionally, for many people, premarital counseling has been arranged through the church or some other religious body. But in recent years it's expanded to include something akin to preemptive couple's therapy with a licensed marriage and family therapist or psychologist. The purpose is to build your communication skills in order to stay together peacefully and prevent divorce.

The right counselor or a well-trained pastor will help you elevate your ability to communicate with each other, deepen your capacities to proactively handle conflict, and get to know and accept yourselves and each other. You'll be able to hash through problematic personality quirks or habits with a neutral person who won't take sides. Clinical psychologist Tracy Dalgleish shared with Forbes, "Talking about our relationship[s] (and sex) often feels taboo. This becomes a safe place with a therapist to help you walk through these often tricky-to-navigate conversations."

Another counseling benefit is learning how to define your personal space and boundaries so you can maintain a healthy, separate sense of identity instead of only defining yourself as part of a couple. Normalizing couple's therapy in this way can help you reframe it as a form of proactive mutual self-care.