That is an excellent question and I’m happy to cover it. There are several factors that are important to consider when engaging in the pre-engagement counseling process. So, what are the most important factors?
You want to make sure that the counselor(s) you both are choosing have a similar value system to you. If you are Christians and you seek the counsel from a non-Christian, that counsel may not be biblically-consistent.
It is also important to select a counselor that has been doing pre-engagement counseling for a period of time – there are different issues and dynamics between premarital and pre-engagement counseling that arise in session. So, just because a counselor does premarital counseling does not automatically mean he or she will be just as qualified to do pre-engagement counseling.
Choose carefully the program you are going through – the program should be comprehensive enough to expose many areas of both people’s personalities that were previously unknown. Some programs that have been standardized can be of some use; however, others that have been crafted and tailor-made to the couple will be more helpful for the couple.
Lastly, I recommend the person or couple you both choose be someone who has completed professional counseling training. Many clergy and church laity bring couples through a premarital education process, but have not been trained with counseling skills and therefore do not do pre-engagement or premarital counseling.
Be Open to Listening and Learning
This piece of advice may sound foolish – I mean, why would someone get pre-engagement counseling unless they were interested in learning what the counselor had to say? However, in our experience, we have found that some clients come to us not wanting to be helped by us or know what we thought – their decision was already made and they merely wanted our stamp of approval on their relationship.
Make sure to go into pre-engagement counseling with a completely open mind and determine to be completely honest. This is the time to really explore your relationship – before the ring is put on, before the church is booked, before the dress and cakes are bought, and before the invitations are sent out. Understand that pre-engagement counseling is an evaluation process and that two positive outcomes are either:
- We have learned a lot more about each other and want to proceed toward engagement.
- We have learned a lot more about each other and think it’s best to part ways.
Why could breaking up be positive? Think of all the heartache and pain that can be avoided from the future when what would have become known in session became known after marriage. It is more fun and pleasant to have the couple leave in love, but a good pre-engagement counselor also knows that a healthy breakup is a positive outcome.
Do the Work
Lastly, whichever program you go through, take the assignments seriously. Don’t rush through them or ignore them. Set aside at least two to three hours a week for any written or verbal assignments that the counselor gives above any assigned reading. This period of evaluation will be short in the scope of your lifetime and you want to make sure of the marital trajectory toward which you are heading. Some people spend more time picking out their daily wardrobe than preparing for engagement – I strongly recommend against that.
Come prepared with questions of your own about your particular relationship. The counseling process should be structured enough to guide you through a pre-defined process and flexible enough to handle your specific questions. Treat this as an important process. Ultimately, you will get out of it what you put into it.
Are You Looking for Pre-Engagement Counseling?
If so, I would encourage you to check out our pre-engagement counseling services (and we do premarital counseling as well). Or, if you know someone who is considering engagement, please send them to our site to check us out – there’s a lot of great free content on our blog from which they will benefit! Additionally, if the couple is recently married and has not gone through a good pre-engagement and premarital counseling process, many of the sections in our program will help them in their new marriage.
As well as meeting with clients in Central Virginia in person, we also see clients via Skype! If you have any questions about our services, I am happy to assist you – just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
(If you have a question about relationships you would like answered on PreEngaged.com, please contact us!)