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How Do You Prepare for the Commitment of a Lifetime? Get Premarital Counseling

This blog post is an excerpt from The FYI’s Marriage Prep Toolkit. Check out the full toolkit and The FYI’s very own online marriage prep course here

Despite how excited we all get about wedding season, research shows that Muslim couples are often unprepared for the challenges of marriage. One study on divorced Muslims found that most participants wished they had more premarital counseling. Another study on Muslims found that most participants would have participated in premarital counseling if someone had encouraged them or required them to do so.

Getting married is a beautiful blessing, but it’s also a big responsibility. Along with the wedding prep, it’s important that couples prepare for the relationship of a lifetime. One of the best ways to do this is premarital counseling. 

How Do You Prepare for the Commitment of a Lifetime? Get Premarital Counseling
What is premarital counseling?

Premarital counseling is one of many ways to prepare for marriage. Research shows that efforts to prepare for marriage – like premarital counseling – can improve a couple’s “relationship skills,” increase their satisfaction in their marriage, and reduce their conflict and odds of divorce.

Think of premarital counseling as a series of customized meetings with a professional who will guide you through this very important stage of your relationship. Through these meetings, you’ll learn the skills and tools needed for a healthy marriage. 

  • Your counselor will likely start things off with a relationship assessment to guide your discussions during the sessions. To complete the assessment, you’ll each answer questions about your relationship as it relates to communication, conflict resolution, finances, personality, family of origin, religion and parenting.
  • Afterwards, you’ll receive a personalized report with discussion topics relevant to your relationship. You’ll discuss your expectations around marriage, practice healthy communication and conflict resolution skills and develop marriage goals together.
  • Some counselors may prefer to meet with you and your partner for a few sessions, while others may encourage you to participate in more sessions if needed. 

“A couple of months into courting, everything mostly clicked between us. But there were a few things that we differed about. We weren’t sure how much this would impact our marriage, so we signed up for a premarital counseling session. Taking the assessment and discussing it with our counselor helped us to pinpoint exactly what we were feeling. It allowed us to name it and talk about it more constructively. It was also very reassuring to know that we had many strength areas as a couple, and growth areas too – just like every normal, healthy relationship. Our counselor taught us strategies we could use when we came across a topic or issue of conflict. After a few sessions, we felt confident about taking the next step together. Alhamdullilah, since then it’s been four years of being happily married!”

    You can also use premarital counseling sessions to:    
  • Assess for compatibility by learning more about yourself and your potential spouse.
  • Improve your ability to communicate and learn conflict-resolution skills.
  • Discuss sensitive issues or work through any fears about marriage or commitment.
  • Manage expectations and develop couples’ goals.
  • It’s best to get premarital counseling before you commit to marriage (so during the courting phase), but it can still be incredibly beneficial at any point in the relationship, like: 

    • When you’re seriously talking to someone for marriage 
    • When you’ve both made the decision to get married 
    • After engagement
    • After the nikkah (kitab)
    • After marriage

    Seek out a trained professional someone with experience in clinical counseling. Trained professionals will offer different types of premarital counseling and will often incorporate their clinical expertise into the sessions.

     

    Although some imams may offer or require premarital counseling, they are rarely trained in relationship counseling, family dynamics and/or mental health issues. Premarital counseling with an imam can still be a valuable way to prepare for marriage, especially if you have questions about religion or religious practice. However, know that there may be limitations in your sessions with an Imam. 

    Many couples have found it beneficial to meet with both an imam and a counseling professional for premarital counseling. One way to find a counselor is to ask family, friends, or community leaders for leads in your area. You can also check out The FYI’s Marriage Prep toolkit for local therapist directories. 

    One way to find a counselor is to ask family, friends, or community leaders for leads in your area. Additionally, these relationship inventories are the most common ones used by counseling professionals for premarital counseling. You can use their websites to search for someone in your area who is trained to facilitate the inventories. You can even filter your search by religion.

     Prepare-Enrich  

     FOCCUS

     SYMBIS  

     

    Muslim Mental Health features a directory of Muslim counselors, some of whom may provide premarital counseling and couples sessions. Also, check out these location-specific Muslim therapist directories below:

     Bay Area Muslim Therapist Directory

     DC Metro Area Therapist Directory

     Michigan Therapist Directory

    Dallas Fort Worth Therapist Directory

     

    PsychologyToday offers a therapist directory where you can filter your search by location, religion, gender, specialty, and other characteristics. Good Therapy also provides a search directory for counselors in your area

     

    Mental Health/Counseling

    Entering an intimate relationship can also make us aware of the issues we may have experienced in our own families. It’s not uncommon for unresolved trauma to show up at this time in your life, even if it didn’t show up before. This is because the marriage process is one that invokes a great deal of self-awareness. 

    • Some people discover that they have a lot of anxiety about making the decision to get married.
    • Others realize that they have no good role model for a healthy marriage. Perhaps they have fears or assumptions that stem from their parents’ marriage (divorce, abuse, betrayal, etc.).
    • You or your potential partner may come across unresolved issues in your past, face an ongoing problem you’ve avoided, or feel a lot of fear and anxiety about marriage and the changes it may bring.
    • You may also experience conflict or uncover more serious concerns with your potential spouse.

    You can discuss these issues during premarital counseling or find a trained professional counselor to help you using the above resources.

    Healthy couples and families are the building blocks of thriving communities. If you know a couple who is getting ready to tie the knot, share this blog post with them and encourage them to get premarital counseling! 

    This blog post is an excerpt from The FYI’s Marriage Prep Toolkit. Check out the full toolkit and The FYI’s very own online marriage prep course here.

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    Zakat eligibility of The FYI

    The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

    It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

    Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
    (Al-Tawbah 9:60)

    According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

    Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

    About Shaikh Ali

    Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

    Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).