Christina M. Schultz, MA
Resident in Counseling
Supervised by Megan A. Ellis, LPC
Thriving Families Counseling, LLC

Marriage & Premarriage Counseling

Marriage Counseling

Ideally, the time to seek marriage counseling is when you are experiencing significant distress in your relationship.  For some couples, it may feel like they cannot have a normal conversation that does not become an argument, while others do not communicate at all and are closed off from each other.  For some couples, marriage counseling, in conjunction or following individual counseling, is needed to work through past and present issues of trauma, betrayal, grief and loss, control, and alcohol and substance use.  

It is never too soon or too late to seek marriage counseling.  Coming for marriage counseling is a big step and takes courage.  Please know that you are not alone in your relationship or marital difficulties.  Most of us have not had the models of healthy relationships and have not necessarily developed the skills needed to sustain and maintain our marriages.  If fact, many couples need training in understanding why and how they are being triggered by their spouse and vice versa, education and practice on naming emotions and assertively and respectfully communicating their needs and dreams behind their conflict, and active and empathic listening.  

Premarriage Counseling

Engaged couples can easily get caught up in wedding preparations while not attending to expectations of marriage and considering how your history and expectations of family of origin, communication, conflict resolution, values, religion, sexual relationships, and children all play into your transition from engaged couple to newlyweds and beyond transitions. 

Premarriage Counseling can help examine and assess what ghosts, triggers, strengths, expectations, communication patterns, and guidelines you each bring to your future marriage.  You can use premarriage counseling to help you make thoughtful decisions about your relationship before or after engagement, and help improve your own communication and conflict resolution skills.  

Remarriage Counseling for the Widowed or Divorced

Remarriage Counseling is seriously advisable for any couple with one partner widowed or divorced to prior to a second marriage.  Unfortunately, remarriage has a higher divorce rate of 60% compared to first marriages (40 to 45%) (Falke & Larson, 2007).  Research has examined the factors which may play a role in the higher divorce rates into remarriages.  Remarriage preparation and counseling is helpful to examine and assess what continuing bonds, expectations, communication patterns, and guidelines you each bring to your future marriage.  

Counseling involves communicating more about step-parenting, future children together, financial and estate plans and expectations, attachments to former or late in-laws, attachments to former or deceased spouses, and processing guilt and shame due to remarriage, widow/erhood, and divorce.  The ultimate goal of remarriage counseling is to help you assess your remarriage readiness, compatibility for marriage, and to identify areas of strength and vulnerability you bring to this relationship. 
Three Exceptions to Marriage or Couples Counseling

It needs to be communicated that there are three circumstances when marriage or couples counseling is contraindicated.  

  1. If one of you is currently involved in an extramarrital affair, and/or not willing to disclose to your partner of your past or current affairs or abuse choices (e.g. gambling), marriage counseling is not what you need first.  I will not become a co-conspirataor by being part of your omission or lying to your spouse.  Instead, I would refer you for individual counseling to work through your reasons for holding back, support to become more stable, improved empathy and perspective-taking in how your choices impact others, and support to communicate this to your spouse or partner.  
  2. Marriage counseling is contraindicated in marriages or relationships in which there is physical and/or sexual domestic abuse, and/or moderate and severe emotional abuse.  I will assess for this for every couple.  Safety for the victim spouse and children are of utmost concern, with both the victim and aggressor needing referrals for individual counseling and psychoeducation once safety and stabilization requirements have been reached prior to any potential marriage counseling.  
  3. When one or both partners in a marriage or relationship have addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, and other process addictions, a counselor has to assess the couples counseling readiness of each partners in the relationship before moving onto the couples counseling portion of the therapy.  It is difficult to work with actively using addict couples, because the addict is married to the substance or process (e.g. sex), which renders the couples counseling much less effective.  Instead, I refer both partners in this relationship for individual counseling and support groups for addiction and codependence or other issues (e.g. trauma) or coordinate with current therapists before moving on with counseling.  Couples counseling may move forward on a case-by-case basis for couples with addiction and codependence issues.  

The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy

The majority of us could use help of counseling and in-session skill building in improving our marriages and especially remarriages. I hope that helps to normalize your difficulties.  The key, of course, is that you recognize when it is time to move beyond recognition and to be motivated for change.  I employ Gottman Method therapy for couples because it is evidenced-based on years of research, effective, thorough, and integrative in its assessment and approach.

John Gottman and his University of Washington colleagues developed an algorithm, based on researched observations of couples interractions and physiology that predict a couple’s likelihood of divorce with 94% accuracy after just a few minutes (Gottman & Shwartz Gottman, 2016).  Gottman used his research to examine what factors allow the "Relationship Masters," which are the couples who do not get divorced, to maintain their relationships overtime.  The Gottman Method, a Evidence-Based and Integrative Couples Therapy, deals with your conflict and conflict resolution, including the everyday interactions by building and repairing your interactions, friendship, and shared meaning system.   

The Gottman Method is an integrative therapy in that focuses on your emotional regulation patterns, how you think about your relationship, how you talk about your relationship, how you build shared meaning systems and dreams, and assesses your interactional patterns and how your past relationships and primary family into your current marriage (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2016).

The Gottman Method helps couples manage, not necessarily resolve, conflict. Gottman's research demonstrated that conflict is inherent in relationships (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2016).  He has also found that 69% of conflicts are perpetual in nature, with only one third of conflicts couples have as actually resolvable.  Gottman couples therapy emphasizes how to deal with unsolvable conflicts and solveable conflicts, while working on building appreciation, friendship, and accepting influence from each other.  

Christian-Based Marriage Counseling

For those engaged and married couples that are Christian, I am happy to offer you marriage counseling that integrates both Christian and Gottman marriage counseling principles, as based on the “Partners on the Journey” program, by Dr. Paul T. Ceasar, Ed.D. and Darryl Ducote, L.C.S.W.  In addition to these marriage and premarriage program, I am able to use and integrate a Christian-Based Remarriage Program into the Remarriage Counseling for divorced and widowed adults.

I encourage you to call me or e-mail me today to take that
leap into action and find the support you are looking
for a better tomorrow with your spouse or partner!


Falke & Larson (2007). Premarital predictors of remarital quality: Implications for clinicians. Contemporary Family Therapy, 29(1):9-23.

Gottman & Schwartz Gottman (2016). Level 1 Clinical Training Gottman Method Couples Therapy:  Bridging the Couple Chasm.  The Gottman Institute:  Seattle, WA.