Is pre-marital counseling a good idea for most couples? Absolutely. It's very easy to get caught up planning the details of the wedding, reception and honeymoon. Many couples don't ever get to some of the tough issues that couples need to discuss about building their life together after the wedding is over. The wedding is really just the starting line for your relationship.
It can also really help to have an objective and professional person whose job it is to focus on all the potential areas for conflict and guide you on how to handle them. You can learn in pre-marital counseling how to set a foundation to work through future concerns in an empathic, mature and open way. We know all couples have conflict, so learning how you can work through them in a calm, respectful way before you walk down the aisle is a huge benefit. The counselor's office can be the best and safest place to identify and learn how to work with your differences as a couple.
Sometimes couples are "so in love" that they are not looking at challenges and differences in a realistic way. Each partner was raised in their own family, and bring their own unique style of expressing affection, ways to work through or avoid conflict, partner roles, and the balance of separateness/togetherness. Whatever you saw happen in your family feels 'normal' to you. Being able to identify the strengths and weaknesses in each of the families you grew up in with help you illuminate the differences between you in a non-defensive setting. You may or may not want the relationship your parents had, and your partner had their own experiences.
Couples who marry in their 20's or 30's may not be fully individuated from their own families. Couples who remarry later can underestimate what it takes in emotional maturity to blend a family together and be a stepparent to their partner's children. Being pushed hard by a therapist on how you will handle conflicts over in-laws, parenting, money, debt, affection/sex, religion/spirituality, holidays and other pivotal issues is very helpful so that you have a plan. Think of pre-marital counseling like a preemptive strike. You will have different wants and needs, so having a safe way to discuss them is so important. Your partner may be very loving, but will never read your mind.
In last summer's findings in the National Marriage Project, they found that couples who've had pre-marital counseling do better. The odds of having a happy marriage are linked to how people functioned in their relationships before marriage.
Taking the time to address how you will handle difficult topics, like personal boundaries, jealousy, intimacy, work stress, family demands, feelings about having children, and limits you will put on distractions to couples time (cellphones, tablets, television) is time well invested in your happiness as a couple. In short, counseling before you get married helps you keep the emphasis on the life you are building together, rather than just one, big eventful day. Successful marriages take loving, honoring, communicating respectfully, listening, negotiating and seeing the other person's perspective. Pre-marital counseling can help you get there.