Question: There’s a lot of material out there on pre-marital counselling, but what about pre-engagement? How can you be sure you want to say "yes" when the person you’re dating starts to talk about marriage? What should a couple do before they decide to get engaged?


Excellent question. As a matter of fact, Focus on the Family Canada recommends that couples who are dating seriously seek counselling before they get engaged. In other words, we think it’s a good idea to place more stress on pre-engagement counselling than on pre-marital counselling. 

Why pre-engagement counselling? 

Why do we say this? Because we’ve found that couples who are already engaged are far less inclined to take an in-depth, honest look at their relationship. In many cases they’ve already purchased the ring, reserved the church and reception hall, sent out the invitations and hired a photographer. Then there’s the social stigma of breaking off an engagement once it’s been announced. For all these reasons, engaged couples have a vested interest in ignoring one another’s character flaws and overlooking potential rough spots in the road ahead. They’re already committed to moving forward. In many cases this can result in a difficult marriage and possibly even lead to divorce.

How to avoid this scenario? Here’s what we’d advise. If you’ve been dating someone for at least six months, and if the two of you feel strongly that you would like to spend the rest of your lives together, find a good marriage-and-family therapist and set up a series of counselling sessions. Focus on the Family Canada’s counselling department would be happy to discuss the options with you and provide a list of qualified counsellors in your area. You can reach them Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time at 1.800.661.9800.


The counselling process should include a personality test such as the PREPARE/ENRICH premarital inventory. You can learn more about this at

Clearly, you’ll need to invest a certain amount of time and money in the process, but if you think about it you’ll have to agree that it’s worth spending a few months in pre-engagement counselling to make sure that your relationship is really marriage material. It’s much easier and a lot less expensive than going through a divorce at some point later in life. 

For further suggestions and information , we recommend that you procure Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott’s excellent book on premarital issues, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before (And After) You Marry

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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