Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean has hit choppy seas in his romance with fiancee Sarah Martin, and things are so rough pals say the couple have been forced to get marriage counseling BEFORE they tie the knot, The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively.

“It’s not good — despite their plans for a splashy Valentine’s Day wedding, A.J. and Sarah are having problems,” a pal disclosed. “They’ve resorted to a therapist so they can get things back on track and make it down the aisle.

“I hope they can go the distance — they’re giving the relationship everything they’ve got.”

The source told The ENQUIRER that 24-year-old A.J. and Sarah turned to counseling after a close friend told them they needed to strengthen their relationship before they wed. Friends worry that too much money and fame is causing cracks in the couple’s relationship. They’ve been squabbling over how to handle their cash, and over the site for their February 14 wedding.

“A.J.’s a tremendous success, but he’s a recovering alcoholic with simple needs,” explained the pal. “You’d never know he’s this big music star. It’s Sarah — not A.J. — who’s into all the Hollywood trappings. His fame has gone to HER head.

“Tensions boiled over when Sarah insisted on looking for another new house even though they just bought a place at the beach. In a little over two years they went from an apartment, to a leased mansion, to a great big beach house of their own. But they haven’t even moved into the new place yet and Sarah’s already begun looking for ANOTHER house. It’s crazy.”

And things got even more tense when Sarah convinced A.J. to dump his beloved mom as his money manager and replace her with a professional.

“A.J. has always been a momma’s boy, but Sarah kept saying his mother wasn’t sophisticated enough to manage his fortune, so finally A.J. gave in.”

Not long afterward, a new problem arose when Sarah unexpectedly changed the site of their forthcoming wedding from Florida — where A.J.’s mom lives — to California.

“Sarah decided on her own that she wanted the wedding held in Hollywood, and her decision to change their wedding left A.J. reeling,” the pal said. “It’s not so much that he cares where they tie the knot — but his mother does.”

One day A.J. confided his worries to one of his AA pals, who suggested that before they went any further, he and Sarah needed to talk to a counselor.

“So A.J. went to Sarah and told her he wanted them to get couple’s counseling,” the pal said.

“Sarah wasn’t pleased, but she knew A.J. meant business. They recently found a counselor and just began therapy.

“It’s great that they’re getting counseling, but it’s a little scary for their friends to see them struggling already. At this point it looks like anything could happen. They’re both very young and very much in love — but February is still a long way off.”