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The short answer is a
resounding YES. Getting married without pre-marriage prep is like
starting a business or any important venture without preparing.
Half of all marriages end in divorce and only half of those that
endure are truly happy in the long run. Many happy engaged couples
assume that they won't be contributing to these statistics. Some
mistakenly believe that having lived together or known each other
for a long time will prepare them for marriage. Surprisingly, research
shows that cohabiting couples have no better chance at marriage
success than others.
If you just wing it and
count on your luck and romantic attachment to make your marriage
a success, your odds are only one in four. There is another way.
Most couples just don't
realize that good, skill-based pre-marriage education can reduce
the risk of divorce by up to thirty percent and lead to a significantly
happier marriage, according to marriage research. It can also reduce
the stress of the pre-wedding period. Just a little effort now can
make your odds a whole lot better over the long run. You want to
do everything you can to ensure that your dreams of a great marriage
and a great life are realized.
is based on the reality that it's important to strengthen your relationship
and prepare constructively for future challenges and conflicts that
everyone will inevitably face at some point in their marriage, now
while you have so much fresh positive energy in your relationship.
Don't stick your head in the sand. The research shows that there
is a window of opportunity during the year before the wedding and
the six months or so after when couples get the optimum benefit
from marriage preparation. Later, under stress, negative habits
and relationship patterns may become established and be much harder
Couples now face more
demands and have fewer supports than ever before. The typical complex
marriage - managing two careers while rearing children - really
requires that couples have very strong, well-established abilities
to communicate, resolve issues, maintain mutuality and set goals.
Without this foundation, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by stress
and time pressures. Problems can intrude much more easily than most
couples realize. As much as it's important to come to terms with
unrealistically positive expectations, those who grew up with divorced
or unhappily married parents may find that they have unacknowledged
and unexplored expectations that their marriage, too, may become
unhappy. Marriage preparation functions as an immunization that
boosts your capacity to handle potential difficulties. Couples need
every advantage to succeed in today's marriages.
Is Pre-Marriage Preparation?
Most commonly, those
couples who do receive some premarital counseling get it from their
religious adviser. This can range from one or two meetings to an
extended series of sessions. Sometimes an assessment inventory and
skills training are included, often they are not. Non-religious
professional counselors also provide premarital counseling services.
Again, the content and amount of service depends on the orientation
of the counselor and what you ask for. Often it doesn't cover all
the preparation that couples need.
Premarital or couples
counseling, while helpful in its own way, usually doesn't provide
the same kind of intensive and comprehensive skill-building and
education as marriage prep. The skill-building and
education are the key factors in long-term divorce prevention and
Some couples do decide
to do both marriage education and premarital or couples counseling.
Many couples who are considering private counseling find that marriage
prep like MST is a very helpful preliminary or adjunct approach.
They can quickly cover all the general issues, develop skills and
get an overview of their relationship profile in the seminar. Many
couples discover that MST gives them what they need to advance their
We encourage premarital
couples to complete group premarital education first because it
is the most effective means of providing comprehensive coverage
of marriage success issues and strategies. Couples who still feel
that they need more can then use this foundation to address more
specific or problem issues in their counseling. MST starts their
counseling on a fast track.
classes or workshops are an alternative or supplementary approach
to educating engaged couples and newlyweds in the skills, habits,
attitudes, and enrichment techniques that research shows lead to
happy, enduring marriages. Such marriage preparation programs, are
education, not therapy. Like premarital counseling, some of these
classes have religious sponsors while others are secular. You might
consider them in many ways analogous to career counseling. They
address the normal issues and challenges that all couples face in
the course of their marriage. Some people think that marriage preparation
is well on the way to becoming as commonplace as driver's training
or test preparation. In fact, Florida now encourages couples to
attend marriage prep by giving those who do a reduction in their
marriage license fee.
Concerned about privacy? Click to learn how a group
seminar can still be very private.
Susan Piver's, The
Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say I
Do is on the bestseller list. A marriage prep program can give
couples the benefit of a supportive environment and framework in
which to ask these questions and some skills to deal with the answers.
This book, along with others, is available thru stayhitched.com/books.htm.
Again, though, we urge you to explore expectations as part of a
program--ours or another of your choice.
Whatever marriage prep
couples choose - religion-based or religion-neutral, counseling
or class -- should include activities to give them real skills,
real expectations and real knowledge of self and partner to face
the inevitable challenges of a committed relationship.
to Look For in Pre-Marriage Preparation
Here's a concise list
of seven relationship skill and knowledge areas that research has
shown to contribute to the success and endurance of marriage:
Personalities and families-of-origin
Intimacy and sexuality
Make sure that the pre-marriage
prep you choose covers all of these. Here are some questions to
help you select the pre-marriage prep that's right for you:
Does it include an assessment
inventory to help you understand your areas of compatibility and
strength, as well as areas you may need to address?
How many couples will
attend the class or workshop? A small group setting is higher quality,
more engaging and individualized than large classes. On the other
hand, it can also be more comprehensive, systematic and skill-based
than most pastoral or couples counseling. A group experience can
also be more involving and stimulating than individual counseling.
· Is the content based
on marriage research?
· Is the class or workshop
led by qualified and trained professionals? Are they are married
couple who will have credibility in their experience and outlook
with both men and women?
Does the program focus
specifically on the needs of engaged couples and newlyweds? Some
marriage skills programs mix troubled couples from later stages
of marriage in the same class. This can detract from the experience
for engaged couples and newlyweds.
Is the class or counseling
approach flexible enough to allow for your relationship and learning
style or is it a one-size-fits-all program? It's best to practice
specific communication, conflict resolution and goal-setting skills
and strategies, and then select those skills and strategies that
are most congruent with your relationship style and best meet your
Will the counseling or
class help you and your partner agree on goals and strategies for
managing and continuing to work on your most important unresolved
The answers to these
questions will help you approach selecting your premarital preparation
as an educated consumer.
If a couple's premarital
counseling with a religious advisor or lay professional does not
address some important areas, the couple should think about supplementing
with a program that does. Many couples use marriage prep and counseling
in combination, covering the foundation issues and skills in a class
or workshop, then focusing on religious or other special issues
in their counseling.
Click here for info on premarital educaton seminars.
Click here for info on private premarital prep packages and consultations including phone options.
/ rescue seminar - Click here if you're married more than a year
here for related reading and references list.
that you know how important pre-marriage preparation is, consider
attending a Marriage Success Training seminar with your partner.
MST helps couples handle the increased stress of the pre-wedding
period in a much more healthy way, so that they can use the pre-wedding
experience to deepen their intimacy--not stress their relationship--during
this special time. Click here to learn about the benefits of MST.
2003-2005, Patricia S. & Gregory A. Kuhlman. You may copy this
article for non-commercial use provided that no changes are made
and this copyright notice, author credit and stayhitched.com source
citation are included.