Premarital Education

Make a lifetime investment in your marriage

USA Today carried an article today stating that the average couple spends $26,989 on their wedding. Read the article here. Nowhere in the article does anyone speak about premarital education or counseling. I am sure that $27,000 buys a memorable day and yet I doubt it is really much of an investment in the marriage.

May I suggest that it is more important to invest in a marriage that is intended to last a lifetime than to spend lavishly for a one day party. Good premarital education/counseling happens in 8-12 hours, preferably over4-8 weeks, and finished 3-6 months before the wedding. Those 8-12 hours are a front end investment in a marriage that will pay dividends for a lifetime. Such education and counseling allows a couple to be sure that their choice to marry each other is a good choice and provides skills to help the couple be successful together as spouses.

When choosing someone to do your premarital counseling look for a counselor with experience helping couples. Some clergy have done many weddings and plenty of premarital counseling and others have not. It may be necessary to see both the clergy and a counselor. Whomever you choose make sure that person uses a relationship inventory and it is best if the inventory is designed for premarital couples. Good inventories are PREPARE, FOCCUS, and RELATE. Check out the Premarital Education category of this blog for more information.

Marriage is wonderful! Every couple can have a REAL marriage and it is easier when you start with a good process, good information, and make a good choice.

Out of Wedlock Births Cost Everyone

I have mentioned the cost of out of wedlock births before and it is an issue that has not gone away. Besides the monetary cost there are untold emotional, physical, and spiritual costs to out of wedlock childbirth. Click here to read an NPR story about out of wedlock births. This is an issue that we can address. Each of us can spread the information and we can all send people for education about the advantages of marriage. You can also give premarital education as a marriage (instead of wedding) gift.

Doubts, Divorce and Premarital Education

This morning USA Today has a story about people who knew they would divorce before they married. Click here for the story. Since today is my 19th wedding anniversary this story really caught my attention. I knew when I got married that it would last because we both made the decision to make it work. There have been some tough times and we had to work hard for a while and the result is 19 years of marriage, great kids, and knowing we can rely on each other now and in the future.

We did have premarital education and it helped. Since getting a counseling degree emphasizing marriage and family therapy I have developed a more extensive program of premarital education then we received. I think premarital education is not only a good idea, I think it should be required. As a minister I will not conduct a wedding if the couple has not had premarital education. All across the country churches in communities have come together to require premarital counseling before conducting weddings in thier facilities or by their ministers. Where this has occurred the divorce rate has declined. For more information see Marriage Savers.

Good premarital education lasts at least 8 hours, uses a premarital inventory such as PREPARE, FOCCUS, or RELATE, covers a multitude of subjects, and teaches couples skills in listening, communicating, problem solving, budgeting, and maintaining their marriage and faithfulness. Another good thing to talk about before, and after, marriage is a Faithfulness Plan. A good resource to use in your premarital education, Before “I Do,” was written to be used in conjunction with a PREPARE inventory.

Premarital education or counseling will not guarantee that a couple remains married, however, it will prepare the couple to realisitcally enter marriage and to do so with skills that are correlated with marital success. If you are thinking about getting married invest in premarital education, it will be one of the best investments you ever make. If you are a parent, grandparent, or good friend of someone thinking about getting married then pay for a couple’s premarital education as a marriage gift (instead of just a wedding gift). At the very least share this blog post with them and suggest they invest in premarital education.

You can enter marriage believing it will last and prepared with skills to make that belief a reality. You can have a REAL marriage if you so choose. Make good decisions before marriage and they will bless you after you marry.

Marriage Deserves Preparation

Most people would probably say that getting married is one of the most important things they will do in life. As important as most people say it is many people spend less time getting ready for their marriage then they do getting ready for a job or even a driver’s license. “I spent months (or a year) planning my wedding,” you say. I beleive you. You spent all that time planning a wedding, a one day event, and probably little time planning or preparing for a lifetime event, your marriage.

If you are entering the dating scene or have been there a while and would like to find more compatible people to date, give thought to learning about mate selection. If you are engaged or are thinking about being engaged then find someone to help you with premarital education. Find someone who will take you through an relationship inventory such as PREPARE. After you have taken the inventory you want to spend eight to fifteen hours talking about your relationship and learning relationship skills such as assertive communication, listening skills, conflict resolution, budgeting, staying faithful, and maintaining your marriage.

Preparing for your marriage will get you on the right road to having a REAL marriage.

The Cost and Cure of Out-of-wedlock Childbirth

An article posted this last Thursday on Slate has caught my attention this morning. Click here to see an article about out-of-wedlock births. This article lists some of the current research on the cost to society of out-of-wedlock births. It also suggests that women give more thought to having sex with someone they are not willing to have as a husband and that waiting to marriage is a more stable situation for having children. By implication it suggest men should not have sex with someone they would not be willing to have as a wife.

We have long known that divorce and out-of-wedlock births result in pain to those involved and there has also been indication that there is a financial cost to divorce and out-of-wedlock birth. On April 15th the Institute for American Values, in cooperation with the Georgia Family Council, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and Families Northwest, releases a report entitled, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and all 50 States.”

With divorce and unwed childbearing costing so much pain and taxpayer money it seems to me that we should do something about these events. My plan is simple to understand and more difficult to implement yet it is possible. We need to act on personal, community, and governmental levels.

On the personal level:

  1. Learn about mate selection by taking a course or reading good material or both.
  2. Wait until marriage to engage in sex.
  3. Take advantage of premarital education once you are engaged.
  4. When you are married maintain your marriage by taking marriage enrichment classes, going to seminars and retreats and reading books that will help you have a good and healthy marriage.

On the community level:

  1. Churches need to lead the way in providing the education listed above. Most people are married in a church and it is the church’s responsibility to provide good education.
  2. We need to support marriage.
  3. We need to support chastitity until marriage.
  4. We need to discourage divorce.

On the governmental level:

  1. Government can support education regarding the full spectrum of consequences of sex outside of marriage.
  2. Government can support marriage and remove or change laws that inadvertantly discourage marriage.
  3. Government can make divorce more difficult.
  4. Government can increase its effectiveness in holding father’s accountable for taking responsibility for their children.

This is not everything we can do. It is a good start.

Premarital education vs. Postmarital regret

“Premarital education is better than postmarital regret.” Jim Maxwell

Take time to know the person you marry

Getting engaged is wonderful and getting married is even better, at least for most people. Those who take time to get to know one another and make a deliberate decision to marry have a great time. For those who get married before really knowing the person they are marrying it is often very trying and frequently ends in divorce.

Generally speaking you need to be in relationship with someone for a year before you marry. You need to see them through the seasons, the holidays, and long enough for them to take their mask off. Do not live together as this has negative effects (see previous posts for more information on this area).

Get to know the person, their likes and dislikes, favorites, thought processes, typical emotional responses, and their character among other things. This takes time. As you get to know them you will discover how well you can trust them. Make sure the person you are going to marry is trustworthy. Along with trust you need to know if you can rely on the person you want to marry.

Make sure you can commit to the person you want to marry and that he or she will commit to you. Part of this commitment is being willing to work through tough times in your relationship. There is a reason that wedding vows include a line that says, “for better or for worse.” After you go through these things comes touch. Save the sexual touch until you are married, that is where it belongs.

To follow a process like this takes time. Part of this time needs to be spent getting to know you future spouse’s family and friends as well as co-workers. Getting to know these people will give you more information about the person you want to marry and what you can expect once you do marry. When you find out good things it makes you more confident in your marriage. If you find enough bad things it is better that you found out before marriage so you can make a good decision.

Some of this material was adapted from, How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk.

Good preparation enhances your ability to have a REAL Marriage.

Premarital Preparation reduces divorce

I just received a fact sheet from Life Innovations and decided to pass on some of the information. Preparing for your marriage with a premarital program can reduce your chance of divorce 30%. Couples who participated in premarital education has a 79% improvement in marital outcomes compared to couples who did not particpate in premarital education. Thsoe who participated in the PREPARE program showed in improvement in 10 out of 13 relationship categories.

Premarital preparation is an investment in your marriage, your health, your wealth, and the children you will have. Make the investment and reap the benefits.

Fix the Economy – Invest in your Marriage

It appears that the economy is becoming a major issue for those running for president. Many Americans are concerned about the economy at this time. One of the things the candidates are not addressing is how good marriages impact the economy. One way to improve our economy is to invest in our marriages.

  • The Federal and state governments spend an estimated $100 billion each year in social services related to divorce and marital breakdown.
  • Marital success is correlated with many measures of social stability – such as better mental and physical health, highter productivity in the workplace, lower crime and less violent crime – and Marriage Education skills are known to correlate with marital success.
  • Parents’ marital stability is correlated with positive outcomes for their children. The positive benefits for children include higher academic achievement, lower teen pregnancy rates, lower rates of delinquency, lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse, and better overall health. Marriage Education fosters marital stability.
  • Research shows that the use of a scientifically valid inventory, such as PREPARE for premarital couples or ENRICH for married couples, has a positive impact on marriage.
  • For premarital couples it has been found that even 8 hours of preparation positively impacts a couples marriage and reduces divorce.
  • This information and specific references can be found in this report. This file is 3MB so it may take a while to download.

Whether you are thinking about getting married or are already married then premarital or marital education is an investment in your marriage, your health, and your bank account. We can save billions of dollars every year by investing in our marriages. Here are a few tips on investing in your marriage.

  • Get premarital education before getting married.
  • Pay for a friend’s premarital education as a wedding gift.
  • Enroll in a marriage mentoring program to be mentored and, if you have been married 5 or more years then consider becoming a mentor couple also.
  • Consider marriage coaching to help your marriage be even better.
  • Attend a marriage seminar, retreat, class, or workshop at least once a year.
  • If you are a blended family then address your special situation with a blended family seminar.
  • Read a marriage related book at least once a year. Click here for a list to get you started.
  • Be aware of other resources. Check the resources section of this website and the blogroll.

The above is a good start for investing in your marriage. You can make a difference in your marriage, your personal economy, and the national economy by investing in your marriage. Invest in your marriage daily and you will build a REAL Marriage.

What science says about living together

It is a common myth that living together before marriage is a good way to figure out if you should marry the person you are with. Fortunately, there have been a number of studies about living together or cohabitation as it is known in the scientific literature.

Here are some things that social scientists have found:

  • Higher numbers of premarital cohabitation partners are associated with risk for divorce
  • Those who live with more partners or for longer periods of time are associated with thinking less of marriage and raising children
  • Living together is associated with more negative communication in marriage
  • Living together is associated with lower levels of marital satisfaction
  • Those who have lived together are associated with higher perceived marital instability
  • Those who live together have a greater chance of experiencing domestic aggression
  • Living together leads to a greater chance of divorce
  • Living together is associated with higher levels of depression and lower life satisfaction
  • Living together is associated with lower levels of dedication to one’s spouse for men

If you would like references for these findings, e-mail me and ask for them and I can send them to you. You can also check out Cohabitation Facts. This is a huge list with more findings than I have listed above.

To find out more about your relationship and compatibility together try the following:

  • Attend a relationship workshop or seminar together (or by yourself if you have to, which is telling in itself)
  • Read relationship books
  • Schedule time with a marriage and family therapist or family life educator
  • Take a relationship inventory such as PREPARE or do your own online Couple Checkup
  • Take time to talk about your relationship.

Research shows that many people “slide” into living together instead of making a thought out decision to do so. Use the above information to arm yourself to make good decisions. Learn about the person you are thinking of living with and if go through some of the above steps and find out that the two of you have a relationship worth continuing then get engaged, do your premarital education, get married, and then start living together.

Making a purposeful decision about your relationship is one step toward your REAL marriage.

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