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Is Premarital Counseling or Education for You?




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Is Premarital Counseling or Education for You?

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"...Easy to relate to and highly effective…. Exactly what I was looking for…. A must."


Click here for info about NYC, DC, Boston and Chicago marriage prep seminars and premarital counseling.


Deciding whether to get or stay engaged? Click here for more info.


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.


Pre-marriage preparation 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 to resolve.


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.


What 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 marriage success.


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 relationship.


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.


Marriage preparation 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 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.


What 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:


·        Compatibility
·        Expectations
·        Personalities and families-of-origin
·        Communication
·        Conflict resolution
·        Intimacy and sexuality
·        Long-term goals


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 needs.


·        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 issues?


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.



Marriage renewal / rescue seminar - Click here if you're married more than a year



Click here for related reading and references list.


Now 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.


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Copyright 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 source citation are included.




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