Why Premarital Education/Counseling Matters
Currently, divorce rates hover around 50%. It’s not a pretty figure. But the good news is that marriage and relationship education (MRE) or premarital counseling can help. In fact, premarital counseling can help reduce your likelihood of divorce by 30%. Studies have found that premarital education can increase communication and lower conflict. Despite these compelling statistics, most people continue to be blasé—or downright resistant—toward marriage and relationship education (MRE) or premarital counseling. Why are we so wary of activities with so much potential to enhance our marriage and overall happiness?
Before we explore the reasons behind this resistance, let’s define the terms. Most people are already familiar with premarital counseling. Most people are not as familiar, however, with the idea of marriage and relationship education (MRE). In short, MRE teaches skills, attitudes and behaviors to help individuals and couples achieve long-lasting, successful marriages and intimate partner relationships. Most MRE programs are conducted in structured group formats, using widely tested curricula. Unlike counseling, MRE is not defined as a clinical practice and emphasizes the prevention of relationship problems rather than their “treatment.”
Tackling Premarital PhobiasWedding-Myopia
During the chaos of planning a wedding, it can be hard to find the time or energy for MRE or premarital counseling. Weddings are expensive, lavish and complicated—they can easily consume all your attention. But while the longing for a beautiful wedding is understandable, a beautiful marriage should be even more coveted. Couples who participate in premarital education or counseling generally enjoy happier marriages. Don’t let the pursuit of the “perfect” wedding distract you from your ultimate goal: a loving and lasting marriage.
The Invincibility Myth
Engagement is a stressful, but often euphoric time. Despite the very real possibility of divorce, enraptured couples often persist with an “it will never happen to us” mentality. Perhaps it won’t, but MRE or premarital counseling are among your best defenses against divorce. Don’t just think your marriage is indestructible; help to make it so.
Overcoming Male Resistance
Men may be especially resistant to premarital counseling, at least initially. They may be hesitant to discuss their inmost feelings and relationship struggles with a stranger. For such men, marriage and relationship education may be a less threatening alternative to premarital counseling. MRE workshops are generally held in group settings and focus on building core relationship skills such as communication and conflict resolution. MRE’s skill-based, solution-oriented approach may be more appealing to men who perceive counseling as too “touchy feely” or too personal.
Alternatives to the Dreaded ‘Counseling’ Word
Women can also be put off by the term “counseling.” To some, this term implies there is something fundamentally wrong in their relationship, which is not necessarily the case. But for those who are bothered by the term—or who want to try a different approach—marriage and relationship education (MRE) can be a great solution. MRE is focused on building the core skills that facilitate healthy relationships.
Not Knowing Where to Turn
Many people simply don’t know where to turn to find good MRE or premarital counseling. Most couples typically receive premarital counseling from a religious advisor. Some religious institutions, such as the Roman Catholic Church, even require it. However, premarital counseling is also available from non-religious sources as well. Research available MRE or premarital counseling services in your area or review the list of relationship resources, sorted by state, featured on our website.
Lack of Funds
Many churches and community organizations offer free or low-cost premarital services. Admittedly, not everyone across the country has access to free premarital counseling or education. Still, when you compare the relatively minor costs of premarital preparation to the costs of divorce, MRE or premarital counseling is a much better bet. A little money up front can potentially save you a lot of money later on. If you truly can’t afford it, consider asking for an unconventional wedding gift from your closest friends or family: MRE or premarital counseling. Many people will jump at the chance to give a wedding present with the potential to last considerably longer than those bath towels.
Benefits of Premarital PreparationMRE or premarital counseling will give you the chance to enhance your core relationship skills. Additionally, premarital preparation may provide you and your partner the opportunity to:
- Assess potential conflict areas stemming from different views on money, sex, parenting, religion, etc. (Many MRE classes provide inventories/assessments to help identify and address these differences)
- Better understand how personality and family history can influence your relationship
- Strengthen your communication and conflict resolution skills
- Openly discuss your respective views on love, infidelity and divorce
- Define and discuss expectations for marriage, finances, work and children
- Potentially get a discount on your marriage license—many states provide this incentive for couples who complete a designated number of premarital preparation hours