This is the 3rd and final segment of our series, “The Best Ways to Prepare for Marriage.” If you have read the previous two posts, stay tuned. This third way for preparing for marriage is the most obvious and also the most beneficial.
Participate in a Marriage Prep or Enrichment Program
What if I told you there’s a simple step you can take to reduce your risk of divorce by 30 percent? Would you be willing to do what it takes to get those results? Research suggests that couples who participate in a marriage preparation course have a 30% lower divorce rate than those who don’t. Talk about giving a relationship a fighting chance! Not only that, but research also states that couples who participate in marriage enrichment programs report higher levels of positive communication and marital satisfaction. This means more passion, excitement, and a more fulfilling life with your spouse!
You may be thinking, “Wait, I don’t have time for this. I’m juggling all of my normal responsibilities and now you want me to add this to the list?” Well, you don’t have time NOT to do this. Who would not want to give their marriage the best chance of survival? Not only that, but the state of Florida (along with other states in the U.S.) offers a discount to any couple who takes a marriage prep course on their marriage license. Divorce would take WAY more time and money, so you can’t afford NOT to do this.
Most importantly joining a marriage prep or enrichment program can set you up for a happy future together. Isn’t that your ultimate goal? These courses provide you an opportunity to reflect on and discuss your hopes and dreams. From money management to how to raise children (and how many children you each would like to have) all the way to expectations and fears about sexual intimacy.
You might believe you are so in love that you do not need to discuss these aspects of a relationship. You’re convinced that “everything will be fine” and that happy couples just “get it.” Unfortunately, as you already know, 50% of the time this is not the case. Not only that, but out of the 50% of couples that stay married, only 7% of those consider themselves to be exceptionally happy.
What kinds of things would the course discuss?
If you’re wondering what type of issues are worth discussing before getting married, let me give you an example.
If it’s been a life-long dream of yours to have a large family and adopt children, wouldn’t it be easier to find out that your partner never wants to have children before you say “I do”? Or if you are imagining having sex every day for the rest of your life and your partner is uncomfortable with the idea of sexual intimacy, wouldn’t you want to have the opportunity to discuss that before getting married? Not only will that end up being quite the awkward conversation, but it will also be quite the disappointment to discover that you and your spouse were not in agreement on such significant issues after you’ve already said, “I do.”
Participating in the course provides you space to focus on your relationship under the guidance of multiple experts and among other couples who know where you’re coming from.
But, I don’t want to ruin my relationship by talking about those things.
While dating you should ask these questions. When the relationship becomes serious, begin voicing your dreams for adopting or anything else and notice how your boyfriend or girlfriend reacts. If they tell you they never want to have children, now you have a decision to make about continuing the relationship. Never rely on them changing their mind at some point in the future. They are being honest and telling you where they stand.
If your partner discloses a goal or dream far different from your own. Think of it as a gift. You now have the opportunity to do something about it and come to an agreement as opposed to being blindsided later on.
What if we differ on an important issue? Does that mean we shouldn’t get married?
Even if you disagree, being aware of the disagreement allows you the chance to discuss your values and maybe come to an agreement. This is not just the first step to having an OK marriage, but having an amazing marriage.
What’s the pay off?
In these programs you learn to become open and vulnerable with your significant other. You learn powerful communication tools which strengthen your relationship and heal past hurts. You learn how to differentiate between what you can live with and what you can’t. (Remember the Must-Could-Never Have Lists?)
So are you convinced yet?
Several churches provide courses which are recognized by the state (for the discount!). If you are getting married through a church or your place of worship, it can be as simple as calling the office staff and asking about what courses they offer. You can also find marriage prep courses online. (Find a few more here, here, and here).
Another great way to prepare for marriage is through pre-marital counseling. Pre-marital counseling allows you more time and freedom to work at your own pace as a couple. You can bring any concerns or disagreements from the marriage prep class and delve into those issues in more detail. The flexibility of premarital counseling allows you to focus energy on being a couple and assists in creating the marriage you dream of having.
Being on the same page for these issues increases your likelihood for marital success and protects against divorce. When you and your partner are on the same page, that means having shared values. Couples who share similar morals and values, are more likely to have a happy, long-lasting marriage.
Shared values about money, for instance, helps reduce opportunities for intense conflicts. If one person desires a simple lifestyle and the other building wealth and extravagance, there will be constant arguments and feelings of hostility, which will only erode the relationship over time.
What about marriage enrichment?
Marriage enrichment is perfect for couples who have been married for at least 3 years. It gives a boost of revitalization to your relationship and helps you remember why you got married in the first place (in case you may have forgotten).
The beauty of a marriage enrichment program is that it is specifically tailored for married couples, no one else. The program addresses the frequent struggles and strains married couples most frequently encounter and helps you find ways to overcome those struggles. You are also surrounded by other couples who want to improve their marriage. Talk about positive peer pressure! When does that happen nowadays?
Is your marriage already good? Well, marriage enrichment will help your good marriage become a great marriage. Marriage enrichment offers a perfect excuse to step away from the daily grind and spend quality time together without feeling guilty.
As a reminder, before you begin the marriage preparation process, be sure to you have determined you are ready to get married. Once you are confident that marriage is the life-long commitment for you, jump right in and invest in preparing for a rewarding experience. Congratulations and enjoy!
Want more? Looking for more conversation about getting married and staying married? Join this Facebook group for tips and advice.
Have any other ideas for marriage prep? Share in the comments!