What you don’t know can hurt you
Have you ever noticed that we receive very little educational preparation for most of the truly important things in life? Most of us will have children without having ever had a class on parenting. We figure it out on our own. Some succeed. Many do not. Or how about finances? Is there anything that has a greater impact on your life than your ability to manage your money? But what did you learn about it? Most people learned practically nothing, and the state of our collective finances as Americans shows it quite clearly. What about relationships? Did you ever have a class on relationships? Probably not. How about being married? Again, probably not. How about resolving conflict? Nope. Basic communication skills? You get the picture.
People routinely make the biggest commitment of their lives — the commitment of marriage — on a wish and a prayer. I have been doing premarital counseling for almost 15 years now and my experience is that many couples have absolutely no idea what they are facing. Oftentimes they haven’t even had conversations about things that are going to have a huge impact in their marriage, such as role relationships (who will do what things around the house), sexual issues, how the money will be handled and by whom, resolving conflict, etc.
The Importance of Premarital Counseling
That is where premarital counseling comes in. Premarital counseling helps you find out what conversations you need to have, and teaches you how to have them properly. Without this information, you will get into what Dr. Emmerson Eggerich calls the “crazy cycle,” where you argue and blame but never get anything resolved. It also can help you see how marriages go sour. If you come to see me with stars in your eyes and I have you watch a movie about a couple just like you, and how their relationship begins to crumble piece by piece and eventually ends up in a very bad place, you actually get to see how atrophy happens in a marriage. Most importantly, you realize it could happen to you. And once you realize that, you can take seriously that you must learn how to keep it from happening to you, since no couple ever marries with the intent of getting divorced and yet so many suffer that fate. Then we can get down to the business of teaching you what you need to know to help your marriage thrive.
What’s It Worth To You?
So if you are engaged (or even considering getting engaged), get some good, extensive premarital counseling by a competent, strongly pro-marriage counselor (read this to find out how to determine if a counselor is pro-marriage). Cost varies from one counselor to another, but be prepared to pay for it unless you are fortunate enough to be able to get it free or on the cheap from your local church. And don’t worry about the money. You’re about to pay thousands of dollars for a dress that you will wear once, for a DJ who will serve you for a few hours, for food that will be gone in an hour. All of that is fine, but don’t bat an eyelash if you have to invest $300-$600 to prepare yourselves not for your wedding, but for what is really important — your marriage.
There are many different premarital counseling programs. One of the most popular and well-researched programs in use in America is Prepare/Enrich. I have used this program with great success for a decade. If you are interested in this program, you can find a Prepare/Enrich facilitator in your area.