Congratulations! You’ve just made the most important decision of your life. Now, take a deep breath and relax. You’ve got lots of other big decisions ahead of you. You’ll be picking out cakes, finding a dress and tux, planning the music for your wedding, and deciding on the honeymoon. You’ll be putting in many hours trying to make your wedding day a day to remember. But when it’s all said and done, you’ll pull it all together and, finally, you’ll be married. And, you’re planning “to live happily ever after,” because you’re in love, and that love will, of course, sustain your marriage for a lifetime.
Wrong! Love is necessary, but it’s never sufficient to keep you together forever. Getting married is easy. Staying married takes planning, work, and knowledge.
Did you know that there is only one thing you will do on your wedding day that will prepare you for BEING MARRIED? Do you know what that one thing is?
And, will you put at least as much time into planning your marriage as planning your wedding? If you’re like many couples, you won’t — no wonder the national divorce rate is 53%. Think about this. You’ve spent 13 years going from Kindergarten to 12th grade learning how to read, write, and add. You possibly have spent four years in college preparing yourself for the workplace, and if learning is really important to you, you’ve spent another four to eight years getting an advanced degree to develop yourself professionally in order to put you at the top of your game. But how much time have you taken to learn about marriage — the activity you plan on engaging in for the rest of your life?
Let’s try a few simple True/False questions:
- In happy stable marriages, couples work hard at avoiding conflict.
- The second highest predictor for divorce is affairs.
- Complaining in a marriage is bad for the marriage.
- Couples need to learn to have a high tolerance for negativity once they marry.
- A happy, stable marriage is characterized by both husband and wife working hard at maintaining the feelings of being in love.
- The highest predictor for divorce is unresolved conflict.
How did you do? Did you guess that most of these are True? Guess again. Every one of them is false.
Lack of knowledge about what it takes to create a happy, stable marriage could doom your marriage. Inadequate knowledge will naturally lead you to act in ways that are not in the best interest of “’til death do us part.”
Research shows that couples can dramatically reduce their chances of divorcing by taking part in premarital counseling. Premarital counseling is intended to give you the knowledge to have a happy, stable, satisfying marriage that will last forever.
Before you say, “I do,” say “We will. We will learn everything we can to make this a successful marriage.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t premarital counseling for people still trying to decide whether to marry?
Pre-marital counseling isn’t intended to be a screening process to determine whether you and your betrothed are a good match. You’ve already made the decision to marry. If you are reading this and haven’t made that decision, see our information on pre-engagement counseling. The job of premarital counseling is to identify your strengths as a couple, improve the skills you already have and develop new skills that will take you through all the years of your lives together.
What’s the most important thing we will do on our wedding day that will prepare us for marriage?
The exchanging of the vows. They are the heart and soul of the wedding ceremony. All the rest is a celebration of the vow exchange. Your vows are your promises to each other concerning how you will BE with each other. They are your rules, constitution and contract and like all good contracts, they state your willingness to be accountable to your partner. Technically, the exchanging of the vows is the wedding. The moment when the vows are spoken is the moment of covenant. And yet, many couples never discuss what will be said, much less decide what will be said, and often don’t even know what will be said until the day of the wedding. Surely the most significant words you will ever say to each other should be well thought out and heart felt. For this reason, many couples chose to spend a few sessions discussing the vows the officiate has provided or learning how to write their own vows.
Carolyn C. Martin, M.S., L.P.C., L.M.F.T.