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Did you know that most marriage proposals happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day?1  So with the month of February here, many dating couples will consider making their relationships permanent.

But with the divorce rate in America at about 50%, I wonder whether couples should be asking other questions before asking the big one. Questions such as: How well do we really know each other? Have we spent enough time together on a day to day basis to know what the other is really like? Is this the person I can see myself with every day for the rest of my life?

I have a friend who specializes in premarital counseling and has counseled over 100 engaged couples. He told me recently that there’s evidence that premarital counseling increases a couple’s chance of staying married. He stressed that the purpose of premarital counseling isn’t to create problems in the relationship, or to tell a couple they shouldn’t get married. Rather it is to discover areas of strength as well as areas of potential conflict, and to find workable compromises ahead of time.


When I asked him which issue seems to be the toughest for engaged couples, he immediately said “communication.” He believes this is due to the fact that very few adults were taught how to communicate as children—although many learned from example how to “react.” He said that communication is a skill to be learned, and can improve with time. It’s not just learning how to listen, but how to speak. Premarital counseling can be the first step toward many years of successful communication, rather than years of arguments and hurtful words.

There are many additional areas to be discussed prior to marriage. Issues like religion, finances, sexuality, conflict management, children, and in-laws--to name a few. For example, one pastor asked an engaged couple, “How many children do you want?” The young woman immediately answered, “Oh, I want lots of kids!” The young man answered flatly, “I don’t want any.” The couple looked at each other in astonishment. They had assumed that they thought alike.

Getting married is far more serious than “going out.” You can’t just break up and move on to the next guy or girl. On your wedding day you will vow, “till death do us part.” This commitment is so solemn that you’re promising that only death itself will separate you.

If we prepare for less important events in life--an exam, a driver’s license test, a job interview--shouldn’t we all the more prepare for this life-long commitment? So, if you’re interested in premarital counseling, seek out a knowledgeable pastor or counselor. My counselor friend uses a well-known program called “Prepare-Enrich.” You can learn more about it at www.prepare-enrich.com.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.


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