By Kermit Rowe
Encompass Relationship Facilitator
It really doesn’t make sense, does it? Couples will spend $10,000+ and a year or more planning their wedding but spend nothing to prepare for their marriage. This could be a dangerous and potentially destructive oversight. For this reason, from the start of our organization (in 2005) we asked local pastors to sign a pledge that they would not marry a couple unless they had premarital counseling or coaching. We, and many area pastors as it turns out, feel it is THAT important! So, as we dive deep into our theme of preparation for this month, looking at the advantages of premarital counseling and coaching is as natural for us as it is foundational.
First, a definition. Premarital counseling/coaching helps engaged couples improve communication, conflict resolution, and relationship skills so they can set realistic expectations for their marriage … and establish a favorable attitude toward getting future help if needed. Needed … a great word to describe premarital counseling/coaching. The data does not lie. Couples who underwent counseling before their wedding had a 30% higher marital success rate than those who did not, according to the Health Research Foundation. But only 44% of couples who get married today agree to premarital counseling before they decide to take their wedding vows. When re-marriages are considered, the number of couples that get premarital counseling is barely above 1%.
“People do not get married planning to divorce,” said Dr. Gary Chapman of Five Love Languages fame. “Divorce is the result of a lack of preparation for marriage and the failure to learn the skills of working together as teammates in an intimate relationship.” The median amount of time that couples (who did take advantage of premarital counseling) spent before getting married was eight hours. So, we are not talking a casual one- or two-time meeting. No, real foundational work needs to be done … and that takes time and concerted effort. That’s why we at Encompass suggest eight one-hour relationship coaching sessions, creating time to drill deep and look for hidden challenges and valuable golden relationship nuggets.
After all, a happy marriage is one of the most important life objectives for 93% of Americans, according to HRF. Committing to and investing in powerful preparation, based in powerful truths, DOES make sense! HRF estimated the average wedding costs $12,000-$15,000. Premarital counseling costs 1-2% of this amount.
If you are considering holy matrimony or know an engaged couple, suggest they give us a call here at Encompass. We are consistently working with engaged couples to prepare them for a lifetime of effective communication and happiness.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.