WE NEVER HAD PREMARITAL counseling, but we spent the first year of our married life in therapy. Once a week, we met with a counselor who helped us iron out the wrinkles we never even saw before getting married. Not that we were in serious trouble. But we had this naïve idea that after our wedding our life would fall naturally into place, and a marriage preparation course or counseling never entered our minds. We had dated for six years before our nine-month engagement, and we had a lot in common (even our first names). We simply thought we would tie the proverbial knot, set up house, and as the fairy tales say, “live happily ever after.”
FOR BETTER OR WORSE?
The truth is, most engaged couples prepare more for their wedding than they do for their marriage. The $50-billion-a-year wedding industry can testify to that fact. According to experts, the average two-hundred-guest wedding today costs twenty-two thousand dollars. More than one million copies of bridal magazines are sold each month, focusing mainly on wedding ceremonies, honeymoons, and home furnishings — but not on marriage itself.
Looking back, it seems silly that Les and I did so much to prepare for our wedding and so little to prepare for our marriage. But the truth is that less than a fifth of all marriages in America are preceded by some kind of formal marriage preparation.
HOW TO PREDICT A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Over the last four decades, marriage specialists have researched the ingredients of a happy marriage. As a result, we know more about building a successful marriage today than ever before. For example, happily married couples will have:
• healthy expectations of marriage
• a realistic concept of love
• a positive attitude and outlook toward life
• the ability to communicate their feelings
• an understanding and acceptance of their gender differences
• the ability to make decisions and settle arguments
• a common spiritual foundation and goal
• a deep and abiding commitment and covenant together
In short, the indicators of a healthy marriage form the basis of the seven questions we pose in our work of preparing couples for marriage:
Question 1: Have you faced the myths of marriage with honesty?
Question 2: Can you identify your love style?
Question 3: Have you developed the habit of happiness?
Question 4: Can you say what you mean and understand what you hear?
Question 5: Have you bridged the gender gap?
Question 6: Do you know how to fight a good fight?
Question 7: Are you and your partner soul mates?
Every couple should be aware of these issues before (and after) they marry. Taking the time to understand these issues is like investing in an insurance policy against divorce.
LIVING HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Marriage doesn’t have to be a gamble. As a psychologist (Les) and a marriage and family therapist (Leslie) who counsel hundreds of married couples, we have learned that living happily ever after is less a mystery than it is the mastery of certain skills. Although married life will always have its difficulties, mastering these life skills will steadily and dramatically improve your relationship.
Many couples wrongly blame in-laws, money, and sex for break-ups and marital dissatisfaction. However, the hot points in marriage usually result from poor communication, gender issues, and lack of spiritual health, to name a few. It’s important to cut to the heart of every marital conflict. Whether single and dating, in a committed relationship, contemplating marriage, or already ensconced in one, you can learn the skills you’ll need for a lasting and happy life together — before unhappiness sets in.
– Excerpt from Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before — and After — You Marry, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
How To Use This Book
Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts is the core book upon which the SYMBIS system is based. Through SYMBIS, your marriage ministry can offer training to your marriage mentors, who can then administer the SYMBIS assessment to pre-married couples and guide them through the SYMBIS course using the his and hers workbooks. Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts is also available.