By Jonathan D. Sherman, LMFT
I recently attended one of the several bridal shows in the community. There was aisle after aisle of gorgeous displays with many excited young brides accompanied by their mothers, fiancés, sisters and friends. Every product and service you could imagine was available to help these wonderful couples prepare for a truly memorable wedding. In the midst of all this joy I wondered why there weren’t any services to help couples ensure that their marriages would last well beyond their wedding day to their golden anniversary.
I wondered how many knew that sadly fifty-percent of their marriages would end in divorce, even though they all “knew” that they would be the exception to that statistic. I stood there holding a great secret most of them did not know: That there are very effective ways of preparing couples to not only beat divorce but to create a truly great and lasting relationship and that the best time to learn these skills is now, not later.
However, most young couples are so in love that they suffer a bit of myopia about all that is required for a loving marriage to stay a loving marriage. And while pre-marital counseling is readily available, well-researched and very effective few take advantage of it. Why? There are many reasons such as myths around marriage and not understanding the power of prevention.
Myths of Marriage
Our society frequently perpetuates some very common myths about marriage. For example, Disney taught us, “Happily ever after....” The Beatles taught us, “Love is all you need....” Foghorn Leghorn’s love-interest crooned, “Our love will keep us warm...” (Okay, obscure reference, but you get the point). The Brady Bunch taught us, “All problems are solvable in 30 minutes or less especially when you have a live-in maid and an Astroturf lawn.”
What other marriage myths have you discovered in your life? Wouldn’t it be great for young couples to go into their marriage not only fully aware of these marriage myths and their corresponding realities but more importantly to go into their marriage with a clear set of practical solutions to address these myths and realities head-on? I think so. Not only do I think so, I’ve dedicated my life to doing just that. Here’s the good news that couples, their parents and grandparents need to know: Two-thirds of all divorces could be prevented with education and intervention.
It’s About Prevention, Not Problems
We need to shift from the focus of “I’ll get help when I have a problem...maybe.” Do we do this in sports? No. Instead, from the beginning, we have a coach who encourages, teaches, guides, and inspires us to improve from good to great and from great to excellent. However, when it comes to marriage, research shows that on average, couples wait six years from the first signs of problems before they seek help? This hardly sounds like a good or logical strategy.
Many young couples may find the price is prohibitive (see “Count the Cost”) especially when their so in love and “that’s not for us. We don’t have any problems.” Granted, they might not. Prevention is not about having problems it’s about preventing problems. It’s about creating solutions even before problems arise.
Furthermore, prevention is about taking the strengths, energy, motivation and excitement in the newly married couples relationship and help them focus it using the best tools available so they can not only have a great wedding but more importantly have a great marriage. It’s about teaching the skills and coaching them to “practice them into habit.” This way as problems arise they can respond with confidence, “We’ve been trained for this. We’re on the same page. It’s still a problem, but we can deal with this not only effectively but we can actually use the problem to strengthen our relationship.” What would you have given to have had this advantage early on in your marriage?
Help them start their marriage right!
What would it be worth to you and for your children or grandchildren to go into their marriages well equipped with the tools and skills to resolve conflicts, communicate clearly and enhance their relationship for years to come? Let’s help our children enter their marriages running with confidence vs. stumbling along best they can.
Register them for the fun, upbeat and informative “Pre-Marital Workshop: Prepare for your marriage, not just your wedding” to be held over two Saturdays, May 29th and June 5, 2004. They will learn how to be more mindful and attentive of their relationship from day one to their 50th anniversary together. This workshop is perfect for recently married couples, too. Please visit www.bardos.net/premarital or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801.787.8014 for more information, free articles and to register.
As one parent shared, “When our daughter decides to get married, our wedding gift to her and her chosen will be this workshop. I can think of no better way to give a couple a good send-off on their marriage. It’s a gift for them and a gift even for us. For us to have the peace of mind to know that they have begun their marriage not only deeply in love with each other but also with the tools and skills to keep that love alive and growing through the years.”
Jonathan Sherman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Consultant specializing in creating “greatness in relationships.” He is experienced in assisting people learn to improve their marriages, their parenting and themselves through skill development, life coaching, overcoming depression and anxiety, stress and anger management, and addiction recovery. He teaches extensively on a wide range of relationship topics. He is the founder of MarriageEnvy.com and The Relationship Wellness Series(tm). You may reach him at 801.787.8014, jonathan@MarriageEnvy.com or at MarriageEnvy.com.