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Exploring Womanhood > Relationships > Articles

Luck Won't Make Your Marriage a Success: Four Benefits of Pre-Marital Counseling
By Sharon M. Rivkin, MA, MFT

Breaking the Argument CycleWe seem to prepare for everything in our life - jobs, exams, etc. Why then don't we prepare for a successful marriage? Maybe it's because of the fairy tales that have brainwashed us into thinking that we'll all live happily ever after? In reality, it doesn't work that way, as you may have noticed by now. 50 percent of marriages end in divorce . . . and only half of those that endure are truly happy in the long run.

According to Patricia and Gregory Kuhlman of Marriage Success Training, "research shows that there is a window of opportunity during the year before the wedding and the six months or so after when couples get the optimum benefit from marriage preparation. Later, under stress, negative habits and relationship patterns may become established and be much harder to resolve. If you just wing it and count on your luck and romantic attachment to make your marriage a success, your odds are only one in four."

How do you beat the odds and give your marriage a better chance of survival? Through pre-marital counseling and education. According to research, pre-marital counseling can reduce the risk of divorce by up to 30% and lead to a happier and healthier marriage. And the healthiest marriages are those where the couple can negotiate their differences. Why wait until you're married and have your first marital fight to see if you can negotiate? Why not prepare ahead of time with tools and skills?

Most couples naively think they don't need preparation. Maybe they haven't experienced relationship hardships and don't believe there will ever be problems. And if problems do pop up, they believe they will magically turn out okay. Remember the fantasy? Marriages don't work that way. They take a lot of hard work, thought, and skill. Love alone will not guarantee a successful marriage. Instead, discuss and resolve important issues before the big date to have a better chance for a healthy marriage, such as:

  1. What are your expectations for a good marriage?
  2. How compatible are you on day-to-day issues?
  3. What personality-type are each of you and what are your families of origin like?
  4. What are your communication skills? Are you an introvert or extrovert?
  5. Do you have tools for conflict management? Can you negotiate? What do you do when conflict arises?
  6. Do you have similar sex drives? What type of sex do you prefer?
  7. Do you share long-term goals and similar values?

Then, get pre-marital counseling to learn the following tools:

  1. Fair fighting. How to take time outs, call a truce, stop the shaming and blaming, and developing ground rules for fighting.

  2. Keep your partner from becoming your enemy. When arguments build up, you cease giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, resolve conflicts immediately so you can continue to love your partner and see them in a positive light.

  3. Stay current. Address arguments as soon as they come up. Don't sweep issues under the rug. They won't go away. Resentment and anger build momentum whenever an issue isn't dealt with and resolved.

Don't count on luck to beat the divorce odds . . . and drop the fantasy. By discussing important issues and learning skills through pre-marital counseling, you'll be forming a solid foundation for a successful marriage.

About the Author:
Sharon Rivkin"What's the big deal? All I said was . . ." Sound familiar? Argument/Affairs Expert and Therapist Sharon Rivkin helps couples fix their relationships by understanding why they fight. Sharon says, "If you don't get rid of the ghosts that haunt your arguments, you'll never stop fighting!" Read her new book, BREAKING THE ARGUMENT CYCLE: HOW TO STOP FIGHTING WITHOUT THERAPY, to learn the tools of therapy to break the cycle of destructive fighting. Sharon makes regular radio appearances nationwide and has been featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Yahoo.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Dr.Laura.com. For more information, visit www.sharonrivkin.com.

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