A Marriage Prep Event
group magazine: July-August, 1995
From: July/August 1995 Group Magazine
Keywords: Marriage Preparation Love Communication
A Marriage Prep Event
A blueprint for helping teenagers build a strong foundation for marriage before they tie the knot
By Les Parrott and Leslie Parrot
Let's be honest. The "till death do us part" of the marriage vow rings increasingly ironic. Of the 2.4 million couples who'll get married this year in the United States, at least 50 percent will not survive. For too many couples, marriage has become "till divorce do us part."
After they toss the bouquet and return the tuxedo, couples often assume they're headed for marital bliss. But a study of those who recently tied the knot revealed that 49 percent report having serious marital problems. Half were actually having doubts about whether their marriages would last.
The truth is, most engaged couples prepare more for their wedding than they do for their marriage. Get this! Only one-fifth of all marriages in America are preceded by some kind of formal marriage preparation. What if couples invested the same amount of time, energy, and money in their marriage as they spent on their prenuptials?
For too long the trend has been to fall in love, marry, and hope for the best. It's time we offer our kids something more-the chance to learn what it'll take to build a lifelong marriage.
7 Critical Questions
By studying several critical factors, marriage experts can often predict the success or failure of a marriage. The key is getting couples to consider seven questions before they consider marriage.
With this in mind, we've developed a marriage preparation program called Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts-SYMBIS for short. While the program can be adapted for a three-hour event by abbreviating the topics, it works best as a seven-part series.
The following ideas can help you build weekly meetings based on the seven critical questions. For a more comprehensive program, we've designed a curriculum kit that includes our book Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, two videos, a leaders guide, workbooks, and a Marriage Mentor Manual describing how to link newlyweds with older, healthy couples in your church. For more information on SYMBIS check out your local Christian bookstore or phone Zondervan Publishing House at 800-727-1309.
Week 1: Have You Faced the Myths Of Marriage With Honesty?
Underlying nearly every romantic relationship is a faulty foundation of marital myths. During this meeting, ask kids to examine how fairy tales, television, and the movies promote unrealistic beliefs about romance. Show selected scenes from popular television shows and movies to get kids talking.
Next, help young people uncover two universal myths they probably haven't considered: (1) Everything good in my life will get better, and (2) Everything bad in my life will disappear. Giving examples of these myths and facilitating a discussion of their destructiveness will set a good tone for other topics.
Week 2: Can You Identify Your Love Style?
Teenagers usually analyze love in quantitative terms: "How much does he love me?" But it is far more revealing to examine love in qualitative terms: "In what ways does he express love?" Use this meeting to help teenagers focus on what love is and how its style changes-sometimes it's logical, romantic, unselfish, possessive, and so on. Have teenagers briefly write about their love style and discuss it with a partner.
Week 3: Have You Developed the Habit of Happiness?
The level of a couple's joy is determined by each partner's ability to adjust to things beyond his or her control. Every happy couple has learned to find the right attitude regardless of atmospheric conditions.
Use this meeting time to help teenagers see how people choose to be happy. Emphasize how happiness is dependent upon choices, not feelings. Have an older couple who have survived a life-jolt (such as losing a job) talk about how they adjusted their attitudes and how that affected their marital happiness.
Week 4: Can You Say What You Mean & Understand What You Hear?
Ask an adult couple to demonstrate particularly bad communication in marriage. This could be done through direct dialogue or an impromptu skit. Encourage the couple to be outrageously bad and you'll alert your kids to this subject's importance.
Studies show that how well a couple communicate and solve problems prior to and early in marriage is the best predictor of whether their marriage will succeed. Communication styles established at the outset tend to persist. In this meeting you can provide proven and practical tools for speaking the true language of love. Be sure to give kids time to practice with a partner.
Week 5: Have You Bridged the Gender Gap?
Men and women differ. New studies are showing exactly what bugs women about men and what bugs men about women. The differences are often subtle (such as women's feelings of being neglected and men's irritations over women being too self-absorbed), but simply helping young people acknowledge that these differences exist will build a better foundation for marriage.
Divide the guys and girls into separate groups and discuss what each group needs to know about the other. Then have each side report back to the other side. (This will take longer than you think.)
Week 6: Do You Know How to Fight a Good Fight?
It generally takes very little for the fur to fly in most marriages. But that's difficult to accept when two people are madly in love and their relationship is just blooming. Use this meeting to help teenagers learn that conflict is not necessarily bad, but the way couples argue can be. Use role-playing and teenagers' own horror stories to get them talking about what's good and bad about their fights. You might also invite a small panel of healthy couples to discuss how they cope with conflict and how it differs from the dating years.
Week 7: Are You and Your Partner Soul Mates?
One of the most neglected areas of marriage preparation is the spiritual side of the relationship. Young people need to see what walking together with God can do for a marriage. In this session, help kids experience the value of praying and worshiping together and how serving together can build intimacy. The bottom line here is to show kids that without God they can never become true soul mates with their future spouses.
Les and Leslie Parrott are co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. Their latest book is Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (Zondervan Publishing House).