Resources from Marriage Savers: Articles
A few weeks ago, Mike and I had the privilege
of making a presentation on behalf of Marriage Savers to a group of singles.
This particular group was very unique in several ways. They not only were single,
but they were older singles, mid to late thirties through early sixties. Also,
they were never- married singles. And lastly, they all had a strong desire to
marry. We shared with them that our statistics of premarital mentoring, using
an inventory, revealed that approximately 18% of those couples attending marriage
prep at our church broke off their relationships. These couples included both
the engaged and seriously dating.
An alarmed woman in the audience exclaimed,
"You are engagement wreckers!" I quickly replied, "No, were
Marriage Savers." Another concerned woman added, "We work so
hard to get people in this group engaged, and then you break them apart!"
Sadly, this attitude of focusing on getting
married at all costs is not confined to older singles. Even when couples are
well aware that half of all marriages end in divorce, they still put themselves
at risk by not recognizing that engagement is an opportunity to explore their
relationship, not solely a time to plan the wedding. As Marriage Encounter so
aptly states it, "A wedding is but a day, but a marriage is for a lifetime."
Over the past eight years as the Lead Mentor
Couple of marriage prep at our home church, Mike and I have discovered that
if a Mentor Couple administers the inventory to the premarital couple, devoting
a minimum of six sessions to talk through each and every one of the questions,
the likelihood that a couple will discover, on their own, whether or they are
suited for each other is greatly enhanced. Simply adding the component of the
Mentor Couple to the inventory helps a couple talk through serious issues.
In no way, as we told the singles group, does
the Mentor Couple ever instruct the engaged couples to get married or break
their engagement. That is their decision, and their decision alone. The pastor
might well refuse to marry a couple he believes is not ready, well matched or
unequally yoked. However, that is beyond the role of the Mentor Couple who is
simply a facilitator. We do not tell couples what to do, although we can testify
to our own marriages and tell them about our mistakes and our victories. If
the Mentor Couple perceives that their mentorees have serious issues that remain
unresolved, they are trained only to encourage them to consider delaying the
wedding date, allowing them ample time to solve those problems.
According to Dr. David Olson, fully
10% of couples who take the PREPARE inventory break their engagement! Further, studies
show that their scores are the same as those couples who marry and later divorce.
Thus, these couples are avoiding a bad marriage before it begins! The rest are
helped to build a lifelong marriage. Since 1992, Mentor Couples in our church
have worked with almost 300 couples who contemplated marriage. Though nearly
50 of them decided not to marry, of the nearly 250 couples who did marry, we
know of only six divorces in eight years.
Recently, an older couple went through our prep program.
Neither individual had been previously married. The wedding date was set. However,
the premarital inventory results revealed serious relational problems. Scores
in key areas were low. Also, in the course of talking through their survey responses
with their Mentor Couple, worrisome issues of jealousy, insecurity and lack
of commitment surfaced. Wedding guests, many from foreign countries, had already
booked airline flights. The self-imposed pressure on the couple to proceed with
the wedding to avoid embarrassment was great. Yet, two weeks before the ceremony,
the bride-to-be courageously canceled the wedding.
That is a success; not a failure! Better the canceled wedding
than the failed marriage! We are certain that apart from avoiding being incompatibly
paired, the couple is wiser for the process. Going through a preparation course,
even if the relationship ultimately dissolves, is maturing. Each partner leaves
the program knowing themselves on a deeper level. Now those two individuals,
who have chosen to go separate ways, are better equipped to pursue someone else
in the future that is more suited for them. The failure would be the failure
to take a premarital course that stretched them, forcing them to grow and come
to their own conclusions about whether to get married.
Some individuals who have walked away from their partner
prior to a wedding date have cycled back through the course with a different
potential spouse (and a different Mentor Couple). Such a step speaks to the
success of their experience with the premarital process. Those individuals returned
with a partner far better suited for them. However, they still desired the wisdom
and insight that only a mentoring couple using an inventory could give them.
Premarital mentoring is a win-win step for any couple considering