Friday, September 29, 2023

The importance of premarital counseling

Research claims that 87% of young adults plan on being married eventually, and 82% expect to be married for life. Research also shows that couples are 31% less likely to divorce if they get some kind of premarital counseling. In addition, they experience a 30% increase in marital success and fulfillment over those who did not avail themselves of premarital counseling. Premarital counseling is associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction, lower levels of destructive conflicts, and higher levels of commitment.
Premarital counseling began in the early 1950s in the US with the goal to promote marriage stability and curb the divorce rate. Christian marriage is instituted and blessed by God. It is sacred, and the vow is for a lifetime. Ironically, failed marriages and divorce rates are becoming rampant. What was once considered distant news about what was happening on the other side of the world is now under our noses. As Nagas, writing about the importance of premarital counseling in the early 1950s would have been irrelevant, but today, with the wave of divorce hitting our society at every nook and cranny; perhaps premarital counseling should not remain veiled. Every prospective couple contemplating marriage needs to be educated about premarital counseling. Seeking premarital counseling will be one of the best investments for your marriage.
The pioneer of premarital counseling was H. Norman Wright. In his book ‘Premarital Counseling: A Guidebook for the Counselor’, mentions that the four changes that are quite significant in relation to the future of marriage are: movement from traditional extended families to nuclear families; free choice of mate; changing gender roles as partners; and change in sexual morality. Reminiscing, we will nod that the above-stated changes are true for our Naga society too. Couples who have married and migrated to other places might have a different stance, but for Nagas in general, though nuclear families are the norm, we are still connected to our extended families, which keep our family system close-knit. Hence, family influences marriage. In times past, arranged marriages were common. Today, young people have more liberty in mate selection. In the past, gender roles were more specific. Typically, women took care of children and home affairs, while the men were expected to be breadwinners. With changing times, it is not uncommon to witness both partners in the workforce, which makes work-family balance more challenging. Living in a sexually promiscuous time where young people are bombarded with a safe sex mindset, the validity of the sanctity of sex within the boundary of marriage is challenged. These trends affect the institution of marriage and need to be addressed in premarital counseling. Other prominent topics are; communication and conflict resolution, personality types, finance management, spirituality, parenting, etc.
In the book ‘Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide’, Garry Collins states that premarital counseling is primarily preventive as it comes before problems arise rather than after. Premarital counseling is in no way a magic wand that can virtually eradicate marriage dysfunction or curb divorce altogether. But it is a great tool to prepare and equip couples to build healthy marriages. Every marriage has its own storms that are inevitable for marriages to grow. Thus, problems are bound to bump up along the marriage journey. What premarital counseling does is teach them how to identify the cues and sail through the waves as a team instead of escalating against each other and drowning.
The dissertation, ‘Christian Premarital Training in the Local Church Setting: A Study of the Effectiveness of the SYMBIS Model in Reducing Divorce and Producing Stable Marital Relationships’ was written by Marks. SYMBIS was accompanied by a church policy that required all couples getting married to complete the SYMBIS program prior to their wedding. After the study, it showed that among the ninety couples who got married within a period of four years, eighty couples could be contacted, and they were all still married. It appears that SYMBIS has reached its intended goal, which is to eliminate divorce from the body of Hyland Heights Baptist Church. SYMBIS stands for ‘Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts’. It was developed by Dr. Les and Leslie Parrot. They have been in this endeavor for more than two decades. The fact that someone other than themselves researched their program and proved its effectiveness heightens the importance of premarital counseling.
A wedding is a day; marriage is what happens after the wedding day. In light of the complexities that this generation’s marriages are facing and for the love of marriage as a lifelong, committed two-way relationship, no couple should think twice about getting premarital counseling before saying ‘I do’.
Dr. Nighatoli P. Achumi,
Pastoral Counselor and SYMBIS Facilitator
IICC, 6th Mile, Sovima


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