Premarital education: How to make it more than just a task on the wedding to-do list

Luckily, premarital education doesn’t have to be a one-and-done situation. Think of it more as planting a seed: you prepare the soil and give it water, sunlight, and fertiliser to provide it with the best chance to thrive. But the plant will continue to require care and nurturing to grow to its full potential.

Marriage educators who provide guidance and support for couples at this stage can effect their relationship for years to come. Here are some ways that premarital education can be an ongoing experience of growth for couples:

  • Be the driver of a meaningful experience.
    • Most couples do not seek out premarital education on their own; they do it because they are required to however the experience is often one that will stick with them long after the big day, instead of just another hoop to jump through.
    • Marriage educators can refer couples to proven resources such as books, podcasts, assessments, etc. so they can continue growing in their relationship beyond the wedding.
    • Having an ongoing relationship with a “mentor couple” – a couple whose relationship they consider a “role model” for their own is very effective.
    • Marriage educators can connect couples to a community, such as other engaged or newly-married couples at a church or through a family and relationship services organisation.
  • Relationship growth is an ongoing process, one that will hopefully continue throughout the couple’s life. “Perfection” is not the end destination in marriage and ongoing relationship education in a year or two to reassess their relationship can help.
  • Things that were once growth areas may now be areas of strength, or they may find that new issues have arisen.
  • Couples who practice the techniques over and over until they become second nature are often successful.
  • For more details on this exercise, refer to the PREPARE/ENRICH Discussion Guide for Couples.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners

    Based on research, PREPARE/ENRICH has discovered that there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self-confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self-confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    Consider this fictional couple who have taken the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventory: Daniel and Maria.

    Their Relationship Dynamics indicates low assertiveness for Daniel and high assertiveness for Maria. Daniel also tends to minimise issues (high avoidance) and is reluctant to deal with them directly, while Maria is generally able to identify and discuss issues they are having in their relationship. As a result, Daniel feels controlled in their lives together (high in partner dominance) and has lower self-confidence.

    This type of relationship outlines what often occurs, is the positive cycle between Assertiveness and Self Confidence for Maria and the negative cycle between Avoidance and Partner Dominance for Daniel. As Maria tends to be more assertive, her level of self-confidence is likely to remain high or increase. As her self-confidence increases, her willingness and ability to be more assertive increases. On the flip side, as Daniel is likely to perceive Maria as dominate, a common reaction is to avoid dealing with issues. As Daniel uses more avoidance, he will perceive more dominance in their relationship by Maria as her self-confidence and willingness and ability to be more assertive is likely to remain high and/or increase.

    Through improving assertiveness and active listening skills of both Daniel and Maria, Daniel’s self-confidence is likely to increase and his willingness and ability to be more assertive will also increase. This increase in assertiveness, in turn also tends to decrease avoidance and perceived partner dominance.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    The more assertive an individual, the more they like the personality of their partner, feel good about how they communicate and how they deal with conflict

    For Australia couples, measured over the past 8 years, statistics indicate that individuals who are Vitalised tend to be high in assertiveness and self-confidence and low in avoidance and partner dominance. Individuals who are assertive also tend to be self-confident and individuals who are avoidant tend to perceive higher partner dominance. Individuals who are high on assertiveness and self-confidence tend to be low on avoidance and partner dominance.

    At the opposite extreme with Devitalised couples, we see the opposite pattern related to these four variables. On Assertiveness, Devitalised couples were low on average however, for Australian couples average scores were mid-steam on Self-Confidence indicating that Australian Devitalised couples are more self-confident that their US counterparts. Devitalised couples were both high on Avoidance and high in Partner Dominance.

    Other relevant statistics suggest that Individuals who are high in Assertiveness tend to be:

    • Lower in avoidance
    • Lower in Partner Dominance
    • Like the personality of their partner
    • Feel good about communication with their partner
    • Feel good about conflict resolution with their partner

    This means the more assertive an individual, the more they like the personality of their partner, feel good about how they communicate and how they deal with conflict.

    People who are high in Avoidance tend to be:

    • Lower in Assertiveness
    • Higher in Partner Dominance
    • Dislike the personality of their partner
    • Dislike the communication with their partner
    • Dislike the conflict resolution with their partner

    In summary, the more healthy and happy the couple, the higher both individuals are on assertiveness and self-confidence and the lower their scores on avoidance and partner dominance. On average assertive individuals tend to view their relationship as positive while avoidant individuals tend to view their relationship as negative.

    This an important goal of relationship education in that by increasing the level of assertiveness and self-confidence in each individual, each is able to express their feelings, needs and preferences and in turn develop a better understanding of their partners feelings, needs and preferences.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self-confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self-confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    Australian Devitalised couples are more self-confident that their US counterparts

    PREPARE/ENRICH research has found that satisfied couples tend to score high in assertiveness and self-confidence, and low in avoidance and partner dominance. Conversely, the tendency for unsatisfied couples is for one or both individuals to be low in assertiveness and self-confidence, and high in avoidance and partner dominance.

    PREPARE/ENRICH measures two components of overall satisfaction:

    1. Individual Satisfaction: Scores based on the average of each person’s Individual Scores across the core relationship categories: Communication; Conflict Resolution; Partner Styles and Habits; Financial Management; Leisure Activities; Sexual Expectations; Family and Friends; Relationship Roles and Spiritual Beliefs.
    1. Couple Satisfaction: Scores based on the average of the couple’s Positive Couple Agreement (PCA) scores across the core relationship categories.

    Using a sample of 41,098 individuals (20,549 couples) who took the PREPARE/ENRICH Inventory in Australia between 2012 and 2019, an analysis was done using the four relationship dynamics scales and marital satisfaction. The average scores of these five scales are summarised below:

    For Australia couples, measured over the past 8 years, the chart indicates that individuals who are Vitalised tend to be high in assertiveness and self-confidence and low in avoidance and partner dominance. Individuals who are assertive also tend to be self-confident and individuals who are avoidant tend to perceive higher partner dominance. Individuals who are high on assertiveness and self-confidence tend to be low on avoidance and partner dominance.

    At the opposite extreme with Devitalised couples, we see the opposite pattern related to these four variables. On assertiveness, Devitalised couples were low on average however, for Australian couples average scores were mid-steam on Self-Confidence indicating that Australian Devitalised couples are more self-confident that their US counterparts. Devitalised couples were both high on avoidance and high in partner dominance.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self-confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self-confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    There is a positive cycle between Assertiveness and Self Confidence and a negative cycle between Avoidance and Partner Dominance.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    For more details on this exercise, refer to the PREPARE/ENRICH Discussion Guide for Couples.

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    For Australian vitalised couples, evidence shows that both partners are on average high in assertiveness and self-confidence and low in avoidance and partner dominance

    Based on research, PREPARE/ENRICH has discovered that there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

    Using a sample of 41,098 individuals (20,549 couples) who took the PREPARE/ENRICH Inventory in Australia between 2012 and 2019, an analysis was done using the four relationship dynamics scales and marital satisfaction. The average scores of these five scales are summarised below:

    For Australia couples, measured over the past 8 years, the chart indicates that based on the five couple types range from the happiest (Vitalised) to the least happiest (Devitalised), vitalised couples had the highest average score (66.1) of couples where both partners were high in assertiveness, both high in self-confidence (65.5), both low (11) in avoidance and both low (10.9) in partner dominance.

    At the opposite extreme with Devitalised couples, we see the opposite pattern related to these four variables. On assertiveness, Devitalised couples were low on average (31.3) however, for Australian couples average scores were mid-steam on Self-Confidence (53), indicating that Australian Devitalised couples are more self-confident that their US counterparts. Devitalised couples were both high on avoidance (66.7) and high in partner dominance (78.4).

    Individuals who are Vitalised tend to be high in assertiveness and self-confidence and low in avoidance and partner dominance. Individuals who are assertive also tend to be self-confident and individuals who are avoidant tend to perceive higher partner dominance. Individuals who are high on assertiveness and self-confidence tend to be low on avoidance and partner dominance.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self-confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self-confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    There is a positive cycle between Assertiveness and Self Confidence and a negative cycle between Avoidance and Partner Dominance.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    Relationship dynamics: How Do Satisfied and Unsatisfied Couples Score in These Areas?

    Based on research, PREPARE/ENRICH has discovered that there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self-confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self-confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    There is a positive cycle between Assertiveness and Self Confidence and a negative cycle between Avoidance and Partner Dominance.

    How Do Satisfied and Unsatisfied Couples Score in These Areas?

    PREPARE/ENRICH research has found that satisfied couples tend to score high in assertiveness and self-confidence, and low in avoidance and partner dominance. Conversely, the tendency for unsatisfied couples is for one or both individuals to be low in assertiveness and self-confidence, and high in avoidance and partner dominance.

    PREPARE/ENRICH measures two components overall satisfaction:

    1. Individual Satisfaction: Scores based on the average of each person’s Individual Scores across the core relationship categories: Communication; Conflict Resolution; Partner Styles and Habits; Financial Management; Leisure Activities; Sexual Expectations; Family and Friends; Relationship Roles and Spiritual Beliefs.
    1. Couple Satisfaction: Scores based on the average of the couple’s Positive Couple Agreement (PCA) scores across the core relationship categories.

    Tune in next week to see how Australian couples rate in couple dynamics.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    Exploring positive and negative cycles in relationships (Relationship Dynamics)

    Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners. As partners in a relationship improve their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence tends increase. As a person’s self-confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases. Increasing assertiveness also tends to decrease avoidance and partner dominance. When one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. And as a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    Consider this fictional couple who have taken the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventory: Daniel and Maria.

    The relationship Dynamics section indicates low assertiveness for Daniel and high assertiveness for Maria. Daniel also tends to minimize issues (high avoidance) and is reluctant to deal with them directly, while Maria is generally able to identify and discuss issues they are having in their relationship. As a result, Daniel feels controlled in their lives together (high in partner dominance) and has lower self-confidence.

    As we work with Daniel and Maria to improve their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence is expected to increase. This is the positive cycle of more assertiveness increasing self-confidence. Additionally as we work with Daniel and Maria to increase assertiveness, this will tend to decrease avoidance and partner dominance, which is a common negative cycle.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    Couples who want and expect to have a more equalitarian relationship will struggle if one partner is overly dominant (Part 4 – Partner Dominance)

    Partner dominance is problematic when a person does not want their partner to be in such a controlling position. A high score on Partner Dominance should trigger a discussion with the person scoring high.

    Based on the research, PREPARE/ENRICH has discovered that there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners. This series of posts discusses assertiveness and self-confidence, and avoidance and perceived partner dominance.

    4. Partner Dominance:

    Partner dominance assesses how much a person feels his/her partner tries to control them and dominate his/her life.

    There is considerable evidence in U.S. samples demonstrating couples who have an equalitarian relationship tend to have a more successful marriage (Olson and DeFrain, 1997). There are, however, exceptions. These include couples in which both partners genuinely want more traditional relationship roles, often based on their religious beliefs or their cultural heritage. The traditional relationship is one in which the male is the leader of the family.

    Engaged couples who want and expect to have a more equalitarian relationship in terms of Relationship Roles will struggle if one partner is overly dominant. Married couples may also struggle with their Roles and Responsibilities when one partner is dominant and the other feels the imbalance.

    As partners in a relationship improve their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence will increase. This is the positive cycle of more assertiveness increasing self confidence. Increasing assertiveness also tends to decrease avoidance and partner dominance, which is a common negative cycle in couples.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    When two people have higher levels of self-confidence, the couple has a higher probability of having a successful relationship (Part 3 – Self-Confidence)

    Self-confidence is seen as a valuable integrative concept because it is easier to change than self-esteem and focuses heavily on the positive attitude of being able to control your own life.

    Based on the research, PREPARE/ENRICH has discovered that there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners. This series of posts discusses assertiveness and self-confidence, and avoidance and perceived partner dominance.

    3. Self-confidence: Self-confidence focuses on how good a person feels about himself/herself and his/her ability to control things in their life.

    Self-confidence was developed by combining aspects of “Self Esteem” and “Mastery”. Self-esteem is defined as how positive people feel about themselves. Mastery is the belief people have about how much control they have over what happens in their life.

    When two people have higher levels of self-confidence, the couple has a higher probability of having a successful relationship. It is, therefore one of the goals of marriage and relationship education programs – to increase self-confidence. This can be achieved by helping both people become more aware individually and assertive with each other.

    Taking responsibility for messages by using “I” statements is one way to increase self-confidence. In making constructive requests, be positive and respectful in communication.

    Here is a practical example: “I’m feeling out of balance. While I love spending time with you, I also want to spend time with my friends. I would like us to find some time to talk about this.”

    As partners in a relationship improve their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence will increase. This is the positive cycle of more assertiveness increasing self confidence. Increasing assertiveness also tends to decrease avoidance and partner dominance, which is a common negative cycle in couples.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    There is increasing evidence that an avoidant style creates problems in close relationships (Part 2 – Avoidance)

    Based on the research, we have discovered there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

    In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

    In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

    Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners. This series of posts discusses assertiveness and self-confidence and avoidance and perceived partner dominance.

    Avoidance: Avoidance is a person’s tendency to minimise issues and his/her reluctance to deal with issues directly.

    Avoidance tends to be highest in people who are passive or non-assertive. Conversely, people who are very assertive tend to be low on avoidance. There is increasing evidence that an avoidant style creates problems in close relationships.

    People who score high in avoidance tend to report they feel dominated by their partner, dislike the personalities of their partner, and dislike the way they communicate and resolve conflicts with their partner.

    John Gottman (1994), a prominent researcher on marriage, described three common styles of relating in couples. One of his three types of couples was the avoidant couple.

    Avoidant couples tend to minimise conflict and often don’t resolve their differences, agreeing to disagree. Gottman has found an avoidant relationship is one style that can endure, but states, ‘…there is a low level of companionship and sharing in the marriage.” He goes on to report, “Another hazard of this type of marriage is that it can become lonely” (Gottman, 1994, p. 46). Individuals in such marriages may often feel disconnected, misunderstood, and ill-equipped to deal with conflict should it arise.

    As partners in a relationship improve their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence will increase. This is the positive cycle of more assertiveness increasing self confidence. Increasing assertiveness also tends to decrease avoidance and partner dominance, which is a common negative cycle in couples.

    Stay tuned for more information on this topic next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.intentional-relationship.com

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships